OP2240. TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, Live Performance, 18 March, 1961, w.Rosenstock Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Karl Liebl, Birgit Nilsson, Irene Dalis, Jerome Hines, Walter Cassel, etc. (E.U.) 3-Walhall 0344. - 4035122653441
"Nilsson made so strong an imprint on a number of roles 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 Brunnhilde, 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 roles of Isolde, Brunnhilde 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 debut at the Metropolitan Opera, singing Isolde under Karl Bohm, and some listeners treasure the memory of that performance as much as they do her live recording of the role from Bayreuth in 1966, also under Bohm. 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
"The voice of the Bavarian tenor Karl Liebl was recognised while he was studying to become a school teacher. In 1945, after serving in World War II, he became a Jugendlicher Heldentenor at the Stadttheater of Regensburg. Here he sang, among others, Riccardo in BALLO, Radames and his first Wagner role: Siegmund. The first of his frequent appearances at the Staatstheater of Wiesbaden was in 1951, thereafter, he began to develop into a Heldentenor. From 1955 through 1959 he sang at the Cologne Opera including Huon in OBERON at the opening of the new house. From 1956-59 he was a member of the Staatsoper in Vienna, where he sang in premiere of MATHIS DER MALER by Hindemith.
From 1959 to 1968 he performed at the Metropolitan Opera (debut role: Lohengrin) in such roles such as Tristan, Walther von Stolzing, Erik, Loge, Siegmund, Siegfried, Parsifal and Herod in SALOME - in all, eight major roles in 57 performances. He died in 2007."
"Brangane's music lies primarily in the most attractive portion of Dalis' voice, the middle and upper range. Her tone in these regions is consistently pleasing, its bronze-tinged timbre not dense but owning a flavorful mix of tonal point and sensuous coloration. The voice is inherently secure, devoid of wobble, and responsive to interpretive nuance, which Dalis applies with intelligence'...."
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, p.283
“Irene Dalis, a versatile and fiery mezzo-soprano who starred at the Metropolitan Opera for two decades before building a second career as the director of Opera San José, an innovative company she founded in her California hometown, did not set out to be a singer or an impresario. She studied piano and music education at what was then San Jose State College before earning a master’s degree at Columbia’s Teachers College in Manhattan in the late 1940s. The plan was to go back home and teach. Yet her instructors in New York were struck by her voice and encouraged her to develop it. She began taking lessons with the mezzo-soprano Edyth Walker. Instead of returning to San Jose, she went to Italy to study voice on a Fulbright scholarship in 1951. Just two years later she made her operatic début as Princess Eboli in Verdi’s DON CARLO in Oldenburg, Germany. Four years after that, she performed the same role at the Met. Her début at the Met, on 16 March, 1957, was ‘one of the most exciting of the season’, Howard Taubman wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES. ‘By the time she reached the second-act trio she showed she could sing with temperament’, Mr. Taubman said. ‘And in the third-act, ‘O don fatale’, one of Verdi’s greatest dramatic arias, she was like a veteran. Her voice, which has range, security and brilliant top notes, was now under full control. She sang and moved with a total absorption in the emotion of the character. ‘Her singing had color and fire. In terms of sheer quality there may be more sumptuous voices at the Met in the mezzo-soprano division; Miss Dalis uses hers like an artist’.
For the next two decades, Ms. Dalis was among the Met’s most admired performers, appearing more than 270 times and singing virtually every major mezzo-soprano part written by Verdi, Wagner, Richard Strauss and others. She was nurtured by Rudolf Bing, the Met’s formidable general manager, and performed with Birgit Nilsson, Jussi Bjorling, Robert Merrill, Leontyne Price, Plácido Domingo and Leonie Rysanek.
She sang on many other stages, including at the San Francisco Opera and at Covent Garden. One of her most acclaimed performances was in 1962, when she sang the role of Kundry in PARSIFAL at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany. She said later that, under stress from a grueling schedule, she had a revelation while she was there. ‘I asked myself if my talent, which I had always thought so sacred, was so special after all’, she recalled in 1964. ‘I decided it wasn’t. I realized that this was just my way of making a living. I began to see that I couldn’t deliver my best all the time, nobody can, and that I shouldn’t punish myself for my mistakes. ‘I have now approached the time of life where I want to enjoy what I’m doing. Does it seem silly? It seems to me a great discovery’.
She would perform for another decade, but in the mid-1970s she finally went home to California to teach voice, finding a position at San Jose State. Her work with students there led to her founding of Opera San José in 1984. It was modeled on a program in Oldenburg, which gave young performers like Ms. Dalis the chance to sing big roles early in their careers. ‘In the old days, singers started singing major roles at a young age, and it didn’t ruin their voices, did it?’ she said in an interview with OPERA NEWS in 2007. The company, which performs at the California Theater, a restored 1927 movie palace, has its own costume and set shops, owns administrative buildings and provides apartments to some performers. Ms. Dalis ran it until this June. OPERA NEWS called Opera San José ‘the only opera company in the U.S. entirely dedicated to developing the careers of emerging young artists’.”
- William Yardley, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 18 Dec., 2014
“[Rosenstock], like Böhm, could boast of a close relationship with Strauss. He had in fact earned the composer’s imprimatur for his reading of ELEKTRA. In 1931, Strauss was reported to have whispered to Rosenstock after a Mannheim revival of the opera: ‘Better conducted than composed’….”
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, pp.318-20
"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