OP1729. ALCESTE, recorded 1956, w. Geraint Jones Cond. Kirsten Flagstad, Raoul Jobin, Alexander Young, Thomas Hemsley, etc.; KIRSTEN FLAGSTAD, w. Boult Cond. London Phil.: Handel Arias. 3-London 436 234, w.54pp. Libretto-Brochure. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 028943623421
“Pride of place in this column belongs to the greatest Wagnerian soprano of the 20th century (and probably the 19th as well), Kirsten Flagstad (1895-1962). Flagstad made her début at the age of 18 in her native Norway, but her voice developed slowly and she sang mostly light roles in operettas and musical comedies and only in Scandinavia until 1932. By then her voice had greatly deepened and her artistry matured, and her late entry onto the world's stages was spectacular. By the late 1930s, when I first heard her live at the Met, she was internationally famous, but her reputation suffered during WWII, when she was made suspect by her husband's association with the Norwegian Nazis, and it took some time before she was welcomed back to recital stages in the U.S. and elsewhere.
She was a shy, self-contained woman who looked and behaved like a simple hausfrau; she refused to be a prima donna and always insisted her greatest desire was to retire to Norway and spend her life with her husband and children. Watching her knitting placidly or playing solitaire in the wings before she went on stage, observers often wondered whether she really understood what she was doing out there as Brünnhilde or Isolde. The answer was in her performances and is on these discs, in which astounding vocal beauty is combined with great passion and musical insight in deeply felt and deeply moving performances. Hearing her powerful, pure, golden tones ring out effortlessly above the loudest orchestral sound is one of the most electrifying vocal experiences you will encounter. If her characterizations often seemed more stately and restrained than vivid, she made up for it by her musical intelligence, her impeccable intonation and diction, her perfect breath control (which enabled her to produce flawless legato lines), and the radiance, brilliance, ease, and intoxicating beauty of her singing.”
- Alexander J. Morin, Classical.Net
“Raoul Jobin, the leading French Canadian tenor of the 1930s and 1940s, studied in his native Québec and then at the Paris Conservatoire, making both his concert and Paris Opéra débuts in 1930. After a spell back in Canada, he returned to the Opéra in 1934 and was a valued member of the company thereafter. He made his Covent Garden début in 1937 and from 1940 to 1950 was regularly engaged at the Metropolitan in New York, also singing with other companies in North and South America. He sang at the Opéra-Comique from 1946. Although he was best known in the French repertoire, Jobin also appeared with success in Italian rôles and the lighter Wagnerian parts. He taught singing in Montréal from 1957 and made his final stage appearance the following year. His exciting voice can be heard on many recordings.”
- Tully Potter
“Thomas Hemsley was one of the most versatile British singers in the second half of the 20th century. He sang a variety of operatic roles, was an accomplished lieder singer (with perfect German) and a distinguished soloist in choral works. His warm, flexible baritone had a wide range and its owner used it with consummate intelligence. He first came to prominence at 24 when he sang Aeneas to Kirsten Flagstad's Dido in the production of Purcell's opera that opened the Mermaid theatre in its first incarnation. Hemsley's fine presence made him an instant success, and a recording followed. In 1953 he was invited to Glyndebourne to sing Hercule in Gluck's ALCESTE [above]. He returned there over the years in a number of roles, including a notable Music Master in Richard Strauss' ARIADNE AUF NAXOS. He was especially noted as Guglielmo in COSÌ FAN TUTTE and as Germont in LA TRAVIATA.
Keen to sing more in the UK, he returned to create Demetrius in Britten's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at Aldeburgh in 1960. Later he recorded the part under the composer's baton. From 1968 to 1970, he was acclaimed for his Beckmesser in DIE MEISTERSINGER at the Bayreuth festival, a role that gave free play to his gift for characterisation. He recorded it just before singing at Bayreuth, under Rafael Kubelík, on one of the most recommendable sets of the opera. Everything Hemsley tackled was worth hearing because of the way that he understood a wide variety of vocal music. He never sang an unmusical note.”
- Alan Blyth, THE GUARDIAN, 15 April, 2013