OP1932. DIE MEISTERSINGER, Live Performance, 10 Jan., 1953, w.Reiner Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Paul Schöffler, Hans Hopf, Victoria de los Angeles, Josef Greindl, Gerhard Pechner, etc. (E.U.) 4-Walhall 0273. - 4035122652734
“…Reiner’s loving touch does reveal the opera’s profound humanity…..Schöffler is a capital Sachs. He never falters throughout the afternoon….De Los Angeles seldom ventured upon the Wagnerian terrain….The warmth of her middle and low voice sheds a sunny radiance upon Eva’s too brief scenes. Of course, she is always the exemplary musician. Of equal worth, her burger’s daughter is delightfully spunky in the second-act encounter with Walther, tantalizingly coquettish in her shoe complaint to the bemused Sachs, and utterly charming in general.”
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, pp.78-79
“Fritz Reiner was a legend among conductors. Universally admired for his music-making, widely disliked for his aggressive and exacting temperament, and survived by a legacy of definitive recorded performances, he was largely responsible for the artistic ascendancy of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and exerted considerable influence on generations of musicians.
Born in Budapest in 1888, he studied piano with his mother and, at the age of 15, entered the Franz Liszt Academy -- an institution that also boasts Bela Bartók, Zoltan Kodály, Ernst von Dohnányi, George Szell, Eugene Ormandy, Georg Solti and Antal Dorati as graduates. Reiner gained conducting experience at a number of regional opera houses before eventually returning to Budapest in 1911 to serve at the city's Volksoper, where his reputation as a conductor of special abilities finally emerged. In 1914 Reiner accepted a position at the Dresden Court Opera, where he formed a fortuitous relationship with both the conductor Arthur Nikisch and the composer Richard Strauss; Reiner would eventually give the German premier of Strauss' DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN, and would remain a devoted interpreter of the composer's works throughout his career. The economic chaos and emergent anti-Semitism that followed the First World War made Reiner anxious to leave Europe, and an invitation (in 1921) to become the music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra provided just the right opportunity. From that point onward, Reiner's career was firmly rooted in the United States, where he became a citizen in 1928.
After resigning his post at Cincinnati Reiner became a professor of conducting at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where his students included both the young Leonard Bernstein and Lukas Foss; Bernstein, in particular, credited Reiner with a great deal of influence in his development. In 1938 he became the director of the Pittsburgh Symphony -- one of several positions that established Reiner as a fine builder of orchestras, with a talent for steering ensembles toward new levels of quality and success. A number of Reiner's well-known recordings stem from his tenure there. Guest appearances during his Pittsburgh years include those at Covent Garden and the San Francisco Symphony. From Pittsburgh he moved to the Metropolitan opera, where he remained on the conductor roster until 1953; his advocacy of Strauss' operas was especially strong there, and his performances of SALOME and ELEKTRA number among the most memorable evenings in the Met's history.
1953 was a watershed year for Reiner, since it was then that he assumed the directorship of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. This was to become his signature partnership, and the position that would establish his lasting legacy. His relationship with the orchestra was never a smooth one -- he was known for hostility and impatience in rehearsal, and for firing musicians for mistakes in concerts -- but he undeniably raised the ensemble from its status as a good American orchestra to that of one of the finest in the world. Unlike a number of other prominent conductors who excelled in narrow corners of the musical canon, Reiner maintained his excellent standards and clarifying precision throughout an especially broad repertory that crossed boundaries of nationality and style. He was as renowned for his performances of new works, such as Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra -- a piece that Reiner himself commissioned from the dying composer -- and Alan Hovhaness' MYSTERIOUS MOUNTAIN as he was for his Mahler, Strauss and Haydn. His tenure in Chicago also resulted in what was then an unprecedented volume of fine recordings, some of which still remain as favorites, despite the [purported] improved fidelity of modern competitors. Reiner resigned from Chicago in 1962 (after only nine seasons), and died the following year of heart failure.”
- Allen Schrott, allmusic.com
“Despite having been born in Germany, bass-baritone Paul Schöffler became a favorite in Austria, both at the Vienna Staatsoper and at the Salzburg Festival. Aside from Friedrich Schorr, he was undoubtedly the finest, most complex interpreter of Hans Sachs in the recorded era. Although his voice could sound slightly dry and lacked the imperious sound for Wotan (which he did sing on occasion), it served him well through an unusually long career. His Sachs at the Metropolitan Opera in November 1964 was superbly sung, remarkable in its stamina, even though Schöffler was 67 at the time. A live recording of Strauss' DAPHNE made in Vienna that same year confirms the impression. The work of an aristocratic artist, Schöffler's interpretations of such roles as Scarpia, Don Giovanni, and Iago were always distinguished, even when not stylistically definitive. The years since his retirement from leading roles have not produced a remotely comparable artist.
Schöffler studied with Waldemar Stägemann in his native Dresden before traveling to Italy to work with baritone Mario Sammarco. His 1926 stage début took place in Dresden in the role of the Herald in LOHENGRIN, beginning an association with that theater that continued until 1939. In 1939, Schöffler was engaged by the Vienna Staatsoper and remained there until 1970 when he was 73 years old. During his long career, he also sang in London, at Bayreuth, at the Salzburg Festival (1938 - 1965), in several Italian theaters and in America at the Metropolitan Opera, in San Francisco, and in Chicago.
Schöffler's London début came as Donner in a 1934 RHEINGOLD, conducted by Beecham. He was well-received by both the public and the critics, later confirming the positive first impression with his ‘excellent’ singing of the title role in Weinberger's SCHWANDA, THE BAGPIPER. In 1936, he sang Scarpia and, with the visiting Dresden Opera, Figaro in Mozart's LE NOZZE DI FIGARO (sung in German as’Die Hochzeit’) and the title role in one performance of DON GIOVANNI. In the Mozart operas, he was praised for both fine singing and histrionic aptitude. He undertook such other roles in London as Jochanaan, Kurwenal, the RHEINGOLD Wotan (described as ‘lightweight’), and, following WWII, Don Giovanni ‘Germanic’), Don Alfonso, and Pizarro with the visiting Vienna Staatsoper company. With the Royal Opera House company, he repeated his Kurwenal and RHEINGOLD Wotan and added Gunther and his genial Sachs.
At Salzburg, Schöffler created the title role in Gottfried von Einem's DANTONS TOD in 1947, and, five years later, he premiered Jupiter in Strauss' DIE LIEBE DER DANAE.
Schöffler's first American stage appearances came well after WWII, when the singer was already in his early fifties. His Met début was on 26 January, 1950, as Jochanaan, a role he sang to the spectacular Salome of Ljuba Welitsch a few weeks later. Schöffler's performance was praised as that of a superior artist, delineating the character with intelligence and involvement. The bass-baritone faced off against Welitsch in two other productions, setting his Don Giovanni at odds with her Donna Anna and, as a ‘brutish’ Scarpia, menacing her fiery Tosca. Over nine seasons, Schöffler sang a total of 91 performances. His 14 roles included Pizarro, Amfortas, Kurwenal, Oreste, and the Grand Inquisitor. San Francisco heard him, too briefly, in Wagner and Strauss, as did Chicago.
Although Schöffler's voice lacked a sensuous timbre, its warmth and firmness left a positive impression, while his musicianship and artistic integrity were unfailingly of the highest order.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“Any record by Victoria de los Angeles is special, be it song or opera. For me she was the essence of Spanish elegance. She had a voice which brought with it the warmth of the Spanish sun and it made us smile.”
- Richard Anwyl Williams, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2009
"Born Victória Gómez Cima into a humble Catalan family in Barcelona, she studied at the Barcelona Conservatory, graduating in just three years in 1941 at age 18. That year, she made her operatic debut as Mimì at the Liceu, but then resumed her musical studies. In 1945, she returned to the Liceu to make her professional debut as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro. After winning first prize in the Geneva International Competition in 1947, she sang Salud in Falla's LA VIDA BREVE with the BBC in London in 1948. In 1949 she made her first appearance in the Paris Opéra as Marguerite. The following year, she debuted in Salzburg and Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as Mimi, and the United States with a recital at Carnegie Hall. In March, 1951, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut in New York as Marguerite, singing with the company for ten years. She made noted recordings of LA VIDA BREVE, LA BOHEME, PAGLIACCI, and MADAMA BUTTERFLY. The last three paired her with renowned tenor Jussi Björling. She also sang at La Scala in Milan from 1950 to 1956. In 1957 she sang at the Vienna State Opera. After making her debut at the Bayreuth Festival as Elisabeth in 1961, she devoted herself principally to a concert career. However, for the next twenty years, she continued to make occasional appearances in one of her favourite operatic roles, Carmen. She was among the first Spanish-born operatic singers to record the complete opera in 1958, a recording conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham using the recitatives added by Ernest Guiraud after Bizet's death. Though Carmen lay comfortably in her range, she nevertheless sang major soprano roles, best known of which were Donna Anna, Manon, Nedda, Desdemona, Cio-Cio-San, Mimi, Violetta and Mélisande. Like Montserrat Caballé, she was a true exponent of bel canto singing. De los Ángeles performed regularly in song recitals with pianists Gerald Moore and Geoffrey Parsons, occasionally appearing with other eminent singers, such as Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau."
- H. P. Casavant