Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Bayreuth extracts 1934

Frida Leider as Brunnhilde

Pre-war Bayreuth recordings are relatively rare, and thus these short extracts are very important. For one thing they preserve part of Frida Leider's Brunnhilde, live on stage at the place where she was perhaps most famous. This is also one of the earliest live recordings with Max Lorenz, the pre-eminent heldentenor at Bayreuth in the 1930s and 40s. The Gotterdammerung extract was part of a newsreel film of a rehearsal, the Walkure was part of a live performance but only 8 minutes exist.

Gotterdammerung July 1934
Dawn Duet, rehearsal recorded on film
Frida Leider - Brunnhilde
Max Lorenz - Siegfried
c. Karl Elmendorff

Die Walkure Aug 6, 1934
Act 3 extracts
Frida Leider - Brunnhilde
Maria Muller - Sieglinde
Rudolf Bocklemann - Wotan
c. Karl Elmendorff

Thursday, 17 March 2011

La Boheme New York 1935

Giuseppe De Luca

These extracts from La Boheme give us a rare chance to hear the famous Giuseppe De Luca on stage. De Luca sang a lot with Caruso in New York between 1915 and 1920 and the pair frequently recorded together. Only two complete Met broadcasts exist with De Luca, Romeo et Juliette (1935) and Boheme (1940) and both are from the end of his career. This was Rethberg's only Met broadcast as Mimi, and for a soprano perhaps best known for her dramatic roles (especially Wagner) this again demonstrates what a versatile singer she was. The extracts are most of Act 1 plus a complete Act 3.

Metropolitan Opera House
March 23, 1935 Matinee Broadcast


Mimì....................Elisabeth Rethberg
Rodolfo.................Frederick Jagel
Musetta.................Nina Morgana [Last performance]
Marcello................Giuseppe De Luca
Schaunard...............Millo Picco
Colline.................Ezio Pinza
Benoit..................Paolo Ananian
Alcindoro...............Pompilio Malatesta
Parpignol...............Max Altglass
Sergeant................Carlo Coscia

Conductor...............Vincenzo Bellezza



Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Ballo in Maschera San Francisco 1940

Bjorling and Rethberg as Riccardo and Amelia

This short extract from Act 3 (performed and announced, modern performances usually call this act 2) showcases Swedish tenor Jussi Bjorling and German soprano Elisabeth Rethberg. Bjorling can be heard in complete performances of Ballo from the Met (1940) and New Orleans (1950) but this is, by a few weeks, his earliest documented Riccardo. Rethberg sang Amelia frequently (but not at the Met) yet no other recording exists of her in the role. There are some problems with the sound, a few dropouts here and there and some pitch wavering, but most of it is very good. Commentary is included before and after the extract, and after the duet.

Elisabeth Rethberg

Ballo In Maschera – Verdi
San Francisco War Memorial Opera House October 23, 1940
Broadcast WJZ New York, 12.30-12.57am (Oct 24th).

Jussi Bjorling - Riccardo
Elisabeth Rethberg - Amelia
Richard Bonnelli – Renato
Lorenzo Alvary  - Sam
Robert Sellon - Tom

San Francisco Opera Orchestra c.Gennaro Papi

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Parsifal Covent Garden 1951

Flagstad as Kundry

Kundry was not a role that Flagstad performed anywhere near as often as Isolde or any of the Brunnhildes, but it was in her repertoire from 1935 to the early 1950s. There are not many chances to hear her in the role, a 1938 Met broadcast with generally poor sound, a commercial recording of the Act 2 duet with Melchior from 1939, and this aircheck from Covent Garden in 1951. The performance doesn't seem to exist complete (though the entire opera was broadcast by the BBC), and we only have the last hour or so from act 1 and a complete act 2. This however preserves most of Kundry's part. If nothing else it shows that Flagstad was still more than capable of delivering a very impressive performance well into her late 50s. The rest of the cast is drawn from some of the best British and continental Wagnerians of the 1950s.

Wager - Parsifal - 16 June 1951
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London
Conductor             Karl Rankl
Chorus Master Douglas Robinson
Leader             Thomas Matthews

Gurnemanz                         Ludwig Weber
Second Knight             Rhydderch Davies
Second Esquire             Monica Sinclair
First Esquire                         Adele Leigh
First Knight                         Thorsteinn Hannesson
Kundry                         Kirsten Flagstad
Amfortas                         Sigurd Bjorling
Third Esquire             William McAlpine
Fourth Esquire             John Cameron
Parsifal                         Franz Lechleitner
Titurel                         Michael Langdon
Klingsor                         Otakar Kraus
Flower Maidens            Adele Leigh, Patricia Howard, Leonne Mills, Audrey Bowman, Blanche Turner, Barbara Howitt
The Covent Garden Orchestra & Chorus
Students of Enfield Road Secondary School

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Tristan und Isolde, Los Angeles 1937

Flagstad and Melchior in Tristan

 Here is an alternative version of Act 2 of Tristan to compare with yesterday's upload. This also has Kirsten Flagstad as Isolde, this time partnered by the famous Danish heldentenor Lauritz Melchior and the pair were perhaps the hottest ticket in opera between 1935 and 1941. The sound is not great, being an aircheck, and there are cuts, but there is still a great deal of enjoyment to be had from this performance with a cast that was perhaps unequalled at the time (or perhaps since).

Tristan und Isolde (Act 2 only)
Monday, November 15 1937
San Francisco Opera at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles
Lauritz Melchior - Tristan
Kirsten Flagstad - Isolde
Kathryn Meisle - Brangane
Emanuel List - King Mark
Julius Huehn - Kurvenal
George Cehanovsky - Melot

Conductor Fritz Reiner

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Tristan und Isolde, Carnegie Hall, 1939

Carnegie Hall, New York

This one off concert performance of Act 2 of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde was organised at the request of Kirsten Flagstad. Stage performances usually cut significant parts of Tristan and the cuts in Act 2 included parts of the love duet. According to the announcement this was the first time the complete Act 2 had been heard on American radio. Those wishing to hear Flagstad in the complete opera can chose from a number of live performances (with cuts) from the Met, Covent Garden, or the Colon. Alternatively there is the famous uncut studio recording with Furtwangler.


Wagner: Tristan und Isolde Act II (complete)
Carnegie Hall - 16 April 1939 - John Barbirolli (c)

Isolde    Kirsten Flagstad
Tristan    Eyvind Laholm
Brangäne    Enid Szantho
Kurwenal / Melot    Daniel Harris
König Marke    John Gurney 

Monday, 7 March 2011

Tosca San Francisco 1932

The War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco

Muzio as Tosca
The opening of the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco was marked by a special broadcast of the first act of Tosca. The hour long program featured a 15-minute introductory commentary describing the new opera house, and was broadcast coast to coast, 8.30pm PST, 11.30pm EST. It is most notable for a unique chance to hear the famous Italian soprano Claudia Muzio live on stage.

Muzio died at the age of just 47 in 1936 and did not record any commercial discs between 1925 and 1934. This live recording catches her in her prime, and is a fascinating historical document, despite the sound limitations.

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
October 15, 1932

Puccini  - Tosca - Act I
Floria Tosca - Claudia Muzio
Mario Cavaradossi - Dino Borgioli
Il barone Scarpia - Alfredo Gandolfi
Il Sagristano - Louis D' Angelo
Cesare Angelotti - Marsden Argall
Spoletta - Marek Windheim

Conductor Gaetano Merola
Orchestra - San Francisco Opera
Chorus - San Francisco Opera


Saturday, 5 March 2011

Fidelio Salzburg 1936

The original transcription disc

 Here are 55 minutes of the first act of Fidelio from Salzburg in 1936. While the sound is primitive, from a shortwave relay to the USA, it permits us to hear Lotte Lehmann as Leonore, including her long aria 'Abscheulicher' which ends these extracts. There are announcements before and after the extract. Unlike the Meistersinger posted previously, there is no extant recording from 1937 in better sound, though apparently one was meant to be recorded. Toscanini did record the opera again in 1944.

Beethoven: Fidelio - Act I (incomplete)
August 16, 1936 2-3pm EDST NBC Red

Leonore: Lotte Lehmann
Florestan: Koloman von Pataky
Don Fernando: Carl Bissuti
Don Pizarro: Alfred Jerger
Marzelline: Luise Helletsgruber
Rocco: Anton Baumann
Jaquino: Hermann Gallos
Arturo Toscanini, Conductor Vienna Philharmonic, Festspielhaus, Salzburg


Friday, 4 March 2011

Aida, Metropolitan Opera 1939

Gigli as Radames

The famous Italian Tenor, Beniamino Gigli appeared regularly at the Met in the 1920s but left in 1932. He returned for just five performances in 1939, one of which was broadcast. The only parts that survive are the final 15 minutes of Act 3 and the final 8 minutes of Act 4. If you wish to hear a complete Aida with Gigli you can choose between the 1939 Covent Garden performance recorded a few months after this broadcast, or the 1946 EMI studio recording.

Metropolitan Opera House
February 4, 1939 Matinee Broadcast

Giuseppe Verdi--Antonio Ghislanzoni

Aida....................Zinka Milanov
Radamès.................Beniamino Gigli
Amneris.................Bruna Castagna
Amonasro................Carlo Tagliabue
Ramfis..................Ezio Pinza
King....................Norman Cordon
Messenger...............Max Altglass
Priestess...............Thelma Votipka
Dance...................Maria Gambarelli

Conductor...............Ettore Panizza


Thursday, 3 March 2011

Die Meistersinger, Salzburg 1936

The final scene of the 1936 Salzburg Meistersinger
Here are large parts of acts 1 and 3 of Die Meistersinger, conducted by Toscanini at the 1936 Salzburg Festival. Act 1 is about 73 minutes, taken from a shortwave relay with some announcements. Act 3 is about an hour, consisting of the first three scenes, plus the final scene. It is in much better sound than the shortwave extracts. It is not clear which radio stations recorded these extracts, the New York station WJZ only broadcast thirty minutes, but Norweigan stations broadcast the first hour while French and Austrian stations broadcast the entire opera. It gives us a rare chance to hear Lotte Lehmann on stage as Eva. A complete Toscanini Meistersinger from Salzburg in 1937 exists and has been issued by Andante (now OOP), while American tenor Charles Kullman can be heard in a complete Meistersinger from the Met in 1939.

Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Acts I & 3 (extracts)
August. 8, 1936

Hans Sachs: Hans Hermann Nissen
Eva: Lotte Lehmann
Stolzing: Charles Kullman
David: Richard Sallaba
Sixtus Beckmesser – Hermann Wiedemann
Veit Pogner – Herbert Alsenn
Fritz Kothner – Victor Madin
Kunz VogelsangGoerg Maikl
Arturo Toscanini - Vienna Philharmonic, Festspielhaus, Salzburg