OP2448. DIE WALKURE, Live Performance, 27 July, 1961, w.Kempe Cond. Bayreuth Festival Ensemble; Regine Crespin, Astrid Varnay, Fritz Uhl, Jerome Hines, Regina Resnik, etc. (E.U.) 3-Myto 00293. - 0801439902930
"To be sure, one of the remarkable assets of Crespin's singing was the power and size of the voice. She could compete on even grounds with Nilsson when they sang together in DIE WALKURE, and with Corelli in WERTHER.
But there was much, much more to Crespin than sheer visceral impact. She sang with subtlety, a variety of colors depending on the demands of the music and the dramatic moment, and always with real involvement. Her singing was filled with nuance, with a wide range of dynamic shading, and was always founded on a beautiful glowing tone."
- Henry Fogel, Program Notes, Immortal Performances Set [V2547]
"Régine Crespin, the French operatic soprano and later mezzo-soprano, one of the most important vocal artists to emerge from France in the decades after World War II was widely admired for the elegance, warmth and subtlety of her singing, especially in the French and German operatic repertories. Early on, the natural carrying power of her voice seemed to point to a career as a dramatic soprano. Indeed, she made her 1950 debut at the regional company in Mulhouse, France, singing Elsa in Wagner's LOHENGRIN. Yet Ms Crespin's singing was imbued with nuanced phrasing, telling attention to text, creamy lyricism and lovely high pianissimos. While she had an enveloping voice, she always seemed to keep something in reserve, leading some listeners to sense a touch too much French restraint. But most opera buffs valued Ms Crespin for the effortless richness, lyrical nobility and subtle colorings of her singing. She was also a sophisticated actress whose Junoesque presence commanded attention. Ms Crespin's Metropolitan Opera debut came in 1962 as the Marschallin in DER ROSENKAVALIER, directed by the soprano Lotte Lehmann, who had been the most renowned interpreter of the role. Reviewing Ms Crespin's portrayal, the NEW YORK TIMES critic Harold C. Schonberg wrote that she gave 'a simply beautiful performance' [enriched with]'all kinds of delicate shading'. But when she let out her full voice, he added, it 'soared over the orchestra and all over the house - big, confident and beautiful'. In 1967 she sang Sieglinde to Birgit Nilsson's Brünnhilde at the Met, with Herbert von Karajan conducting a production that he also directed. Reviewing that performance for THE TIMES of London, the critic Conrad L. Osborne wrote that 'Nilsson and Crespin spurring each other on make for the sort of thing one remembers with a chill for years'. In later life Ms Crespin won wide recognition as a voice teacher. During some 1995 master classes at the Mannes College of Music in New York, the students were enraptured not only by her insightful critiques, but by her insider tales about opera stars."
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 6 July, 2007
"[Crespin] was surely one of the greatest French singers of the 20th Century; in fact - one of the great singers on records, one whose art goes well beyond the merely vocal. Beyond its size, [her voice] had a beautiful shimmer about it, a glowing quality present in all registers."
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE, March/April, 2005
"The dramatic soprano Astrid Varnay was born into an operatic family: her mother was a coloratura soprano and her father a spinto tenor. The year in which she was born they founded the Opera Comique Theatre in Kristiania, Sweden, although they were both born in Hungary, and they managed it until 1921.The family then moved to Argentina and later to New York, where her father died in 1924. Her mother subsequently remarried another tenor, and the young Astrid, after studying to be a pianist, decided at the age of eighteen to become a singer. She worked intensively, first with her mother and then with the Metropolitan Opera conductor and coach Hermann Weigert, whom she later married. She made her sensational stage début at the Metropolitan in 1941, substituting at short notice for Lotte Lehmann as Sieglinde in DIE WALKÜRE with no rehearsal. After this triumph, six days later she replaced Helen Traubel in the same opera as Brünnhilde, and her operatic career was effectively launched. She made her Covent Garden début in 1948 and, at the suggestion of Kirsten Flagstad, her Bayreuth Festival début in 1951. She sang every year at Bayreuth for the next seventeen years and at the Met until 1956, when she left following a disagreement with Rudolf Bing. She henceforth concentrated her career on Germany where she was revered, living in Munich. She moved from the dramatic soprano repertoire into that for mezzo-soprano in 1969, and during the 1980s into character parts. She made her last appearance in Munich in 1995, almost fifty-five years after her Metropolitan début. Her brilliant career is well documented in both commercial and unofficial sound recordings."
- David Patmore
“Fritz Uhl was an Austrian operatic tenor, particularly associated with Wagner roles. Born in Matzleinsdorf, near Vienna, he studied in Vienna with Elisabeth Radó, and while still a student toured Holland with an operetta troup. He made his operatic début in Vienna, as Gounod's Faust in 1952, and then sang in Graz (1952-53), in Luzern (1953-54), in Oberhausen (1954-56), in Wuppertal (1956-58). In 1957, he began making guest appearances at the Munich State Opera, the Vienna State Opera, also appearing at the Salzburg Festival and the Bayreuth Festival.
Uhl began his career by singing lyric roles and lighter Wagner roles such as Erik in DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER, and gradually moved into heldentenor roles such as Tristan, Siegmund, Stolzing, Florestan, Herod, etc. He sang widely in Europe, appearing at the Paris Opéra, La Monnaie in Brussels, the Liceo in Barcelona, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Royal Opera House in London, etc. He was also invited at the San Francisco Opera and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires.
A forthright singer with a fine voice, he is best known for his recording of TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, opposite Birgit Nilsson, under Georg Solti.”
- Ned Ludd
ï¿½Regina Resnik, a Bronx-born opera star who sang more than 300 performances at the Metropolitan Opera and who made the shift from soprano to mezzo-soprano in the middle of her career, died on 8 Aug., 2013, in Manhattan. She was 90.
Ms. Resnik made her Met dï¿½but in 1944 as Leonora in IL TROVATORE and over the years performed many of operaï¿½s most important roles on its most prominent stages, including those of the New York City Opera, the San Francisco Opera, Covent Garden and other European houses. Her best-known roles include Ellen Orford in Brittenï¿½s PETER GRIMES, Donna Anna and Donna Elvira in Mozartï¿½s DON GIOVANNI and the title role in Bizetï¿½s CARMEN. Later in her career she performed in musical theater and became a sought-after instructor and opera director. She was known for her strong dramatic skills and impeccable musicianship onstage and for her bold personality offstage. She displayed fearlessness from the beginning.
In 1942, she made her dï¿½but at the New Opera Company of New York after being given 24 hoursï¿½ notice that she was needed to substitute. Two years later, she made a similar last-minute substitution in her dï¿½but at the Metropolitan Opera as Leonora, in IL TROVATORE. Each time she impressed. ï¿½All things considered, Miss Resnikï¿½s dï¿½but was an auspicious oneï¿½, a review of her Metropolitan dï¿½but in THE NEW YORK TIMES said. ï¿½She has a strong, clear soprano, which, though occasionally marred by a tremolo, is both agile enough for the florid passages allotted to Leonora and forceful enough for the dramatic onesï¿½.
Ms. Resnik became a much-admired soprano and toured widely through the mid-1950s, when she and others began to notice that her voice was darkening. A friend, the baritone Giuseppe Danise, helped persuade her to change, telling her he believed she had always been a mezzo. ï¿½It was the biggest gamble of my life, when I decided over two tumultuous years that perhaps I was not a soprano after allï¿½, she told The Times in 1967. ï¿½There were many opinions: I was a soprano with low notes, or mezzo with high notesï¿½. The gamble paid off, she said, and it ultimately provided her with better roles, including some of her most notable, as Carmen, Klytï¿½mnestra in ELEKTRA, Mistress Quickly in FALSTAFF and the Countess in PIQUE DAME. ï¿½I have really run the gamutï¿½, she added, emphatic that she had not lost her upper register. ï¿½And my range is exactly the same today. Not one note higher or lower. But I was happier in the depth of my voice than in its heightï¿½.
Ms. Resnik graduated from James Monroe High School in the Bronx and studied music education at Hunter College, graduating in 1942.
ï¿½She was a totally American originalï¿½, said F. Paul Driscoll, the editor in chief of OPERA NEWS. ï¿½She was always very proud of being educated in the United States and beginning her career in the United Statesï¿½. Mr. Driscoll emphasized Ms. Resnikï¿½s resilience, particularly under Rudolf Bing, the sometimes autocratic general manager of the Met, for much of her career. ï¿½She embraced the opportunities she was given, and whether or not Mr. Bing thought they were star parts, she made them star partsï¿½, Mr. Driscoll said. ï¿½Directors loved her, conductors loved her, and the audience loved herï¿½.ï¿½
- William Yardley, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 9 Aug., 2013
"The American bass Jerome Hines had a long and distinguished career at the Metropolitan Opera singing a wide variety of roles with true consistency of voice and style. He appeared with the company for more than 40 years from 1946. An imposing figure - he was 6ft 6in tall - he had a voluminous bass to match his stature.
His charismatic presence made him ideal for the many roles demanding a big personality. It was thus hardly surprising that Sarastro in THE MAGIC FLUTE, Gounod's Mephistopheles, the high priest Ramfis in AIDA, the Grand Inquisitor in DON CARLOS, Boris Godunov, and King Mark in TRISTAN UND ISOLDE were among his leading roles.
Although always faithful to the Met, Hines made many forays abroad. In 1953, he undertook Nick Shadow, with Glyndebourne, at the Edinburgh festival, in the first British performances of Stravinsky's THE RAKE'S PROGRESS. That led to engagements in leading houses in Europe and south America, and eventually to Bayreuth, where he sang Gurnemanz, King Mark and Wotan (1958-63). In 1958, he made his La Scala debut in the title part of Handel's HERCULES, and, in 1961, he first appeared at the San Carlo in Naples, in the title role of Boito's MEFISTOFELE. His Boris Godunov, at the Bolshoi in Moscow in 1962, was, by all accounts, a deeply impressive portrayal.
He was fortunate to arrive at the Met just as the opera house was in need of replacements for the great Ezio Pinza, who had decided to appear in SOUTH PACIFIC. Unlike his distinguished predecessor, Hines could also sing the German and Russian repertory, in addition to Italian and French. In all, his innate musicianship stood him in good stead. Most of his discs derived from live performances. They reveal a sterling voice, a refined style, consisting of a burnished tone, a fine line and exemplary diction, although he never seems to have have been a very profound interpreter.
Hines was both a deeply religious person and a good writer. He combined these qualities in his own opera, I AM THE WAY, a work about Jesus, performed, with Hines as the protagonist, at Philadelphia in 1969. The previous year, he had published his autobiography, THIS IS MY STORY, THIS IS MY SONG, but his most lasting volume was GREAT SINGERS ON GREAT SINGING (1982), in which he made discerning comments on the art of many colleagues.
Hines' later appearances befitted his advancing years: he was Arkel, the elderly grandfather in PELLEAS ET MELISANDE (Rome, 1984), and the blind father in Mascagni's IRIS (Newark, 1989). His last stage appearance was as Sarastro, in New Orleans in 1998, when he was 77."
- Alan Blyth, THE GUARDIAN, 13 Feb., 2003
“One of the great unsung conductors of the middle twentieth century, Rudolf Kempe enjoyed a strong reputation in England but never quite achieved the international acclaim that he might have had with more aggressive management, promotion, and recording. Not well enough known to be a celebrity but too widely respected to count as a cult figure, Kempe is perhaps best remembered as a connoisseur's conductor, one valued for his strong creative temperament rather than for any personal mystique. He studied oboe as a child, performed with the Dortmund Opera, and, in 1929, barely out of his teens, he became first oboist of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. His conducting début came in 1936, at the Leipzig Opera; this performance of Lortzing's DER WILDSCHÜTZ was so successful that the Leipzig Opera hired him as a répétiteur. Kempe served in the German army during World War II, but much of his duty was out of the line of fire; in 1942 he was assigned to a music post at the Chemnitz Opera. After the war, untainted by Nazi activities, he returned to Chemnitz as director of the opera (1945-1948), and then moved on to the Weimar National Theater (1948-1949). From 1949 to 1953 he served as general music director of the Staatskapelle Dresden, East Germany's finest orchestra. He then moved to the identical position at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, 1952-1954, succeeding the young and upwardly mobile Georg Solti. During this period he was also making guest appearances outside of Germany, mainly in opera: in Vienna (1951), at Covent Garden (1953), and at the Metropolitan Opera (1954), to mention only the highlights. Although he conducted Wagner extensively, especially at Covent Garden, Kempe did not make his Bayreuth début until 1960. As an opera conductor he was greatly concerned with balance and texture, and singers particularly appreciated his efforts on their behalf. Kempe made a great impression in England, and in 1960 Sir Thomas Beecham named him associate conductor of London's Royal Philharmonic. Kempe became the orchestra's principal conductor upon Beecham's death the following year, and, after the orchestra was reorganized, served as its artistic director from 1963 to 1975. He was also the chief conductor of the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra from 1965 to 1972, and of the Munich Philharmonic from 1967 until his death in 1976. During the last year of his life he also entered into a close association with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Interpretively, Kempe was something of a German Beecham. He was at his best -- lively, incisive, warm, expressive, but never even remotely self-indulgent -- in the Austro-Germanic and Czech repertory. Opera lovers prize his versions of LOHENGRIN, DIE MEISTERSINGER, and ARIADNE AUF NAXOS. His greatest recorded legacy, accomplished during the last four or five years of his life, was the multi-volume EMI set of the orchestral works and concertos of Richard Strauss, performed with the highly idiomatic Dresden Staatskapelle. These recordings were only intermittently available outside of Europe in the LP days, but in the 1990s EMI issued them on nine compact discs.”
- James Reel, Rovi