V0296. JACQUES URLUS: The Complete Edison Recordings, 1913-17, incl. Songs by Schubert, Strauss, Abt, Böhm, Götze, Jensen, Meyer-Helmund, Rubinstein & Franck; Arias & Duets (w.Rappold) from Zauberflöte, La Juive, L’Africaine, Joseph, La Muette de Portici, Stabat Mater (Rossini), Marta, Der Fliegende Holländer, Fidelio, Rienzi, Die Meistersinger, Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Die Walküre, Siegfried & Der Freischütz. 2-Marston 52031, recorded 1913-17. Transfers by Ward Marston. Elaborate booklet has discographic data, photos & notes by Harold Bruder. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 638335203126
“Virtually all Marston discs put listeners in the company's debt, in that almost without fail a significant gap in the catalogue is filled. A perfect example is this two-disc compilation of Jacques Urlus' Edison records. The set renews our acquaintance with a unique and magnificent artist, for whom the description ‘one of the finest heroic tenors in the history of recorded singing’ is not really enough. The commonly held belief among opera lovers is that they made Lauritz Melchior and then they broke the mold. Listening to the RIENZI excerpts on these discs compels one to revise that view: They made Urlus, they made Melchior, and then they broke the mold. Be warned that you'll be reading a lot of superlatives here. Trust me—they're deserved. Urlus' best singing (in other words, most of what you'll hear on these discs) is Golden Age singing.
The Belgian-born Urlus (1867-1935) grew up in Holland where his voice was recognized only in church until he finally began studying seriously at twenty-seven. That delay until his late twenties surely was crucial in allowing his instrument to mature in a natural, healthy manner. He was already onstage in late 1894 and rapidly amassed an imposing repertoire encompassing lyric, spinto, and dramatic parts. After five years with the Nederlandsche Opera, he accepted a star contract in Leipzig, where he continued to sing for many years. His triumphs there also led to guest engagements at such important international theaters as Bayreuth, Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, Paris, and Berlin - Wagner roles, plus Tamino and Florestan. He performed well into his sixties, even risking Tristan for his farewell to the operatic stage in early 1933. During his prime he also achieved considerable success as a concert artist and recitalist.
Harold Bruder's highly informative note in the CD booklet indicates that Urlus' discography encompasses nearly 150 recordings. Clearly the best of these are the Edisons, which cover the years 1913-17 and were made mainly in New York. In every respect they can be regarded as a model for all who sing Urlus' repertoire, even if he does take on his Auber, Halévy, and Meyerbeer arias in German translation. The vocalism in the majority of these performances is, in a word, staggering. In considering the sound of the voice, the only parallel I can make is with Urlus' contemporary, French dramatic tenor Paul Franz. In both of these singers' instruments one immediately notices an exceptional headiness in the upper octave, plus an utterly unblemished smoothness of tone throughout the range. Even Franz, however, did not demonstrate Urlus' extraordinary versatility, which can be deduced simply by considering the list of operas from which the arias in the Marston set are excerpted.
One of Urlus's finest roles, Lohengrin, is represented less memorably by ‘In fernem Land’ (an insufficiently individual interpretation) than by no less than three recordings of ‘Mein lieber Schwann’. The aria's duration varies from one version to another by as much as half a minute, but Urlus' singing is never compromised. The aria's opening, a trial for almost any Lohengrin, is done without apparent effort - Urlus was seemingly born with the ability to float his sound on an endless supply of breath. He catches the nobility of the character and is able to complement the essential warmth of his timbre with a properly dramatic edge in the passionate final phrases.”
- Roger Pines, THE OPERA QUARTERLY, Vol. 18, #4, Autumn 2002
“This Marston collection of [Urlus’] Edison recordings made during the star’s Met career (1913-17) documents not just a great voice but a vanished singing style. The Urlus timbre partakes of its era – rich in quality but hardly what we now associate with Heldentenor weight. We seem to be hearing a cross between Melchior and Björling….noble, golden-age singing….”
- David J. Baker, OPERA NEWS, Jan., 2002
“To find a singer this versatile, one would probably have to look at another vocal category and make comparisons with Lilli Lehmann….[Urlus] was an exceptionally consistent performer, whose vocal longevity permitted him to sing Wagner well into his 60s. He expressed drama musically as only the best opera singers are able to.”
- Benjamin Ivry, CLASSIC RECORD COLLECTOR, Winter, 2001