OP0125. ELEKTRA (Concert Version), Live Performance, 9 March, 1958, w.Mitropoulos Cond. NYPO; Inge Borkh, Blanche Thebom, Frances Yeend, David Lloyd, Giorgio Tozzi, etc. (Slovenia) 2-Living Stage 4035179, Carnegie Hall. Long out-of-print, final copy! - 3830025741803
“Inge Borkh, a soprano who inhabited with thrilling intensity some of the most hair-raising and daunting roles in the operatic repertoire, [was admired for] passionate portrayals [which] emerged through solid technique and secure, if fiery, tone. Howard Taubman, reviewing her in concert as Elektra at Carnegie Hall in 1958, wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES that she sang ‘with unremitting authority’, adding, ‘The word ‘sang’ is not used by courtesy, as it often has to be with Elektras’. (The role is so arduous that many sopranos practically scream through much of it.)
Ingeborg Simon was born on May 26, 1921, in Mannheim, Germany. Her father was Jewish, and the family fled Germany in 1935, after the rise of the Nazis, settling first in Geneva and then in Vienna.
Though her mother’s side of the family was dotted with singers, she began her education as an actress. After the Anschluss in 1938 she returned to Switzerland, where she encountered the bass Fritz Ollendorff, who recommended she develop her singing voice. She studied in Milan, and made her debut in 1940 in Lucerne, adopting Inge Borkh as her stage name.
Spending the 1940s in Switzerland, she swiftly moved from lighter lyrical roles to heavier ones in operas by Wagner, as well as the formidable Strauss antiheroines who became her calling cards.
In 1951, Ms. Borkh caused a sensation when she appeared in Berlin as Magda Sorel in Gian Carlo Menotti’s opera THE CONSUL, just a year after its debut. She ‘not only emerged with top honors for a brilliant performance’, Kathleen McLaughlin wrote in THE TIMES, ‘but also experienced that rarest of tributes for an actress by ‘stopping the show. The reaction of the audience’, Ms. McLaughlin added, ‘was an ovation of shouts, stamping and hand-clapping that lasted for several minutes’.
That success put Ms. Borkh on the international map, leading to debuts as far afield as London, New York and San Francisco, though her career remained focused on Continental Europe. She made few commercial recordings, but when her live performances were captured on disc they frequently became cult favorites - none more so than a delirious 1957 ELEKTRA at the Salzburg Festival led by Dimitri Mitropoulos, who also conducted her Met debut, as Salome, the next year. [Salome and Elektra], those two fiendishly difficult characters, were the ones for which Ms. Borkh was most renowned. She went on to appear at the Met as Sieglinde in Wagner’s DIE WALKÜRE, the Dyer’s Wife in Strauss’ DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN and Leonore in Beethoven’s FIDELIO.
She retired from opera after a run of ELEKTRA in Palermo, Italy, in 1973, but continued to appear onstage as a monologuist and as a suave, witty cabaret artist; a memorable recording was made of her cabaret show, ‘Inge Borkh Sings Her Memoirs’.
- Zachary Woolfe, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 28 Aug., 2018
"In a field long dominated by Europeans, Ms. Thebom was part of the first midcentury wave of American opera singers to attain international careers. Associated with the Met from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s, she was praised by critics for her warm voice, attentive phrasing and sensitive acting."
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 28 March, 2010
“Conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos stood apart from the European traditions that dominated first-rank American orchestras for much of the twentieth century. After attending the Athens Conservatory, where he studied piano and composition, his opera BÉATRICE was presented there. The French composer Saint-Saëns was in the audience, and was so impressed that he arranged a scholarship that enabled the 24-year-old to study composition with the Belgian composer Paul Gilson and piano with Busoni in Berlin. Busoni persuaded him to abandon composition and concentrate on becoming a conductor.
From 1921 to 1925, Mitropoulos assisted Erich Kleiber at the Berlin State Opera and on Kleiber's recommendation, was appointed conductor of the Hellenic Conservatory Symphony Orchestra in Athens. In 1927, he became conductor of the Greek State Symphony Orchestra and in 1930 was engaged to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, where he instituted the practice of conducting from the piano.
In 1937 Mitropoulos succeeded Eugene Ormandy as musical director of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. He became a U.S. citizen in 1946, and remained in America until 1959. After 12 years in Minneapolis, he was invited to share the conductorship of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra with Stokowski, becoming its conductor when Stokowski resigned in 1950. Mitropoulos resigned the post after sharing the podium with Leonard Bernstein, his co-principal conductor, in the Orchestra's 1958 tour of Latin America. From 1954, he was a dynamic force as Bruno Walter's successor at the Metropolitan Opera, where he introduced many new operas, including ones by Richard Strauss and Samuel Barber.
Mitropoulos never conducted his own works, but considered his best composition to be a Concerto Grosso written in 1929. His lived simply and took little part in social activities. His conducting style was passionate, highly-charged and demonstrative; he had a phenomenal memory and rarely used a baton. He programmed much modern music and particularly admired Schönberg and the Second Viennese School, such as Webern and Berg, as well as twentieth century American and British composers. His recording of Mahler's First Symphony made with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra in 1941 was the first ever made in the U.S. of that work, and Mitropoulos was awarded the American Mahler Medal of Honor in 1950 for his work in promoting the composer's music. He died while rehearsing Mahler's Third Symphony with Toscanini's famous La Scala Orchestra.”
- Roy Brewer, allmusic.com