Kirsten Flagstad;  Lauritz Melchior                (Newton Classics 8802090)
Item# V1931
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Kirsten Flagstad;  Lauritz Melchior                (Newton Classics 8802090)
V1931. KIRSTEN FLAGSTAD & LAURITZ MELCHIOR, w.McArthur, Ormandy & Lange Cond.: Scenes from Tristan, Lohengrin, Parsifal, Die Walküre & Götterdämmerung. (E.U.) Newton Classics 8802090, recorded 1935-40. - 8718247710904

CRITIC REVIEWS:

"These recordings were made when the great Norwegian soprano was in her vocal prime, between 1935 and 1940. Although her voice remained astonishingly well preserved till late in her career, later recordings of the same music are no less resplendent but perhaps lack the last degree of dramatic tension she could bring when regularly singing these roles on stage.

Included is the Act 2 duet from PARSIFAL, which became a calling-card not only for her but for her partner in this recording Lauritz Melchior.

Desmond Shawe-Taylor remarked in the New Grove Dictionary of Opera that 'No one within living memory surpassed her in sheer beauty and consistency of line and tone'. She quickly became a legend in Norway, where her portrait adorned both the 100 Kroner note and the tail of Norwegian Air Shuttle planes, but her fame spread throughout the musical world (she is one of the few opera singers to have her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame).

Rudolf Bing called her 'the greatest soprano of the century', and many would agree. 'For sheer vocal opulence in Wagner, these tracks would be hard to equal. Her 'Ho-jo-toho!' in 1935 announced on the gramophone her arrival as a Wagnerian prima donna and the splendour of the singing is unsurpassed'."

- GRAMOPHONE, October 1990



“Pride of place in this column belongs to the greatest Wagnerian soprano of the 20th century (and probably the 19th as well), Kirsten Flagstad (1895-1962). Flagstad made her début at the age of 18 in her native Norway, but her voice developed slowly and she sang mostly light roles in operettas and musical comedies and only in Scandinavia until 1932. By then her voice had greatly deepened and her artistry matured, and her late entry onto the world's stages was spectacular. By the late 1930s, when I first heard her live at the Met, she was internationally famous, but her reputation suffered during WWII, when she was made suspect by her husband's association with the Norwegian Nazis, and it took some time before she was welcomed back to recital stages in the U.S. and elsewhere.

She was a shy, self-contained woman who looked and behaved like a simple hausfrau; she refused to be a prima donna and always insisted her greatest desire was to retire to Norway and spend her life with her husband and children. Watching her knitting placidly or playing solitaire in the wings before she went on stage, observers often wondered whether she really understood what she was doing out there as Brünnhilde or Isolde. The answer was in her performances and is on these discs, in which astounding vocal beauty is combined with great passion and musical insight in deeply felt and deeply moving performances. Hearing her powerful, pure, golden tones ring out effortlessly above the loudest orchestral sound is one of the most electrifying vocal experiences you will encounter. If her characterizations often seemed more stately and restrained than vivid, she made up for it by her musical intelligence, her impeccable intonation and diction, her perfect breath control (which enabled her to produce flawless legato lines), and the radiance, brilliance, ease, and intoxicating beauty of her singing.”

- Alexander J. Morin, Classical.Net



“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