OP2863. LOHENGRIN, Live Performance, 21 Dec., 1935 (replete with Milton Cross’ commentaries), w. Bodanzky Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Lotte Lehmann, Marjorie Lawrence, Lauritz Melchior, Friedrich Schorr, Emanuel List, etc.; Die Walküre – Act I from 'Winterstürme' through end, Live Performance, 17 Feb.,1940, w.Leinsdorf Cond. Lehmann & Melchior; Lehmann & Melchior: Schumann Duets, recorded 30 Jan., 1939. (Canada) 3-Immortal Performances IPCD 1032, w.Elaborate 46pp Booklet. Transfers by Richard Caniell. - 696859207730
“This is another stunning restoration of historic material by Richard Caniell and Immortal Performances....He has worked on it over many years.
Lehmann's voice is positively thrilling throughout...a performance of nobility and humanity...conveyed here in a wholly convincing manner, and with unfailingly glorious tone production and phrasing. Marjorie Lawrence is a splendid Ortrud....Schorr's voice shows a few signs of wear ...but the flaws are minor when compared with the depth of his characterization and deep musicality of his singing, and the variety of inflection and color he brings to Telramund....Assessing Melchior's performance, this is the very best of those that have survived.
A direct comparison of this (set) with the Myto and the Melodram releases of the same performance demonstrate the superiority of the Immortal Performances release....The set also includes Milton Cross’ commentary and curtain calls.
The filler includes the end of the first act of DIE WALKÜRE from their ‘Dream Ring’ (with Melchior and Lehmann) . . . that is as good as it gets....and then five Schumann duets ....English texts are provided...with singing that is as beautiful as you would expect it to be from Melchior and Lehmann.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE, Nov./Dec., 2013
“Lehmann’s rather imperious delivery is such that one feels Lohengrin must answer her fatal questions on the spot. The voice is very secure, the tone rather metallic but always carrying its potent emotive dose….the sensuous sheen of the Lawrence voice markedly differs from the remembered Flagstad and other soprano Wagnerians; hers is a voice of sufficient size and thrust to cut through, rather than surmount, the Wagnerian orchestral horde. Pliant in the extreme, it soars to silvery top tones with laserlike efficiency.”
– Paul Jackson, SATURDAY AFTERNOONS AT THE OLD MET, pp.103 & 107
“This 1935 broadcast of Lohengrin, with its fascinating cast of Lauritz Melchior, Lotte Lehmann, Marjorie Lawrence, and Friedrich Schorr, under the splendid Metropolitan Opera conductor Artur Bodanzky, has an emotional vitality — a depth and complexity of feeling — unequaled in my long experience of the opera. Each of these singers, indeed, brings to this live performance a musical and dramatic spontaneity almost extinct in our own age, and rare even in its own time. In sound and style, none of these performers could be mistaken for anyone else, and each suggests a character of truly Wagnerian profundity.
Friedrich Schorr has been regarded by his audiences and most critics from that time to our own as the greatest Hans Sachs and Wotan in memory….These elements of Schorr’s Telramund — the nascent nobility, the need for power and love — give Marjorie Lawrence’s Ortrud much against which to play….Lawrence was 26 at the time of her Met début (as the WALKÜRE Brünnhilde), and three days later as Ortrud she sounds strong, youthful, and driven by ambition, with a powerful and handsome dramatic soprano voice, dependable technique, and a forthright temperament….Lawrence’s soprano offers a young, capable Ortrud driven to damnation by the morality of the ancient gods of her childhood and by blind ambition.
[The] directness, subtlety, and variety of effect characterized every role that Lehmann touched, from her Manon to her Turandot, as well as her Sieglinde and Marschallin, and virtually all of the songs of which even then she was becoming an unforgettable performer. In LOHENGRIN, we are led by this soprano’s inimitable tone of wonder, as well as by Wagner’s orchestra, into a visionary state ourselves. No other Elsa, except perhaps Rethberg, drives us into this experience in quite that way….Lotte Lehmann alone gives us a complete Elsa: a young noblewoman filled with the sensuous as well as the philosophical longing that Wagner gives us in his wondrous score. Each of her phrases in this live performance, one might add, is at once both public and private in effect: intimate and yet at the same time so intense, so true as to rouse individually the members of an entire audience.
No other tenor voice in my experience fulfills Elsa’s vision as fully as Melchior’s….Melchior gives us the noble voice and the effortless intimacy of tone that among heroic tenors are his alone. Together, Lehmann and Melchior have, in addition, a kind of authority in delivery that, of itself, places their characters on a different spiritual level than those around them….A generosity of spirit joins them from their first moment onward, so that when the final moments of the opera come, the conflict between the earthly and the divine seems both irresistibly touching as well as tragic for both of them.
As Lehmann plays her here, Elsa in her excitement can hardly get the words out, and yet Lehmann does not rush ahead with the tempo but gets a breathless quality into her tone, all the while maintaining what might be described as a ‘Lehmann legato’….Her voice remains fresh: both the character and the singer seem to have undergone a kind of rebirth.
Sixty years after his departure from the Met, [Melchior] remains vocally the standard by which other Wagnerian tenors are judged. Melchior had, with his insuperable technique, a magnificent range of tonal colors, remarkable musicality, and, like Lehmann, the capacity to recall another world with his voice alone….Though he had a huge voice of encompassing warmth, some of his greatest moments were the quiet ones. His phrasing was musical and dramatically expressive at all times: for proof hear all of this performance. You will hear not a note of strain, not a breathless phrase, not a tone color that contradicts the sentiment expressed. More than seven decades after this performance he remains, like Lehmann, unsurpassed and irreplaceable.
Marjorie Lawrence's career unfortunately lasted only about a decade. She started at the top and stayed there. Born 17 February, 1909 near Melborne, Australia, she responded quickly to her initial training, winning all possible prizes. After this she studied in Paris making her début in 1932 in Monte Carlo as Elisabeth in TANNHÄUSER (with Georges Thill). In 1933 she made a sensational début at the Paris Opéra- Comique as Ortrud in LOHENGRIN, later that season singing Brünnhilde, Salomé in Massenet's HÉRODIADE, Rachel in LA JUIVE, Aïda, and in the world première of Canteloube's long-forgotten VERCINGETORIX. The following year she added Donna Anna, Strauss' Salome and Reyer's Sigurd to her repertory. In 1934 she made her Met début as Brünnhilde in DIE WALKÜRE (with Lauritz Melchior, Friedrich Schorr, Emanuel List and Elisabeth Rethberg) to great acclaim, and in 1938 the Met mounted a new production of Salome for her.
Her career took a tragic turn when it was found she had infantile paralysis. She defied the disease and was able to return to singing as her voice was not affected. In 1942, in a special Met production in which she could be seated throughout the performance, she sang Venus in TANNHÄUSER with Melchior, and later Isolde at the Met as well as in Montréal, and Amneris at the Paris Opéra, while seated. Highly patriotic, she gave many performances for the military, a magnificent example of courage and generosity. She died 10 January, 1979 in Little Rock, Arkansas.”
- Ned Ludd
A further word must also be said about Artur Bodanzky. From 1915 to 1939 he was the Met’s chief Wagner conductor….Bodanzky’s performances were not merely comfortable; they were splendidly paced, and in LOHENGRIN he is fully equal to both the earthly passion and the mystic spirituality that helped to make the opera so popular with its audiences. At every point Bodanzky seems determined both to underline and at the same time to cushion every dramatic effect that his remarkable singers want to make. His strengths are clear immediately in the Prelude. He captures the otherworldly atmosphere immediately as few other conductors have in this music, and yet the performance is at the same time vivid, with a lyric conviction that plunges one directly into the central conflict of the opera.”
- London Green, Program Notes