I had intended to start the fall season by reviewing the New York City Opera production of Richard Strauss' Daphne. Instead, I ended up doing a quick round-up of recent CDs, to appear on Monday. The Daphne left me feeling totally dispirited — it was miles away from what I'd hoped for. Maybe there is really no way of representing Daphne's transformation onstage: the miraculously beautiful final scene is not simply the mythological rebirth of a nymph as a tree but the composer's own mysterious rebirth in the Germany of the late thirties. (Go here to see Strauss playing this music on the piano a few months before his death; click on "Videos," then "Composer and Conductor.") But we deserved something more than the bizarrely depressing spectacle that City Opera put on stage — the worthy Elizabeth Futral standing forlornly at the top of a column, rain falling on her head. In the wake of Bayreuth's "rotting rabbit" Parsifal, I just didn't feel like bemoaning another harebrained production of a German Romantic masterpiece, one that purports to address historical issues that are better dealt with in history books. (Yes, there were Brownshirts galore.) I hope to write up City Opera on a happier day; I advise curious listeners to skip the performance and pick up Karl Böhm's glorious live recording on DG.