OP2614. GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG - Act Two, Live Performance, 1938, w.Wilhelm Furtwängler Cond. Royal Opera House Ensemble; Frida Leider, Lauritz Melchior, Herbert Janssen, Ludwig Weber [with a brief alternate, Wilhelm Schirp], Alois Pernerstorfer & Maria Nezadal; Frida Leider Interview & Songs by Schumann – recorded 1941; Arias from Armide & Fidelio – recorded 1928. (Canada) Immortal Performances IPCD 1022. Restoration, re-creation & transfers by Richard Caniell. - 713757865722
“If you think those who talk about a greater age of Wagnerian singing than we have experienced in the postwar era are suffering from the ‘it was always better in the good old days’ syndrome, this disc will cure you of that misconception. This is Wagner as I have never heard it in live performance anywhere, and I’ve heard Wagner in Bayreuth, at the Met, and in Vienna, Berlin, Zürich, Tokyo, Chicago, and many other places over 50 years of listening. Would that it were the whole opera. Parts of the 1938 Covent Garden GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG have been issued before, but never in sound this good....This is as fine an example of treating historic material with respect and integrity as I’ve encountered, and frankly most listeners will be shocked at how good this sounds….
It is hard to know where to start when discussing the performance. Perhaps with Leider, if only because recordings of her in major Wagnerian rôles are rare, and live recordings of her even rarer. This is magnificent singing, with a warm, full tone and a soaring majesty that leaves the listener agape. The top rings free, even at age 50, the tone is solid and even from top to bottom, and she sings with presence and intensity. There is a warmth to the voice, a glow, that is unique - neither Flagstad nor Nilsson could duplicate those qualities to this degree. Then you have certainly the greatest Heldentenor of the 20th century, Lauritz Melchior. He was often criticized for sloppiness, lax rhythms, inattention to detail, and lapses in concentration. We hear not an iota of that. What we hear is a golden voice, attentive to text and dramatic context, and able to produce both a beautiful legato and warmth of tone combined with a vocal weight, a heroic timbre, in a way that has never been duplicated.
The rest of the cast is excellent and little needs to be said about Furtwängler’s Wagner conducting, since it has all been said before. He is overpowering here, and the Royal Opera House Orchestra plays beautifully for him. This is not remarkably different from his RING performances in Italy in the 1950s, except perhaps just a touch lighter in texture and swifter in spots. But this was what John Steane, in his wonderful book THE GRAND TRADITION, calls ‘one of the best of opera nights’. Everyone is clearly inspiring everyone else.
Immortal Performances provides superb notes on the performance, on Leider in particular, and on the specifics of this recording. The booklet is so much better than what we usually get from labels like this...that the company deserves genuine praise for it. But mostly it deserves praise for the remarkable quality of its restoration work, and for bringing us this phenomenal example of Wagner performance.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE, Nov./Dec., 2012
“Frida Leider was another revelation. She possessed a formidable voice which had great expressive beauty in soft or low passages as well as ringing power . . . . It was her intelligence that fused all of Madame Leider’s gifts, aptitudes and acquired knowledge into one expressive instrument, but it was her temperament which unleashed the whirlwind at Wagner’s command (example: the Swearing of the Oath at the end of Act II, GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG).”
- Vincent Sheen, FIRST AND LAST LOVE, pp.78-79
“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