OP0066. CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA (in German), Live Performance, 1954, w.Sawallisch Cond. Bayerischen Rundfunks Ensemble; Astrid Varnay, Hans Hopf, James Pease, etc. (Italy) Myto 042.H086. Long out-of-print, final copy! - 8014399500869
“…this remarkably authoritative soprano, who was shamefully neglected by the recording industry, gives us a Santuzza totally immersed in the character she portrays. [Varnay’s] singing is wide-ranging, rich and secure in tone, with a legato phrasing that makes us forget that she is singing in German….CAVALLERIA specialists will want to own this esoterica, with Astrid Varnay as its principal attraction.”
- George Jellinek, FANFARE, March/April, 2005
"The dramatic soprano Astrid Varnay (1918–2006) was born into an operatic family: her mother was a coloratura soprano and her father a spinto tenor. The year in which she was born they founded the Opera Comique Theatre in Kristiania, Sweden, although they were both born in Hungary, and they managed it until 1921.The family then moved to Argentina and later to New York, where her father died in 1924. Her mother subsequently remarried another tenor, and the young Astrid, after studying to be a pianist, decided at the age of eighteen to become a singer. She worked intensively, first with her mother and then with the Metropolitan Opera conductor and coach Hermann Weigert, whom she later married. She made her sensational stage début at the Metropolitan in 1941, substituting at short notice for Lotte Lehmann as Sieglinde in Die Walküre with no rehearsal. After this triumph, six days later she replaced Helen Traubel in the same opera as Brünnhilde, and her operatic career was effectively launched. She made her Covent Garden début in 1948 and, at the suggestion of Kirsten Flagstad, her Bayreuth Festival début in 1951. She sang every year at Bayreuth for the next seventeen years and at the Met until 1956, when she left following a disagreement with Rudolf Bing. She henceforth concentrated her career on Germany where she was revered, living in Munich. She moved from the dramatic soprano repertoire into that for mezzo-soprano in 1969, and during the 1980s into character parts. She made her last appearance in Munich in 1995, almost fifty-five years after her Metropolitan début. Her brilliant career is well documented in both commercial and unofficial sound recordings."
- David Patmore
“Wolfgang Sawallisch, one of the last of the old-school German conductors, who led the Philadelphia Orchestra for nearly a decade and the Bavarian State Opera in Munich for two decades before that, embodied the German type of the ‘Kapellmeister’ in the best sense: a man steeped in music, who knew every note of every score he conducted (often from memory), who was a supportive accompanist as well as an informed interpreter and who understood how to train, develop and lead an orchestra. Never flashy, even somewhat understated, he was, at his best, insightful and illuminating.
While Mr. Sawallisch was renowned throughout Europe, he might have remained little known to American audiences had the Philadelphia Orchestra not tapped him to take over as music director in 1993. When he arrived at age 70, he underwent a veritable renaissance, evidently enjoying a new freedom, both artistic and political — far from the political squabbling that had increasingly overshadowed his last years in Munich. ‘The last 10 years, with the Philadelphia Orchestra’, he said in 2006, ‘were really the top years of my symphonic life’. His time in Philadelphia was therefore a particularly happy ending to his career. Against some expectations, the reserved, intensely private German thrived in America, and the orchestra responded warmly to him.”
- Anne Midgette, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 24 Feb., 2013
“Formerly Hans Hopf had sung primarily the Italian repertoire, but was now beginning to concentrate on Wagner roles, which suited his robust voice very well. Hopf was an incomparable raconteur, and one was never bored in his company.”
- Birgit Nilsson, LA NILSSON, p.160
“For many of the record-buying public, their impression of German dramatic tenor Hans Hopf was formed upon viewing the wretched photograph that was displayed on the cover of his 1960 EMI recording of TANNHÄUSER. Appearing bloated and dim-witted, the tenor was sorely misrepresented by a portrait that should never have been released. While his voice had by that time grown beefier and less pliant, Hopf was too serious an artist to have been exposed to such a public relations disaster. For a truer picture, physically and aurally, turn to his Walter in EMI's live recording of Bayreuth's 1951 DIE MEISTERSINGER with Schwarzkopf, Edelmann, and Karajan. Here, before the strain of too many heroic roles took their toll, his singing was strong and highly agreeable, accomplished if somewhat short of poetic. Hopf studied with bass Paul Bender in Munich before making his début in 1936 singing Pinkerton with the Bavarian Regional Opera. Affiliations with Augsburg, Dresden, Oslo, and Berlin preceded his extended membership at the Bavarian Staatsoper beginning in 1949. In addition to his Bayreuth début, the 1950 -- 1951 season held a first appearance at Covent Garden, where Hopf sang his German-language Radames in an otherwise English-language AÏDA. He was also heard as Walter, pleasing the critics and audiences more for his sturdy singing than for his subtlety. Hopf remained with the Royal Opera through the 1952 -- 1953 season, offering his Walter all three years. At Bayreuth, Hopf worked his way to Parsifal, Tannhäuser, and Siegfried by the 1960s. In 1952, he made his Metropolitan Opera début as Walter. He continued to appear for five more years, eventually amassing a total of 34 performances in the Wagnerian repertory. At Salzburg in 1954, Hopf made his début as Max in Weber's DER FREISCHÜTZ. Although most of his career was spent in Europe, Hopf made two further appearances in American opera houses singing Herodes in both Chicago (1968) and San Francisco (1974), both times with Astrid Varnay as his consort. Although the latter production caught him rather late in the day, he was still an arresting Herod, dissolute and clearly not quite stable. In Germany, Hopf had achieved a considerable reputation as Verdi's Otello.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“James Pease was an American bass-baritone, notable for his Wagnerian roles but also a very distinguished Balstrode in Benjamin Britten’s PETER GRIMES, a role he recorded under the composer’s direction in 1958. A law graduate of Indiana University in 1939, he won a scholarship at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and studied there rather than begin practice as a lawyer. He made his début with the Philadelphia Opera Company as Mephistophélès in FAUST, and sang many other roles with the company in Philadelphia and Boston. He also pursued concert, oratorio and radio work on the East Coast of the United States. He was praised by Serge Koussevitzky as having ‘An exceptionally beautiful, powerful, expansive voice’.
In 1943 he was selected a winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air, but was immediately called for service as an aviation cadet. He served three years as a pilot in the A.A.F. Training Command, flying some 15,000 miles. He also directed and performed in musical shows at his home base in Texas. On his discharge in 1945, he appeared at the Montréal Festivals and in a series of operas at the New York City Center Theatre, making his début there as Sparafucile on 9 May 1946 (continuing to sing at that venue until 1953). That year he also sang in CARMEN at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, conducted by Leopold Stokowski. He was also a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. and at the Berkshire Festival. He sang a wide variety of roles including Leporello and the title role in DON GIOVANNI, Don Alfonso (COSÌ FAN TUTTE), the Music Master (ARIADNE AUF NAXOS), Colline (LA BOHÈME), Escamillo (CARMEN) and various Gilbert and Sullivan roles including the Pirate King and the Mikado of Japan.
He sang in London's Royal Opera House in various productions conducted by Rafael Kubelík, including as Hans Sachs in Wagner's DIE MEISTERSINGER with Geraint Evans and Joan Sutherland in 1957, as King Mark in TRISTAN UND ISOLDE with Birgit Nilsson in 1958, and in the same year as Balstrode in PETER GRIMES, later recording the role under the composer’s direction for Decca. He returned to the New York City Opera in 1959-60, and again in 1967.”
-Zilla Dorset Akron