OP0139. LULU (Berg), Live Performance, 16 Dec., 1968, w. Karl Böhm Cond. Vienna State Opera Ensemble; Anja Silja, Hilde Konetzni, Hans Hotter, Martha Mödl, Waldemar Kmentt, Ernst Gutstein, William Blankenship, Hanspeter Brand, Manfred Jungwirth, Anja Silja, Hilde Konetzni, Mario Guggia, Oskar Czerwenka, Gerd Nienstedt, Rohangiz Yachmi, Heinz Zednik, etc. (E.U.) 2-Andante 3050. Lavish Edition features elaborate sturdy hardcover deluxe 255pp book containing full libretto. Very long out-of-print, final ever-so-slightly used copy! - 699487305021
"Ms. Silja faced commentary about her age even at the start of her career, when she gave recital tours in Germany and Finland between the ages of 10 and 15. Critics said it was a crime on a child, that this career 'is not going anywhere and will be over in two years', she said. She credits her longevity to her grandfather Egon van Rijn, her only voice teacher, a painter by profession who had studied singing with the tenor Beniamino Gigli's teacher. Ms. Silja's parents, who were both actors, divorced before she was born, she explained. Mr. van Rijn worked with her, slowly and patiently, almost every day for 20 years, starting when she was 6. He even bestowed a stage name on his protegee: ' Silja' came from a novel he had read. Her Bayreuth debut proved life-transforming, because she was immediately taken under the wing of Wieland Wagner, the composer's grandson, who ran the festival. Then 43, Wagner fell in love with the tall, reddish-haired and alluring Ms. Silja, and essentially left his wife for her. Her relationship with Wagner meant everything, Ms. Silja said. 'He is still the most important influence in my life', she said. 'Whatever I do, I always think: 'What would he say? How would he react?' I never asked questions. I just did what he said."
What he asked her to do struck many opera insiders as reckless. For the next six years, Ms. Silja worked under Wagner's direction on some 30 productions at Bayreuth and other companies, performing Elisabeth, Venus, Isolde and Brunnhilde, plus Strauss' Elektra and Salome; Beethoven's Leonore and Berg's Marie and Lulu.
Wieland Wagner's scenically spare and radically abstract productions caused controversy at the time. After working with Ms. Silja, then a young woman who looked the ages of the roles she created and sang with bold impetuosity, his productions became more human and poignant, she asserted. 'Just look at the pictures from before and after I came', she said. Today, Wieland Wagner is seen as a towering figure, influential not just in opera but in contemporary theater as well.
When he died of lung cancer in 1966, Ms. Silja had a brief relationship with the Belgian-born French conductor Andre Cluytens, who died the next year at 62. (Ms. Silja lives today in Paris in Mr. Cluytens' house, which she later bought.) For a couple of seasons she continued to sing in the Bayreuth productions that Wieland Wagner had created with her. Then she essentially gave up the Wagner repertory and has never returned to Bayreuth, finding it too filled with powerful memories.
Ms. Silja has never cultivated a generically beautiful voice. 'I never cared for so-called bel canto sound', she said. 'I cared much more for character'. In this she welcomes the comparisons with Callas. 'I admired her very much, but, and you can say this nowadays, this was one of the ugliest voices, if you just listen to the voice. The personality made the voice beautiful. From the first second, you recognize her. The personality came through so strongly. That is the goal in opera'.
And yet, a singer must not be self-conscious about projecting emotions, Ms. Silja said, citing her acclaimed portrayal of Berg's Lulu, the young actress and dancer whose only power in patriarchal German society comes from her attractiveness to men. 'Lulu was erotic, but sexy is a different thing', she said. 'She is a victim of the men in her life. She is an unconscious erotic person. I was unconscious of her danger. The moment you discover your own danger, you interfere too much'."
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 13 Feb., 2007
“Waldemar Kmentt, born in Vienna in 1929, was the Vienna State Opera’s ‘house tenor’ for more than 20 years. In that capacity he was known for his versatility and dependability, singing 78 roles in almost 1500 performances from 1952 to 1973….His was a smooth and attractive lyric tenor with solid high notes up to and including high C….I know of no other ‘house tenor’ whose singing was consistently on his high level.”
- Kurt Moses, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./Dec., 2009
"In 1955, Kmentt sang Jaquino in Beethoven's FIDELIO for the reopening of the Vienna State Opera, and performed internationally in roles such as Mirko Zeta in THE MERRY WIDOW until the turn of the century. During all this time, the tenor Waldemar Kmentt gave countless dazzling performances on the world's greatest opera stages. This portrait in honour of his 80th birthday is an impressive reflection of his versatility, with excerpts from roles he performed at the Vienna State Opera, where he was based, and where he received the title of 'Kammersänger' and was eventually made an honorary member. The flexibility and brilliant timbre of his voice brought him many roles at the State Opera, both in the legendary Mozart Ensemble under Karl Böhm and as an 'Italian' tenor (though, as usual at that time, mostly in German). A brilliant rendering of the Italian tenor’s aria from DER ROSENKAVALIER in 1968 under Leonard Bernstein, concludes the cross-section of the prodigious career of a tenor who, ever modest, never relied on mere showmanship."
- Ned Ludd
"[Böhm had a] natural, essential music-making….the magical ease and naturalness of transition from one tempo to another, the human warmth, the humor, restrained pathos, the aristocratic and refined taste in final ritardandos and the incredible energy of the man."
- Walter Legge, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 5 Feb., 1995
“The Austrian composer Alban Berg is usually mentioned in the same breath as his two like-minded contemporaries, Arnold Schönberg and Anton Webern, with whom he formed the Second Viennese School of composition and explored the potential of Serialist techniques for expanding music’s perspectives in the wake of Wagner and Mahler.
Berg is generally considered to have developed a more human, emotional style than the stricter Serialists, and his works often have a more lyrical feel.”
- David Smith, Presto Classical