OP2148. GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG (composite Live Performance, a re-creation of the performance of 20 Dec., 1948), w.Stiedry Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Lauritz Melchior, Helen Traubel, Margaret Harshaw, Herbert Janssen, Regina Resnik, Dezsö Ernster, Erna Berger, Lucine Amara, Jean Madeira, Gerhard Pechner, etc.; Lauritz Melchior 1970s interview. (Canada) 4-Immortal Performances IPCD 1010. Restoration, re-creation & transfers by Richard Caniell. - 625989647123
“Continuing the idea of ‘dream’ performances of Wagner, Richard Caniell has reconstructed Melchior’s final performance as Siegfried on 20 December, 1948, at the Metropolitan Opera House, a performance alas not put down for posterity….Helen Traubel’s Brünnhilde is unfailingly lyrical, supported in no uncertain terms by the orchestra….Yet lyricism does not preclude intensity, and she proves that Hell hath no fury like a Valkyrie scorned. She is still strong come the Immolation. Here, in the opera’s final moments, is magnificent, open-throated singing, portraying a character full of dignity. There is an amazingly beautiful ‘Ruhe, ruhe, du Gott’, and a piercing, arresting ‘Fliegt Heim, ihr Raben’. The fall of Valhalla is graphically depicted in the orchestra. Throughout, Melchior is not only a lusty, never-tiring Heldentenor here; he is the very incarnation of the hero himself. Regina Resnik’s Gutrune shines in Act II. One can hear her every emotion. Waltraute’s Narration is gripping, and carefully paced. Gerhard Pechner is an ardent Alberich against Ernster’s magnificent Hagen, and the second-act scene is perfectly managed.
For all Wagnerites, this will provide a fascinating experience. The set also includes an edited (nine-minute) interview with Melchior, in English. The name of the interviewer is not known, and we are told that Melchior was in his 80s at the time of the interview. Melchior comes across as absolutely delightful, witty, merry, and yet also deeply wise.”
- Colin Clarke, FANFARE, July/Aug., 2011
“Well, here’s…a really phenomenal and truly historic performance….the original source must have been acetate FM broadcast masters – 16 inch plastic discs that could accommodate 25 minutes per side, clear, distortion-free, and with a full frequency spectrum….There is no question Melchior was the greatest Wagnerian tenor of the 20th Century. His voice was baritonal in timbre, very loud, its carrying power unsurpassed. His pitch is accurate, and it can go up to the top with ease….In this performance he is singing his last Götterdämmerung at the Met….Helen Traubel was the Wagnerian soprano of choice at this time….Traubel was a big woman with a big wide-ranging soprano voice with lots of carrying power….Herbert Janssen was at the time the US Wotan of choice, his smooth, dark, low-pitched baritone perfect for the rôle….Ernster a threatening black-voiced Hagen….Regina Resnik as Gutrune, and Margaret Harshaw as Waltraute, both as good as they come. As a whole, a finer cast could hardly have been assembled, then or now, anywhere….an experience I shall never forget, from a golden era at the Met.”
- John P. McKelvey, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Sept./Oct., 2011
“I approach a so-called compilation of a complete performance with some caution, but in this instance, and in the main, I needn’t have worried too much. Here is a worthy attempt to give us Melchior’s final performance as Siegfried, and with a strong, starry cast what can go wrong? Well, not much!.... the cast are indeed exemplary. Very little more really needs to be said, as Melchior and Traubel are magnificent throughout….
A much laboured upon restoration and re-creation of Melchior’s final performance as Siegfried which occurred on 20 December 1948 at the Metropolitan Opera. Superb sound overall. This 4 CD set comes with a 56 page booklet, with articles about the performance and the composer, as well as a full track-related synopsis, biographies and rare photographs. An unforgettable memento of the final days of the Wagner Golden Age at the Met.”
- Bruce Latham, CLASSICAL RECORDINGS QUARTERLY, Summer, 2011
“Helen Traubel had a beautiful voice that soared easily over any kind of orchestral surge, yet could be full of sweetness and lyricism….She became the most important person to the Met management [after Flagstad’s departure] who hoped to keep the lucrative Wagner music dramas in the repertoire; that was possible only as long as somebody was at hand to do the great female roles….Of course Traubel secured and got the willing and able assistance of Melchior, whose meal ticket was again safe with an Isolde and Brünnhilde around….”
- Erich Leinsdorf, CADENZA, pp.105-06
“Margaret Harshaw, an American soprano and mezzo-soprano who was best known as a Wagnerian singer but whose performances in Mozart and Verdi operas were also highly regarded, sang at the Metropolitan Opera for 22 seasons, from November 1942, when she made her debut as the Second Norn in DIE GOTTERDAMMERUNG until March 1964, when she gave her final performance as Ortud in LOHENGRIN. Because she spent the first nine years of her Met career as a mezzo-soprano and then switched to soprano roles, she sang more Wagner roles than any other singer in the Met's history. These include 14 roles in the RING operas, in which she began as a Rhinemaiden and eventually sang all three Brunnhildes, as well as both Senta and Mary (in the same season) in DIE FLIEGENDE HOLLANDER, Isolde in TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, Magdalene in DIE MEISTERSINGER, Kundry in PARSIFAL and Elisabeth and Venus in TANNHAUSER.
A series of competition victories in the early 1930s led to performances in Philadelphia, Washington and New York, all before she enrolled at the Juilliard Graduate School to begin her formal studies with Anna Schoen-Rene in 1936. In March 1942, Miss Harshaw won the Metropolitan Opera's Auditions of the Air, and she began her career at the house at the start of the next season. In 1950 Rudolf Bing, the Met's general manager, was looking for a dramatic soprano to succeed Helen Traubel, particularly in Wagner roles, and persuaded Ms. Harshaw to switch to the higher range. She did so with notable success: her recordings as a soprano show her to have a clear timbre and considerable power. All told, she sang 375 performances of 39 roles in 25 works at the house and was heard in 40 of the Met's weekly live broadcasts.
Ms. Harshaw also sang at Covent Garden, Glyndebourne, the San Francisco Opera, the Paris Opera and with companies in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, New Orleans, San Antonio, Pittsburgh and Houston. She also made several Latin American tours and was a soloist with many of the major American orchestras.
In 1962, Miss Harshaw became a professor of voice at Indiana University, where she taught until 1993.”
- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 11 Nov., 1997
“Lauritz Melchior trained with retired Danish tenor Vilhelm Herold. In 1918, now singing as a tenor, Melchior gave his first performance as Tannhäuser. 1924 saw his first performances at Bayreuth (Siegmund, Parsifal), and at Covent Garden (Siegmund), two of the most important theaters of his career. Another crucial debut came in 1926: the Metropolitan Opera, portraying Tannhäuser. The remainder of the 1920s passed by in a whirlwind of newness.
Although in the 1920s Melchior was planning to make Germany the center of his career, the unforeseen Nazification and Great Depression of the early 1930s in fact moved him away from that country's theaters, including ‘Hitler's Bayreuth’. After 1933, the majority of his opera season was spent at the Metropolitan. It was a Dionysiac time for Wagner performance. His only new operatic rôle in the 1930s was Florestan.
Melchior left the Met and the opera after a much publicized kafuffle with incoming General Manager Rudolf Bing, giving his last performance (Lohengrin) in February of 1950."
-Zillah D. Akron