OP0505. DIE WALKÜRE – Act I (Complete), w.Bruno Walter Cond. Vienna Phil.; Lotte Lehmann, Lauritz Melchior, Emanuel List, etc. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL 78-109, recorded 1935. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“This performance needs little commentary; it has been written about since its initial release back in 1935. Each individual element—soprano, tenor, bass, conductor, orchestra—is sensational. Together, they make for a remarkable whole. Walter’s impassioned, dramatic conducting and the orchestra’s playing with total commitment are certainly central to the impact of the performance. But no less important are the individual performances of the three singers….Lauritz Melchior sings with sensitivity, astonishing variety of color and dynamic shading, and utter conviction and passion. It is impossible for me to imagine a finer Siegmund. The same can be said of Lotte Lehmann’s Sieglinde, as she digs into the part and creates a complete character while pouring out glorious tone. I had forgotten how solid and menacing Emanuel List’s Hunding was, an extremely powerful performance. The sweep of the whole is something we rarely get on any recording, and how they managed it at a time when long works were recorded in four-minute segments is beyond belief.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
"’If she had been born in Texas they would have called her a gusher, so impulsively did she pour out her voice in an exuberant, generous flood’. The opening words of recording producer Walter Legge's appreciation go a long way toward explaining the Lotte Lehmann phenomenon. Richard Strauss wrote three roles with her extraordinary voice and personality in mind and she sang the premieres, gathering still more fans into the orbit of her art. While opera was the primary outlet for her talents, she made many magnificent lieder appearances, notably in the decade before her 1951 retirement. A number of favorite songs made their way to disc.
Lehmann was a Prussian by birth, but she captured the Viennese and gave of herself unreservedly as though she had been born one of them. A self-assured individual, she nonetheless had her battles with colleagues (especially those who sang the same roles as she) and occasionally found herself the victim of unfortunate timing. Her recordings still sell in significant numbers years after they were made.
Lehmann's father was a town government official who intended that his daughter have a thorough education, one which would prepare her for a career in teaching. Instead, in a high school in Berlin where the family had moved, she applied her unmistakable intelligence to the writing of poetry (an interest that remained her entire life) rather than being conscientious about her studies. This independence would manifest itself throughout her career.
Having sung from childhood, Lehmann was enthusiastic when a neighbor made possible an audition which led to vocal study at the Royal Academy of Music. Upon finishing there, she became a private pupil of Mathilde Malinger, who devoted herself to preparing Lehmann for a serious career. A three-year contract at the Hamburg Opera began inauspiciously, with small parts and tepid notices. Then, when conductor Otto Klemperer had to find a replacement for the role of Elsa in LOHENGRIN, Lehmann was asked to attempt the part. A period of intensive study brought her a triumph on opening night. Lost in Elsa's character, she gave the first of countless performances both vocally thrilling and dramatically absorbing. Quickly, other roles, including those in the French and Italian repertories, were assigned to her and, when an official from the Vienna Court Opera heard her one evening, she was engaged for that theater.
In Vienna, she achieved her highest measure of fame, steadily undertaking all the great roles that would be associated with her: Sieglinde, Leonore in FIDELIO, and the Marschallin. Strauss selected her to create the Composer in ARIADNE AUF NAXOS, the Dyer's Wife in DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN, and Christine in INTERMEZZO. She made a début in 1924 at Covent Garden, performed between 1928 and 1934 at Paris, and joined the Chicago Opera in 1930. Her Metropolitan Opera début in 1934 as Sieglinde drew a ten-minute ovation at her first curtain call.
When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Lehmann renounced her native country, and resettled in Vienna. Upon news of the Anschluss, she moved to the United States and applied for citizenship there. After leaving the Met in 1945, she sang a final season at the San Francisco Opera before retiring from the stage. She continued to make recital appearances until 1951 when she retired from singing and devoted herself to teaching, writing, and painting. Although Lehmann never quite mastered her breath control, her exquisite, inimitable sound and instinctively imaginative phrasing made her one of the recording era's most treasurable singers.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“Lauritz Melchior trained with retired Danish tenor Vilhelm Herold. In 1918, now singing as a tenor, Melchior gave his first performance as Tannhäuser. 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 Tannhäuser. 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 rôle 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
“Each of these disks, from Canadian engineer Yves St Laurent… [feature] St Laurent's natural transfer – made without filtering, like all his dubbings – it is easy to listen to, despite the surface noise.”
- Tully Potter, CLASSICAL RECORD QUARTERLY, Summer, 2011