OP2631. GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG, Live Performance, 27 Jan., 1962, w.Leinsdorf Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Hans Hopf, Norman Mittelmann, Gottlob Frick, Birgit Nilsson, Gladys Kuchta, Irene Dalis, etc. (E.U.) 4-Walhall 0373. - 4035122653731
“In the opening duet, Nilsson confirms her right to Valhalla status as well. Not only do the frequent ascents into the upper range provide their familiar thrill, but the middle and lower voice are not devoid of warmth. She appears to have all but banished problematic pitches….The security of her intervallic leaps is absolutely bracing, and the exuberant thrust of the closing phrases of the duet is capped by a magnificent high C….Frick is the real hero of the afternoon. To convey Hagen’s evil, Frick needn’t resort to the vocal shudder; he merely launches thunderbolts of tone. The sheer bulk of his voice alone would make him a Wagnerian colossus. Add to that a coloration marvelously obsidian – not the lugubrious black timbre which cannot hide its patches of grey, but a
marble-encased tone which gives off sparks of life – and you have a singer who would have shown among the Wagnerians of legend.”
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, p.296
“Hans Hopf sang the title role in SIEGFRIED and Siegfried in GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG. He was singing both roles for the first time and naturally had put in yeoman’s work to have readied these mammoth roles for performances on the level demanded by the Bayreuth Festival. Formerly he had sung primarily the Italian repertoire, but was now beginning to concentrate on Wagner roles, which suited his robust voice very well. Hopf was an incomparable raconteur, and one was never bored in his company.”
- Birgit Nilsson, LA NILSSON, p.160
“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
“[Gladys Kuchta] American soprano in her late thirties at the time of her Met début as Chrysothemis [4 March, 1961]…had spent the decade of the fifties in the middle European houses, honing her craft….The Metropolitan would know her for eight seasons, but would fail to utilize her commanding capabilities effectively (only twenty-eight performances in New York)….the Met scheduled her as Aïda, Turandot and Donna Anna….At his entrance, Siegmund’s character is defined by Vickers’ virility of tone and utterance….With Vickers, the actual presence of a big voice resonating throughout the grand space of the opera house is, even over the radio, vividly apparent….He draws out the ‘Wälse’ pair to Melchiorian lengths, and his tonal wealth as well is comparable to that of the revered Dane....”
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, p.295 & p.191
"With a most beautiful vocal tone, [Kuchta] shaped expressive musical phrases that soared out above the orchestra with clarity, understanding and expressive feeling."
- Eric Salzman, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 5 March, 1961 (after Kuchta's Met Opera début, 4 March, 1961)
“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
"Erich Leinsdorf, a conductor whose abrasive intelligence and deep musical learning served as a conscience for two generations of conductors, had a utilitarian stage manner and his disdain of dramatic effects for their own sake stood out as a not-so-silent rebuke to his colleagues in this most glamorous of all musical jobs. In addition, Mr. Leinsdorf - in rehearsal, in the press and in his valuable book on conducting, THE COMPOSER'S ADVOCATE - never tired of pointing out gaps in culture among musicians, faulty editing among music publishers and errors in judgment or acts of ignorance among his fellow conductors. He rarely named his victims, but his messages and their targets were often clear. Moreover, he usually had the solid grasp of facts to support his contentions.
Mr. Leinsdorf moved to this country from Vienna in 1937. Helped by the recommendation of Arturo Toscanini, whom he had been assisting at the Salzburg Festival, Mr. Leinsdorf made his conducting début at the Metropolitan Opera a year later with DIE WALKÜRE. He was 25 years old at the time . A year later he was made overseer of the Met's German repertory, and his contentious style - in particular an insistence on textual accuracy and more rehearsal - won him no friends among singers like Lauritz Melchior and Kirsten Flagstad. Backed by management, he remained at the Met until 1943. At the New York City Opera, where he became music director in 1956, Mr. Leinsdorf's demanding policies in matters of repertory and preparation made him further enemies, and he left a year later. His searches for permanent employment turned mostly to orchestras. After the briefest of tenures at the Cleveland Orchestra during World War II, Mr. Leinsdorf took over the Rochester Philharmonic and stayed for nine years.
Mr. Leinsdorf's last and most prestigious music directorship was at the Boston Symphony, where he replaced Charles Münch in 1962. No contrast in style could have been sharper: Münch had viewed conducting mystically, as a kind of priesthood; Mr. Leinsdorf's policy was to make performances work in the clearest and most rational way. Observers both in and out of the orchestra could not deny the benefits of Mr. Leinsdorf's discipline, but there were some who were hostile to what they perceived as an objectivity that could hardly be called heartwarming.
One American orchestra manager a few years ago responded to musicians' grumblings over Mr. Leinsdorf's rehearsal manner by saying that he was ‘good for my orchestra’. And so he probably was.”
- Bernard Holland, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 12 Sept., 1993