OP2227. FIDELIO, Live Performance, 13 Feb., 1960, w.Böhm Cond. Birgit Nilsson, Jon Vickers, Giorgio Tozzi, Hermann Uhde, Oskar Czerwenka, Laurel Hurley, Charles Anthony, etc. 2-Sony 88697 85309. Specially priced. - 886978530929
“There is much to recommend this performance of Beethoven's FIDELIO, recorded in clean mono sound. Karl Böhm was an immensely experienced conductor of this opera, and his account of the Leonore No. 3 Overture is thrilling. Jon Vickers, in one of his first Florestans, is in uneven voice, but committed. Birgit Nilsson makes an exciting Fidelio.”
- BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE, Nov., 2011
“the focus of interest falls primarily on the conducting...It's a white-knuckle ride of a performance in which [Böhm] ratchets up the tension to the nth degree, reminding us that this grandest of humanitarian statements is essentially a thriller, and one of the finest ever written...The dialogue here is delivered with tremendous sincerity, at times shockingly intense.”
- THE GUARDIAN, 7 July, 2011
“Jon Vickers was a singing actor of overwhelming impact, his performances driven by a unique fusion of sensitivity, intelligence, brute force, and stubborn individuality [noted for] his contradictions, his frailties, his eloquence, and his egocentricity. He also was a rather enigmatic figure who avoided conventional paths to operatic glory.”
- Martin Bernheimer
“Nilsson made so strong an imprint on a number of rôles that her name came to be identified with a repertory, the ‘Nilsson repertory’, and it was a broad one. She sang the operas of Richard Strauss and made a specialty of Puccini's TURANDOT, but it was Wagner who served her career and whom she served as no other soprano since the days of Kirsten Flagstad.
A big, blunt woman with a wicked sense of humor, Ms. Nilsson brooked no interference from Wagner's powerful and eventful orchestra writing. When she sang Isolde or Brünnhilde, her voice pierced through and climbed above it. Her performances took on more pathos as the years went by, but one remembers her sound more for its muscularity, accuracy and sheer joy of singing under the most trying circumstances.
Her long career at the Bayreuth Festival and her immersion in Wagner in general, began in the mid-1950s. No dramatic soprano truly approached her stature thereafter, and in the rôles of Isolde, Brünnhilde and Sieglinde, she began her stately 30-year procession around the opera houses of the world. Her United States debut was in San Francisco in 1956. Three years later she made her début at the Metropolitan Opera, singing Isolde under Karl Böhm, and some listeners treasure the memory of that performance as much as they do her live recording of the rôle from Bayreuth in 1966, also under Böhm. The exuberant review of her first Met performance appeared on the front page of The New York Times on 19 Dec., 1959, under the headline, ‘Birgit Nilsson as Isolde Flashes Like New Star in 'Met' Heavens’."
- Bernard Holland, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 12 Jan., 2006
“I personally prefer live recordings. What they lose in technical perfection they gain in vitality and spontaneity. A studio version cannot escape the danger of substituting a lovely collage for a true interpretation….I know for certain that there are many live recordings that are genuine as well as beautiful.”
- Birgit Nilsson, LA NILSSON, pp.238-39
“Hermann Uhde’s American mother was a student of the famous baritone Karl Scheidemantel. He was trained as a bass, by Philipp Kraus at the Opera School in Bremen, where he made his début as Titurel (1936). After engagements in Freiburg and Munich he appeared for the first time in baritone rôles at the Deutsches Theater im Haag in 1942. A prisoner-of-war from April 1945 to February 1946, he did not return to the stage until 1947. He subsequently appeared at the opera houses of Hamburg, Vienna and Munich where he became a member of the ensemble. He gained great success in rôles such as Mandryka, Gunther and Telramund, in which he was particularly admired. The artist was regularly invited to the Bayreuth Festival from 1951 to 1960 where he became one of its most important members, appearing as Holländer, Klingsor, Gunther, Donner, Wotan in RHEINGOLD, Telramund and Melot. He was also a guest at the Salzburg Festival and performed a superb Wozzeck at the Met (sung in English!) where he regularly appeared from 1955 to 1961 and again in 1964. He sang at the Grand Opéra Paris as well as at other European opera houses. He created several rôles, including Creon in Orff’s ANTIGONAE, the baritone rôles in Britten’s THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA and Wagner-Régeny’s DAS BERGWERK ZU FALUN. He died of a heart attack during a performance of Niels Viggo Bentzon’s FAUST III, at Copenhagen in 1965.”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile