OP0071. FIDELIO, Live Performance, 22 Feb., 1941: Bruno Walter Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Kirsten Flagstad, René Maison, Herbert Janssen, Alexander Kipnis, Julius Huehn, etc., replete with Milton Cross' extensive commentaries; A most delightful interview with Bruno Walter, accompanied by the chirping of birds! (England) 2-Guild 2269/70. Restoration by Richard Caniell. [Very long unavailable, it is wonderful to have a few copies, once again.] - 795754227024
"More important for the opera itself is Walter's sure hand in shaping every element of the performance....each orchestral motive, each chord, has its appropriate place in the web of symphonic play; at the same time, each element supports and guides the action....the result is a speaking musicality....Walter's well-known reverence for the prisoners' release to sunlight shows in his beautiful pacing of the choral ensemble....the sixty-five-year-old Walter already enjoyed an almost mystical veneration among associates and public....Flagstad is in superb form throughout the entire afternoon. How expertly she hones the mass of her instrument to suit Beethoven's chiseled melodic lines....throughout it all, the voice rings as clear as crystal. She wraps the entire dungeon scene in classical composure...and draws Beethoven's melodic profile with exemplary care....In the final scene of jubilation her long, sustained B-flat, so deftly colored and perfectly placed, hangs over the ensemble like a protective shield....Memory long will dwell on these marks of her greatness."
- Paul Jackson, SATURDAY AFTERNOONS AT THE OLD MET, pp.261-62
"The swath of [Flagstad’s] voice has the remembered density, more heavily weighted to the lower winds now , with a little less blaze of color to give life to her tones. Her instrument gains in vibrancy and flow as the opera progresses….the voice is unlike any heard before or since – in size, color, and security simply a marvel."
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, p.44
“[Maison’s] efforts are to be applauded, as they are most fulfilling in every musical and artistic aspect imaginable, and underline the fact that he was one of the most histrionically and vocally talented tenors of his generation….René Maison’s voice has a timbre that…can perhaps be compared to a slightly dry, yet rich and full-bodied red wine. He was a big man physically, and his repertoire and the tone emitted on his recordings do indicate size, weight and a delivery that (according to critical reviews) must have demonstrated excellent projection.”
- Alan Bilgora, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2011
“After studying law and serving as an officer in World War I, Janssen studied with Oskar Daniel in Berlin and made his late début at the Berlin State Opera in 1922 as Herod in Schreker’s DER SCHATZGRÄBER. He remained with the company until 1938 where he was very successful not only in Wagner but also in Verdi and French operas. He also appeared as Orest and Prince Igor. Guest appearances followed in Vienna and Buenos Aires. He was regarded as the outstanding exponent of the lighter Wagnerian baritone parts (Kurwenal, Wolfram, Amfortas, Gunther, Telramund, Kothner, Donner, Heerrufer) and appeared at Covent Garden (1926 - 1939) and Bayreuth (1930 - 1937). The Nazi regime caused him to leave Germany (1938). He made his début at the Philadelphia Opera in 1939 (as Wotan in SIEGFRIED!). He was immediately engaged at the Met and remained there from 1939 to 1952. He was a frequent guest at all major American opera houses. After Friedrich Schorr’s retirement in 1943 he reluctantly took over the heavier rôles of Wotan and Hans Sachs, but they did not suit his voice. He considered the loss of vocal refinement and darkening of his famous upper tones. Herbert Janssen had always been a favorite recitalist and conquered a new generation of concertgoers, when he reappeared in London as a Lieder singer after World War II. He often stated that he would have preferred to sing Italian operas; he loved Verdi! At the end of his career he became a vocal coach.
Janssen’s voice carried a depth of feeling and it was of dramatic and individual character. He is famous for his Wagner recordings and they belong to his greatest achievements. His lieder recordings are true treasures!”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile