Tristan - Covent Garden  (Reiner;   Flagstad, Melchior, Janssen, List)   (3-Naxos 8.110068/70)
Item# OP0465
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Tristan - Covent Garden  (Reiner;   Flagstad, Melchior, Janssen, List)   (3-Naxos 8.110068/70)
OP0465. TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, Live Performance, 1936, w.Reiner Cond. Royal Opera House Ensemble; Kirsten Flagstad, Sabine Kalter, Lauritz Melchior, Herbert Janssen, Emanuel List, etc. (Canada) 3-Naxos 8.110068/70. Transfers by Ward Marston. Final Copy! - 636943106822


"Recorded live at Covent Garden in 1936, this is quite simply the greatest performance of Wagner's masterpiece to survive in sound. It captures the definitive coupling of Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior as the doomed lovers, both singing with a sensuous ease, a purity of line and a supreme voluptuousness of tone that eradicates all competition....The visceral sexuality and the sense of neurotic decadence that Fritz Reiner gets from every bar is overwhelming, while the LPO (which doubled as the opera house's orchestra in the 1930s) play with an electric excitement that no studio recording could ever quite capture. You emerge from the whole feeling elated and emotionally battered beyond belief.�

Tim Ashley, THE GUARDIAN, Dec., 2000

"Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior are archetypal Wagner performers, displaying not only the requisite heft to soar over a large orchestra but also abundant passion, understanding, and physical stamina, and this famous performance, recorded live at Covent Garden in 1936, is a thrilling monument to their artistry. The current dearth of Wagnerian singers has turned TRISTAN into a conductor's opera, but despite the exciting and exacting leadership of Fritz Reiner, Flagstad and Melchior hold center stage here. One is swept away as much by the beauty of their sound as by their ecstatic expressions of desire. Rarely has the second-act love duet been so intoxicating. It is a priceless document from a particularly resplendent era of Wagner interpretation."

Andrew Farach-Colton, Jan., 2009

"...I still prefer Fritz Reiner's performance, recorded live at Covent Garden in 1936. Flagstad is the Isolde, her voice twining round Lauritz Melchior's gorgeous Tristan. Reiner's conducting exudes decadent splendour, and the playing from the LPO is awesome. Reiner offers an overwhelming experience that is second to none."

Tim Ashley, THE GUARDIAN, April 2001

"Sabine Kalter had a powerful and wide ranging contralto voice, combined with a strong dramatic ability. I find her especially fine in AIDA and TROVATORE, in which she sings with a superb Richard Tauber who has an ideal voice for Radames and Trovatore.

Other highlights of Kalter's discography are the Wesendonck-Lieder. Her 'Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer' is one of the most beautiful and intimate recordings I have heard. The sound file shows not only her dramatic power but also her capability of singing with inner emotion.

Sabine Kalter was born in Jaroslaw, Galicia, and studied singing at the Vienna Musical Academy. She was engaged by Rainer Simons, director at the Volksoper, who had an unerring instinct in his search for new talents. Sabine Kalter made her debut there in 1911. Two years later, she was already contracted to the Stadttheater Hamburg (State Opera) as principal contralto, where she had to replace the famous Ottilie Metzger-Lattermann , and was expected to continue the great tradition in the contralto- and mezzo 'fach'. In 1919 she married Max Aufrichtig. Her roles included not only Waltraute, Ortrud, Fricka, Herodias and Brangane, but also Amneris, Lady Macbeth, Dalila, Orfeo, Marina, Fides and Carmen. She took part in a number of first performances: Korngold's DAS WUNDER DER HELIANE (1927), Humperdinck's Konigskinder (1911), Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex (1928), Hindemith's NEUES VOM TAGE (1929), Wolf-Ferrari's I Gioelli di Madonna and d'Albert's Liebesketten. Within a short time Sabine Kalter became one of the most popular singers at the Hamburg State Opera and stayed there from 1915 to 1935. Her international breakthrough began in the early 1920s. The artist was an accomplished recitalist and concert singer, appearing in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Austria. After a highly successful career at Hamburg, when the Nazis came to power, she was obliged to leave Germany in 1935, but she managed to continue her career at Covent Garden for another four years. She sang Brangane opposite Kirsten Flagstad, Lauritz Melchior, Herbert Janssen and Emmanuel List under Fritz Reiner [above]. In 1939, the artist decided to retire from the opera stage, concentrating on concert and recital work and becoming a singing coach. Her last concert appearance took place at Hamburg in 1950. Sabine Kalter died on 1 September, 1957, in London."

- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile

�Lauritz Melchior trained with retired Danish tenor Vilhelm Herold. In 1918, now singing as a tenor, Melchior gave his first performance as Tannh�user. 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 Tannh�user. 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 r�le 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

"Herbert Janssen - with his plangent, fine-grained voice, keen intelligence, aristocratic musicianship, and (not incidentally) handsome appearance - was the leading German baritone in several major theatres during the 1920s and 1930s. After study with Oskar Daniel in Berlin he was immediately accepted by Max von Schillings for the Berlin State Opera, where he made his debut in 1922 as Herod in Schreker's DER SCHATZGRABER . He remained at the Berlin State Opera until 1937 singing both lyric and dramatic roles, many of them in the Italian repertory. He later appeared in important productions of DER FLIEGENDE HOLLANDER and TRISTAN UND ISOLDE at Covent Garden conducted by Reiner and Beecham, also singing Orest / ELEKTRA and in 1935 taking the title role in Borodin's PRINCE IGOR, for which he was highly praised.

Janssen was a fixture at the Bayreuth Festival from 1930 to 1937. His Wolfram in TANNHAUSER set a standard not approached since, and, fortunately, it was recorded in a somewhat truncated 1930 production. During that decade, he established benchmarks for several Wagner roles, particularly Kurwenal, Telramund, Gunther, and - especially - Amfortas. His interpretation of the latter was an exquisitely sung realization of a soul in torment, achieving a remarkable unity of voice, movement, and makeup. His doggedly loyal Kurwenal is preserved on complete recordings of TRISTAN UND ISOLDE made live at Covent Garden in 1936 and 1937. His tortured Dutchman is also available in a live recording made at Covent Garden and featuring Kirsten Flagstad as Senta.

In addition to his stage work, Janssen acquired a reputation as a superior singer of Lieder. The exceptional beauty of his voice and his interpretive acuity made him a prime candidate for Walter Legge's Hugo Wolf Society venture of the 1930s. Among the finest singers Legge could pull together, Janssen was given the largest assignment and his subscription recordings made throughout the decade remain supreme, even in the face of the best achievements of post-war Lieder singers.

Janssen was very unpopular with the Nazi regime, having turned down a dinner invitation from Hitler at Bayreuth, Janssen left Germany in 1937 and with Toscanini's assistance traveled immediately to Buenos Aires. After a season in Argentina, he came to the United States where he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1939, remaining at that theater until his stage retirement in 1952.

From 1940 onwards Janssen sang regularly at Buenos Aires and with the San Francisco Opera between 1945 and 1951. Following his retirement in 1952, he remained in New York as a respected teacher.

Janssen's performances were notable for the warm and sympathetic timbre of his voice, his excellent command of legato and clear enunciation, as well as his convincing acting. Also a highly accomplished lieder singer, he had in addition starred in the musical DREI MUSKETIERE at the Metropol Theatre in Berlin during 1928 opposite Gota Ljungberg."

- Erik Eriksson,