Monday, 31 January 2011

Tristan und Isolde Metropolitan Opera 1934

Here are about 50 minutes of extracts from a broadcast of Tristan und Isolde from the Metropolitan Opera. This was the cast (from the Met database)
Metropolitan Opera House
January 6, 1934 Matinee Broadcast


Tristan.................Lauritz Melchior
Isolde..................Gertrude Kappel
Kurwenal................Friedrich Schorr
Brangäne................Doris Doe
King Marke..............Ludwig Hofmann
Melot...................Arnold Gabor
Sailor's Voice..........Hans Clemens
Shepherd................Hans Clemens
Steersman...............James Wolfe

Conductor...............Artur Bodanzky

Gertrude Kappel as Isolde
There are about 20 mins each from Act 1 and Act 3, but only about 7 mins from Act 2. It gives us a unique chance to hear the Isolde of Gertrude Kappel, a leading German dramatic soprano. Melchior would be heard complete and in better sound in later broadcasts but this was Kappel's only Met broadcast as Isolde. For such an important singer Kappel's recorded legacy is slim, a few commercial recordings relatively early in her career, then a few poor quality broadcast recordings. In addition to these extracts from Tristan we have portions of her as Sieglinde as well as her in the Met premiere of Elektra. From Vienna we have portions of her Brunnhilde in all three Ring operas. The sound is not great in these extracts of Tristan. They were airchecks recorded from the radio on fairly primitive equipment, so you should expect a lot of surface noise. However, personally I think them worth persevering with especially if you are interested in hearing how Wagner was regularly being sung before the war.

Lotte Lehamnn in Tannhauser, Chicago 1930

This is the oldest American opera broadcast to exist, just under 5 minutes from the second act of Tannhauser. It was broadcast live from the Chicago Civic Opera on November 1, 1930 over the NBC Blue Network. This recording most probably originates from WJZ in New York City where the opera was broadcast from 10-11pm. This seems to be all that now exists, but it gives us a rare chance to hear Lotte Lehmann sing Elisabeth's Greeting at the start of act 2. This was Lehmann's first season in Chicago and the German soprano would later come to be a favourite of the Met opera in New York and the San Francisco Opera.  The performance was conducted by Egon Pollack and others that are briefly heard are Hans Hermann Nissen and Paul Althouse.

Gigli in Tosca, Covent Garden 1938 and 1939

Here are two short extracts from Tosca, broadcast by the BBC in 1938 and 1939. Both feature the famous tenor Beniamino Gigli and were conducted by Vittorio Gui. Each extract is under 4 minutes long, to fit on a 78rpm record and were recorded off-air by an enthusiast. This is all from either performance that seems to exist.

June 2, 1938 (3'55) 'E lucevan le stelle' with Eva Pacetti as Tosca

May 15, 1939 (2'39) ‘Recondita armonia’ with Aristide Baracchi as the Sacristan


In this blog I will be sharing extracts from some historic opera performances from the great opera houses of the world such the Met, Covent Garden, Bayreuth, La Scala, and the Teatro Colon. I do not intend to post complete performances that are currently available on CD, or might be published in the future. All performances will be out of copyright in the EU (i.e. more than 50 years old). Since the sound quality is often extremely variable (another reason why these will never otherwise be issued) I will be posting mp3 files not flac.
With those caveats in mind, I hope that you will enjoy hearing some of the great singers of the 1930s, 1940s and the 1950s in some of their signature roles live on stage.