B1417. WALTER SLEZAK. What Time’s the Next Swan? [Autobiography]. Garden City, NY, Doubleday, 1962. 227pp. Photos; DJ.
“For the 30 years that opened the twentieth century, Leo Slezak was one of the outstanding dramatic tenors, and is best known today for his Wagnerian roles, but he was also capable of the shading and subtleties required for French opera, and was greatly admired in such roles as Gerald in Delibes' LAKMÉ and des Grieux in Massenet's MANON.
Having studied with Adolf Robinson, his operatic début was as Lohengrin in Brno, in 1896. Two years later, he made his Berlin début in the same role, and in 1900, performed it again at Covent Garden, when the Breslau company, which he joined the year before, toured abroad. In 1901, his rise to fame began when he came to the attention of Gustav Mahler, who invited him to join the Vienna State Opera. He made his début as Arnold in GUILLAME TELL, beginning a 32-year association with that house. In 1907, however, when Mahler left, Slezak also left to pursue an international career. In Paris, he studied the French operatic repertoire with Jean de Reszke and song with Reynaldo Hahn. Moving on to the United States, his Met début was as Otello in 1909. Though he returned to the Vienna State Opera in 1913, he continued to make international appearances until his farewell performance as Canio in 1933.
While he was not considered one of the great operatic actors, after his retirement he appeared in cameo roles in various films. Walter Slezak wrote WHAT TIME'S THE NEXT SWAN?, an affectionate and humorous combination of autobiography and biography of his parents' lives, and Slezak himself wrote several volumes of memoirs.”
- Anne Feeney, allmusic.com
“Walter Slezak was a portly Austrian character actor who appeared in numerous Hollywood films. Slezak often portrayed villains or thugs, most notably the German U-boat captain in Alfred Hitchcock's film LIFEBOAT (1944), but occasionally he got to play lighter rôles, as in THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM (1962). His autobiography, WHAT TIME'S THE NEXT SWAN? was published in 1962. The book's title refers to an alleged incident in the career of his father, heldentenor Leo Slezak. During a performance in the title rôle of LOHENGRIN, the elder Slezak was supposed to finish his aria by stepping into a swan boat and then being pulled offstage. When a stagehand removed the boat prematurely, Slezak supposedly covered for the error by asking the audience ‘What Time's the Next Swan?’"
- Zillah Dorset Akron