V2504. MELANIE KURT: Herber Abschied (Silcher); Arias & Duets (w.Matzenauer, Metzger, Urlus, Jörn, Kraus, Feinhals, Knüpfer & Schorr) from Le Prophète, Aïda, Ballo, Cavalleria, Faust, Mignon, Fidelio, Tannhäuser, Der Fliegende Höllander, Tristan, Parsifal, Die Walküre, Siegfried & Götterdämmerung. (Germany) 2-Truesound Transfers 4005, recorded 1910-22, Berlin & New York. Transfers by Christian Zwarg.
"This glorious Kurt program is the fourth issue of Christian Zwarg's new series featuring double CDs in handsome Digipak albums (no more brittle plastic cases nor dull black-and-white covers!). As delighted as we all have been with previous Truesound offerings, this new format is sure to offer even greater satisfaction!"
- J. R. Peters
“Opera lore has Metropolitan impresario Giulio Gatti-Casazza enjoying himself at one of Johanna Gadski’s lavish dinner parties when another guest asked what he planned to do, now that Olive Fremstad was not to be re-engaged for the upcoming season. Apparently in a rare, festive mood, Gatti dumped the salt onto the table and traced in it the letters K-U-R-T. He was referring to Melanie Kurt, a dramatic soprano who had initially ‘caught his ear’ in Europe in 1912. Born in Vienna, Kurt had begun her musical career as a concert pianist. She then studied voice with Lilli and Marie Lehmann in Berlin. Kurt made her operatic début as a youthful Elisabeth in TANNHÄUSER at Lübeck in 1902, and was subsequently engaged at Brunswick (1905-08) and Berlin (1908-12).
By the time Kurt made her Met début (as Isolde on 1 February, 1915), the ‘Great War’ was well under way in Europe, so her New York career was predestined to be a short one. But despite this, and the fact that she was expected to fill Fremstad’s formidable shoes, Melanie Kurt received much critical acclaim during her three Met seasons. She was very well received as Brünnhilde, Kundry, Leonore in FIDELIO, Pamina, Sieglinde, Santuzza, Amelia in UN BALLO IN MASCHERA, Iphigénie in IPHIGÉNIE EN TAURIDE and other roles. After the United States joined the European conflict in 1917, Kurt’s American career came to an abrupt end. When the war ended she returned to Europe and resumed her career but, in 1938 once more on the run from a war, she returned to New York and taught there till her death.
Melanie Kurt was fortunate in that hers was one of the rare dramatic sopranos who were treated fairly well by the pre-microphone recording processes. We are fortunate that her repertoire is well represented in both the Wagnerian and Italian wings. Also of significance is the fact that a number of Kurt’s records are duets with the splendid heldentenors Jacques Urlus and Karl Jörn; in these we are treated to excerpts ranging from such diverse works as DIE WALKÜRE to CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA. Melanie Kurt’s records, for the most part, were made when she was about 30, so we are also treated to the great Wagnerian, captured for the ages, in her relative youth. Something immediately noticeable after even a quick sampling of Kurt’s recordings is that they rarely sound like mere studio ‘run-throughs’. This rare, remarkable quality in her singing is especially appreciable in an extended scene between her Brünnhilde and Urlus’ Siegmund, recorded on two sides in 1910. Here, if the listener closes his or her eyes and uses a little imagination, it is almost possible to transcend the decades, and feel for a few brief moments that he or she is in a great house of the distant past, listening to a live performance. The interpretations of both artists are just that vivid and sincere.
Melanie Kurt manages to impress in a wide variety of music. Amelia’s arias from Verdi’s UN BALLO IN MASCHERA are delivered with her usual sense of drama and lovely legato. She swells to the higher reaches of the music with no difficulty. Also from her Verdi repertoire, Kurt’s Aïda in confrontation with Ottilie Metzger’s Amneris is a classic interpretation.”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
“...an absolute revelation! Here, the voice comes through with tonal sheen, passion and with more personality than any other transfers have been able to bring out. Dynamics and agility are in better relief, as is a sensitivity I had always found lacking. These transfers are absolutely miraculous, and I hope for more Truesound transfers.”
- Davyd Booth, GREAT SINGERS REMEMBERED, WHYY - NPR