OP0963. ORFEO ED EURIDICE (Gluck), Live Performance, 20 Jan., 1940, w.Leinsdorf Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Kerstin Thorborg, Jarmila Novotná & Marita Farell; KERSTIN THORBORG: Interview with Kerstin Thorborg; Orfeo – Che farò senza Euridice (recorded 26 June, 1933); Arias from Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Götterdämmerung, Tristan & Parsifal (recorded 8 May, 1940). (England) 2-Guild 2317/18. [Very long unavailable, it is wonderful to have a few copies, once again.] - 795754231823
“Kerstin Thorborg is a true contralto voice with a powerful top extension, making it eminently suitable for the special requirements of dramatic roles. Her top notes are prefectly placed and she sings with a rich and ample tone through the whole range. She is one of the great Wagnerin singers of the 20th century and all recordings in which she was involved are a ‘must’.
She gained great success, particularly as Brangäne. Bruno Walter became one of her most important mentors. Under Bruno Walter she sang the title role in Gluck’s ORFEO, and in 1936 with Walter she made gramophone history in the first ever recording of Mahler’s DAS LIED VON DER ERDE. She was most highly estimated by many great conductors, such as Georg Szell, Sir Thomas Beecham, Fritz Busch, Felix Weingartner, Hans Knappertsbusch, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Arturo Toscanini and Victor de Sabata. In 1938, when the Nazis annexed Austria, she broke her contract and left for the USA. There she had made her début already in 1936 at the Met. She stayed with this company until 1950, where she became one of the most successful mezzos, performing some three hundred nights during twelve seasons.”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
“Swedish mezzo-soprano Kerstin Thorborg was one of the finest artists before the public during her prime years in the 1930s. Celebrated by critics in London and New York, she was admired for her completeness as an artist, excelling in both opera and concert work, and adept in many areas of the repertoire. Attractive and supple on stage, she was regarded as among the finest actresses in opera. In the company of such fellow singers as Leider, Flagstad, Lehmann, Melchior, and Schorr, she made her era an outstanding one for Wagnerian performance.
Thorborg made her début at the Stockholm Opera in AÏDA, achieving a substantial success with her first Ortrud in 1924. The mezzo remained with the company until 1930 (also fulfilling numerous concert engagements) before accepting an offer from the Prague National Theatre and, subsequently, Nuremberg. After a successful series of performances in both houses, she was summoned to Berlin, where she was engaged by the Städtische Oper, singing there from 1932 to 1935. In 1935, she began appearing at Vienna Staatsoper and remained there until 1938. Her Salzburg roles between 1935 and 1937 included Orfeo, Magdalene, Brangäne, Donna Mercedes in Hugo Wolf's rarely performed DER CORREGIDOR, and Eglantine in Weber's EURYANTHE. In the midst of her European engagements, she managed to fit in a season at Buenos Aires as well.
In 1936, Thorborg made débuts at both Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera, receiving praise for her consummate artistry. Her May appearance in DIE WALKÜRE prompted London's very particular Ernest Newman to describe her as ‘the finest Fricka I have ever seen or hope to see’. Later, Newman greeted her Kundry with these words: ‘She walks like a goddess, sits like a statue; and not a single gesture is wasted throughout the whole evening. All in all, I would rank her as the greatest Wagnerian actress of the present day’.
In New York, Thorborg's December début was again as Fricka, a performance also celebrated as that of a great actress. While critics deemed her somewhat too bright in tone, they greeted her portrayal as altogether exceptional. Thorborg was described as ‘a woman of regal and distinguished beauty, stately in bearing, slender, tall and straight’. The reviewer hailed her as ‘an actress of intelligence and skill and power’. Thorborg's appearances at Covent Garden ended before the outbreak of World War II, but her Metropolitan engagement extended over fifteen seasons, during which she proved herself a mainstay of the Wagnerian wing. In 243 performances, she ranged over nearly the entire range of Wagner roles for mezzo and contralto, also performing such parts as Amneris, Azucena, Ulrica, Orfeo, Octavian, Herodias, and Marina in BORIS GODUNOV. Thorborg sang two seasons at San Francisco (1938 and 1943) and in Chicago between 1942 and 1945.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“Jarmila Novotná…was a legendary beauty with an uncanny gift for the stage….She brought a radiance to every role she undertook: her every entrance was like a burst of sunshine.”
- Lanfranco Rasponi, THE LAST PRIMA DONNAS, p.296
“Jarmila Novotná was widely considered one of the finest singing actresses of her time. Her interpretations of such roles as Donna Elvira, Euridice, Manon, Mélisande, Antonia and Marenka were praised for their intelligence and lyrical grace. She also excelled in trouser roles, particularly Orlofsky in DIE FLEDERMAUS, Cherubino in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO and Octavian in DER ROSENKAVALIER. On hearing her American début in San Francisco in MADAMA BUTTERFLY in 1939, Olin Downes wrote in The New York Times: ‘There is grace, warmth, communicative feeling in all that she does.
She made her Metropolitan début in LA BOHEME in 1940, singing with Jussi Björling. That year Downes also praised her ‘great’ Violetta at the Met: ‘She conceived the music, from first note to last, dramatically, and portrayed the character with an aristocratic sensibility and simplicity. The word and the tone were indissoluble; the phrasing was that of the finest musician’. In her years at the Metropolitan Opera, Miss Novotna sang 193 performances and won consistent praise for her expressiveness and musicianship.
Miss Novotná studied with Emmy Destinn and made her début at the age of 17 with the Prague National Opera. She continued her studies in Milan and became a member of the Vienna State Opera from 1933 to 1938, eventually singing opera and concerts in most of the major houses of Europe. Toscanini brought her to the attention of the Met after she sang Pamina under his direction in Salzburg in 1937. She came to New York in 1940, arriving, she noted years later, the day Hitler marched into Prague. During the war years she recorded ‘Songs of Lidice’, in memory of the victims of the Nazi massacre. The recording presents folk songs of her native land; the piano accompaniments are by Jan Masaryk, the son of the former president of Czechoslovakia.”
- Edward Rothstein, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 10 Feb., 1994
"Erich Leinsdorf, a conductor whose abrasive intelligence and deep musical learning served as a conscience for two generations of conductors, had a utilitarian stage manner and his disdain of dramatic effects for their own sake stood out as a not-so-silent rebuke to his colleagues in this most glamorous of all musical jobs. In addition, Mr. Leinsdorf - in rehearsal, in the press and in his valuable book on conducting, THE COMPOSER'S ADVOCATE - never tired of pointing out gaps in culture among musicians, faulty editing among music publishers and errors in judgment or acts of ignorance among his fellow conductors. He rarely named his victims, but his messages and their targets were often clear. Moreover, he usually had the solid grasp of facts to support his contentions.
Mr. Leinsdorf moved to this country from Vienna in 1937. Helped by the recommendation of Arturo Toscanini, whom he had been assisting at the Salzburg Festival, Mr. Leinsdorf made his conducting début at the Metropolitan Opera a year later with DIE WALKÜRE. He was 25 years old at the time . A year later he was made overseer of the Met's German repertory, and his contentious style - in particular an insistence on textual accuracy and more rehearsal - won him no friends among singers like Lauritz Melchior and Kirsten Flagstad. Backed by management, he remained at the Met until 1943. At the New York City Opera, where he became music director in 1956, Mr. Leinsdorf's demanding policies in matters of repertory and preparation made him further enemies, and he left a year later. His searches for permanent employment turned mostly to orchestras. After the briefest of tenures at the Cleveland Orchestra during World War II, Mr. Leinsdorf took over the Rochester Philharmonic and stayed for nine years.
Mr. Leinsdorf's last and most prestigious music directorship was at the Boston Symphony, where he replaced Charles Münch in 1962. No contrast in style could have been sharper: Münch had viewed conducting mystically, as a kind of priesthood; Mr. Leinsdorf's policy was to make performances work in the clearest and most rational way. Observers both in and out of the orchestra could not deny the benefits of Mr. Leinsdorf's discipline, but there were some who were hostile to what they perceived as an objectivity that could hardly be called heartwarming.
One American orchestra manager a few years ago responded to musicians' grumblings over Mr. Leinsdorf's rehearsal manner by saying that he was ‘good for my orchestra’. And so he probably was.”
- Bernard Holland, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 12 Sept., 1993