B1164. EDWIN McARTHUR. Flagstad – A Personal Memoir. New York, Knopf, 1965. 353pp. First Edition. Index; Photos; DJ. Long out-of-print, Final Hardbound Copy!
“This book is properly titled a personal memoir because indeed it is entirely told from Edwin McArthur's point of view and is mostly about him and his relationship with the great dramatic soprano Kirsten Flagstad. When she arrived in New York for the first time in 1935, he was the quickest to contact her for work as an accompanist and till the end of her life he was a close friend and confidant. There is much coverage of her various travels, correspondence and legal troubles over the years but little actual description of her music making. We don't hear Flagstad's opinions of her performances or anything about her colleagues who performed with her, except for her longstanding avoidance of the heldentenor Lauritz Melchior with whom she last performed in 1941 and with whom she felt betrayed when she needed his support during the difficult years after the war. Flagstad was reviled in both Norway and the United States because of erroneous charges that she was a Nazi sympathizer and thus she went through a difficult time re-establishing her career when the public was protesting against her. Opera companies in the United States were very reluctant to invite her for fear of bringing protest and controversy. During the war she had gone home to Norway to be with her husband. During that time she never performed either for the occupying Nazis in Norway nor in Germany. McArthur presents factual and apparently accurate information about Flagstad's business dealings and contracts. He shows her to be capricious and often stubborn in her dealings with fans and supporters, rarely allowing people to visit her in her dressing room before, during or after a performance. She was not the type to humor the public or give autographs. The book seems like an honest attempt to present the facts of Flagstad's career but leaves me feeling disappointed that there was not more written about what was really important: the music, and Flagstad's unique place in the history of opera.”
- Lee Edwards