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The Strauss heroine is further characterized by her conscious exploration of her own psyche, her emotions, her awareness of her effect upon her world, and its effect upon her. Of several librettists who served Strauss, only poet-playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal shared the composer's profound preoccupation with a dense handful of themesmemory and time, restoration of lost trust, metaphysical transformation (typically through a woman's heightened consciousness), and love. After the that was , derived from the play by Oscar Wilde, Strauss began an unparalelled collaboration with Hofmannsthal that would yield ten extraordinary operas.
Strauss sought increasingly in his operas to replicate in music the rhythm of natural speech, demanding of his singers clarity of diction, and intelligent dramatic nuance, and continually refining his orchestration, ever-better to complement Hofmannsthal's eloquent texts. Always accompany a singer," admonished Strauss, in his , "in such a way that he can sing without effort. Brilliant singing actresses have shone in the introspective monologues and ambiguous farewells that are as characteristic of the Straussian heroine as the spun glories of her sound. One remembers the Salome of Mary Garden, Maria Ewing or Catherine Malfitano; Lauren Flanigan seems to channel the formidable Christine (Strausss loving portrait of his extravagantly odd wife) in the autobiographical domestic tableau, .
But Strauss fans who covet a complete recording of ''Der Rosenkavalier'' with Ms. Fleming will have to content themselves with her recent Decca release, ''Strauss Heroines,'' on which she sings extended scenes from the opera with the mezzo-soprano Susan Graham as Octavian and the soprano Barbara Bonney as Sophie, as well as scenes from ''Arabella'' and ''Capriccio.'' Christoph Eschenbach conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.