V2329. ARLEEN AUGÉR, w.André Previn Cond.Vienna Phil.: Vier Letzte Lieder; André Previn Cond.: Ein Heldenleben (both Strauss). Telarc 80180, recorded c.1989. Very long out-of-print, final sealed copy. - 8940801802
“Arleen Auger, an American soprano who was renowned for both her commanding presence on the opera stage and the subtlety of her song interpretations, most famous performance was her appearance at the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, the Duke and Duchess of York, on23 July, 1986. She sang Mozart's ‘Exsultate, Jubilate’ as part of the ceremony at Westminster Abbey, which was televised globally and seen by some 500 million people.
Mozart was always at the core of her repertory. Miss Auger had exactly the right flexibility, coloring and vocal weight for Mozart opera roles and concert works, and they were the vehicles with which she had her biggest successes. She made her operatic début as the Queen of the Night in a 1967 Vienna State Opera production of DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE. Nine years later she made her New York début in the same role at the New York City Opera.
She also won great acclaim for her performances of Bach, Handel and Haydn, and although she did not eschew the use of vibrato, as other early-music singers did, she was considered a supremely stylish interpreter of that repertory. Still, she resolutely resisted being typecast. She constantly expanded her repertory, and applied her rich tone and her thoughtful sense of line to everything from Schubert and Schumann lieder and turn-of-the-century French art songs to works by Weill, Berg and Schönberg. Libby Larsen and Judith Zaimont were among the composers from whom she commissioned new song cycles.
The world of opera and art song opened for her in 1965, when she was teaching in Chicago and began studying voice with Ralph Errolle. She apparently progressed quickly; two years later, when she was teaching first grade in Los Angeles, she won first prize in the I. Victor Fuchs Competition. The prize included a trip to Vienna to audition for the Volksoper.
As it turned out, the soprano Lucia Popp had just withdrawn from a production of DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE at the Vienna State Opera. That company's director, Josef Krips, heard Miss Augér's audition at the smaller Volksoper, and offered her a contract. When she joined the company, she later said, she knew only the one role, had no stage experience and did not speak German. She made her début without a rehearsal, and had to ask other singers where to go as she was pushed out on stage.
But she prospered in Vienna. During her first two years she added a dozen roles to her repertory, and she remained with the company until 1974, when she began to find the State Opera's repertory expectations too constricting. When she left the company she began singing more frequently at other European houses, including La Scala. She also expanded her recital repertory and took a teaching position at the Academy of Music and Drama in Frankfurt, where she taught until 1987.
She had by then become intent on regulating the pace of her career. She refused to sing roles if she did not consider herself ready for them, sometimes alienating conductors whose invitations she declined. But she said later that those decisions saved her voice and prolonged her career.
By the early 1980's, Miss Auger's European career was thriving, though her concert and opera appearances in the United States had been relatively few. She had cemented her reputation as an early-music singer at the Oregon Bach Festival, directed by Helmuth Rilling (with whom she recorded more than 50 Bach cantatas) and at the New England Bach Festival. But at the time, American listeners knew her mostly through what was already a vast discography.
Miss Auger began to cultivate an American following seriously in January 1984, when she sang Mozart, Schubert, Debussy and Strauss songs at her New York début recital at Alice Tully Hall. Reviewing that concert in The New York Times, Donal Henahan praised the clarity of her tone and her sensitivity to musical and textual nuances. ‘Although pure lyricism is obviously Miss Auger's strong point, there is more to her than that’, he wrote, adding that she ‘is a singing actress of some depth’.
Thereafter, Miss Augér performed more frequently in the United States, and her recitals were high points of the concert season for fans of art song. Statuesque and attractive, she was a compelling and elegant stage personality who invariably gave the impression of having thoroughly explored both the overt emotional resonance and the underlying psychological nuances of the songs on her programs.
Miss Auger made nearly 200 recordings, documenting a vast repertory that ranged from her Bach, Mozart and Handel specialties to a series of both standard and offbeat opera and song projects. Many of her recordings won international awards, including the Grand Prix du Disque, the Edison Prize and the Deutscher Schallplattenpreis.”
- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 12 June, 1993