OP1694. CARMEN (in Swedish), Broadcast Performance, 1954, w.Ehrling Cond. Royal Swedish Opera Ensemble; Kerstin Meyer, Arne Hendriksen, Elisabeth Söderström, Sigurd Björling, Kjerstin Dellert, etc. (Sweden) 2-Bluebell ABCD 109. - 7391711010925
“Bluebell celebrates Kerstin Meyer’s 80th birthday with a riveting 1954 broadcast performance of Carmen under Sixten Ehrling, where Meyer stars alongside Sigurd Björling as Escamillo, Elisabeth Söderström as Micaëla and Arne Hendriksen as Don José. The intensity of the finale leaves a very strong impression, Meyer’s Carmen is seductive without sounding vulgar or over-acted. Ehrling’s conducting is superb.”
- Rob Cowan, GRAMOPHONE, May, 2009
“Swedish mezzo-soprano Kerstin Meyer enjoyed a full and rewarding career through great intelligence. Her instrument, not huge but somewhat dark in coloration, was sometimes betrayed by an uneven and pronounced vibrato. Yet her stage presence was riveting enough to make that issue all but disappear, especially in leading roles of dramatic stature. Meyer was also a persuasive recitalist.
Meyer's studies were extensive, first in Stockholm with Andreyeva von Skildonz and Arne Sunnegaardh, and later in Salzburg, Rome, Siena, and Vienna. Upon her 1952 début as Azucena at Stockholm's Royal Opera, she joined the permanent company. When Wieland Wagner's 1959 Hamburg production of CARMEN created a stir in the world press, it was as much for Meyer's intellectually dangerous protagonist as for Wagner's innovations. Her attractive, slender appearance and histrionic gifts led to several leading roles in world premieres. In three successive years beginning in 1966, she sang Mrs. Claiborne in Gunther Schuller's THE VISITATION, Alice in Alexander Goehr's ARDEN MUST DIE, and Gertrude in Humphrey Searle's HAMLET, all in the dramatically progressive Hamburg company. Her career brought even more premieres and growing appreciation among leading conductors. In 1961, Meyer had made herself welcome at the Glyndebourne Festival as Carolina in Henze's ELEGY FOR YOUNG LOVERS. She subsequently appeared in roles ranging from Octavia in Monteverdi's L'INCORONAZIONE DI POPPEA to Clairon in Strauss' CAPRICCIO. In 1966, Meyer was Agave in the world premiere of Henze's THE BASSARIDS at Salzburg. She was chosen for Elisabeth in the 1970 premiere of Nicholas Maw's The RISING OF THE MOON at Glyndebourne, and in 1973, she sang for Glyndebourne a memorable Old Woman title role in the first English production of Einem's DER BESUCH DER ALTEN DAME. In the early '60s, Meyer appeared at the Metropolitan Opera, which offered her less dramatically appropriate fare. From 1962 to 1965, she was a regular at the Bayreuth Festival. Meyer's 1962 San Francisco Octavian (to Schwarzkopf's Marschallin) was both well sung and ardently acted.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
"Elisabeth Söderström, the Swedish soprano acclaimed for the plangent richness and intelligence of her singing and for her wide-ranging repertory, including influential portrayals of leading roles in the operas of Janácek, was admired by opera lovers around the world, notably in Sweden and England, where she performed most often, within the field she was revered. With her radiant, creamy voice, thorough musicianship and keen dramatic instincts, she was a model for singers. In roles like the Countess in Mozart’s NOZZE DI FIGARO the Marschallin in Strauss’ DER ROSENKAVALIER, Tatyana in Tchaikovsky’s EUGEN ONÉGIN and more, she combined insightful acting with nuanced singing and a lovely stage presence to create alluring and memorable performances. An element of Scandinavian reserve in her dramatic and vocal artistry enhanced her work, lending an elusive quality to her portrayals. Reviewing a song recital that Ms Söderström gave at the Frick Collection in New York in 1975, the NEW YORKER critic Andrew Porter perceptively summed up her artistry. Her ‘quick musical intelligence, her vivid and engaging temperament, and a protean voice not exceptionally powerful but well able to compass soubrette mirth and tragic passion have brought her triumphs in a wide variety of roles’.
Anna Elisabeth Söderström made her début as Mozart’s Bastienne when she was just 20 at the Drottningholm Court Theater, on the outskirts of the city, a company she would direct in the mid-1990s. Shortly after her début, she joined the Swedish Royal Opera. She remained a member of that company until her retirement. In her early years she focused on soubrette roles, including Mozart heroines. Soon she was branching out dramatically. Her début at the prestigious Glyndebourne Festival in England came in 1957 as the Composer in Strauss’ ARIADNE AUF NAXOS, and for years she remained a favorite with the festival. Among Strauss singers, she was one of the few to have sung all three lead rôles in DER ROSENKAVALIER: the Marschallin, Octavian and Sophie. A milestone in her career came in the 1969-70 season with the Royal Opera at Covent Garden in London, when she sang Mélisande in an acclaimed production of Debussy’s PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE conducted by Pierre Boulez, subsequently recorded. That Sony Classical recording, with George Shirley as Pelléas, is considered by many to be definitive.
Another series of landmark performances and recordings involved the Australian conductor Charles Mackerras, an informed champion of the Janácek operas. Ms Söderström became Mr Mackerras’ soprano of choice for his Decca label recordings of complete Janácek operas, including JENUFA and KATYA KABANOVA, with Ms Söderström singing the title roles, and THE MAKROPULOS CASE, a mysterious, haunting work in which Ms Söderström portrayed, unforgettably, the 300-year-old Emilia Marty.
Among the many contemporary roles she sang were Elisabeth Zimmer in Hans Werner Henze’s ELEGY FOR YOUNG LOVERS and Juliana Bordereau in Dominick Argento’s ASPERN PAPERS for the premiere production in Dallas in 1988. She was also an active song recitalist.
Ms Söderström made her Metropolitan Opera début in 1959 as Susanna in Mozart’s NOZZE DI FIGARO. For the next five years, she made regular appearances at the Met, but then drifted mostly to Europe, returning in the 1980s for performances as the Marschallin in DER ROSENKAVALIER and the Countess in NOZZE DI FIGARO. For her last Met performances, she came out of retirement, essentially, to sing the Countess in Tchaikovsky’s PIQUE DAME, a dramatically complex and crucial role with scant vocal demands. She received an enormous ovation."
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 21 Nov., 2009