C1417. LEOPOLD STOKOWSKI Cond. Philadelphia Orch., w.Birgit Nilsson & George London: Gala Concert, incl. Mozart, Borodin, Gounod, Verdi, Puccini & Wagner. (England) Guild stereo 2410, Live Performance, 20 Jan., 1962, Academy of Music, Philadelphia, featuring broadcast announcements as well as the spoken introduction by Stokowski. - 795754241020
“This absolutely unique CD is a major contribution to the vast and wide-ranging discography of the late Leopold Stokowski in that it shows him in the rare guise of an operatic conductor. This recording comes from a complete concert he gave in Philadelphia in 1962 of major operatic excerpts sung by two of the greatest singers of the day - the magnificent Wagnerian soprano Birgit Nilsson and the wonderful American bass George London. Recorded in stereo, with the original announcements as broadcast, this exceptional disc is sure to gain the widest possible interest.�
- Zillah Dorset Akron
“Beloved international artist, [Nilsson was] arguably the most important female singer of the second half of the twentieth century beside Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland.�
- Richard T. Soper, NORDIC VOICES
“Nilsson made so strong an imprint on a number of res that her name came to be identified with a repertory, the ‘Nilsson repertory�, and it was a broad one. She sang the operas of Richard Strauss and made a specialty of Puccini's TURANDOT, but it was Wagner who served her career and whom she served as no other soprano since the days of Kirsten Flagstad.
A big, blunt woman with a wicked sense of humor, Ms. Nilsson brooked no interference from Wagner's powerful and eventful orchestra writing. When she sang Isolde or Br�nnhilde, her voice pierced through and climbed above it. Her performances took on more pathos as the years went by, but one remembers her sound more for its muscularity, accuracy and sheer joy of singing under the most trying circumstances.
Her long career at the Bayreuth Festival and her immersion in Wagner in general, began in the mid-1950s. No dramatic soprano truly approached her stature thereafter, and in the res of Isolde, Br�nnhilde and Sieglinde, she began her stately 30-year procession around the opera houses of the world. Her United States debut was in San Francisco in 1956. Three years later she made her début at the Metropolitan Opera, singing Isolde under Karl Bm, and some listeners treasure the memory of that performance as much as they do her live recording of the re from Bayreuth in 1966, also under Bm. The exuberant review of her first Met performance appeared on the front page of The New York Times on 19 Dec., 1959, under the headline, ‘Birgit Nilsson as Isolde Flashes Like New Star in 'Met' Heavens�."
- Bernard Holland, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 12 Jan., 2006
“In the many performances I have appeared in, there were many wonderful colleagues who had me in raptures. There were those with magnificent voices, or great musicians, wonderful actors or great personalities. But George London had it ALL. He was as impressive on stage as he was the wonderful colleague and friend in his private life.�
- Birgit Nilsson, as quoted in Leonardo A. Ciampa’s THE TWILIGHT OF BELCANTO, p.130
“George London was a dramatic and very expressive singer. In many res he sang like a demonic panther with a sound of purple-black in color. London was a singer favoring the drama in a piece, varying color to suggest shifts of mood. His acting on stage was described as overwhelming. The special magnetism of this artist is documented on his great recordings. Every re he sang was sung with utmost expression and unbelievable commitment, truly a singing-actor!�
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
“Leopold Stokowski gave the orchestra an entirely new sound, popularly known as the ‘Philadelphia Sound� or the ‘Stokowski Sound�. Its foundation was a luxuriant, sonorous tone and an exacting attention to color. He pioneered the use of ‘free� bowing, which produced a rich, homogenized string tone. A relentless innovator, Stokowski experimented with orchestral seating, famously lining up the string basses across the rear of the stage and, in an early instance, massing all the violins on the left side of the orchestra and the cellos on the right. He also had spotlights directed on his hands and his impressively prominent hair to enhance his dramatic, theatrical aura. One of the first modern conductors to give up the use of the baton, Stokowski employed graceful, almost hypnotic, hand gestures to work his magic.�