OP1033. FIDELIO, Live Performance, 5 Nov., 1955, w.Böhm Cond. Vienna Staatsoper Ensemble; Martha Mödl, Anton Dermota, Ludwig Weber, Paul Schöffler, Irmgard Seefried, Waldemar Kmentt, etc. (E.U.) 2-Walhall 0157. - 4035122651577
"This is the 'desert island' choice for FIDELIO....The VPO plays as though possessed....It will surely be regarded as one of the best opera recordings of the 20th Century."
- John P. McKelvey, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, May/June, 2011
"[Böhm had a] natural, essential music-making….the magical ease and naturalness of transition from one tempo to another, the human warmth, the humor, restrained pathos, the aristocratic and refined taste in final ritardandos and the incredible energy of the man."
- Walter Legge, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 5 Feb., 1995
“Anton Dermota was one of the most musical tenors singing at his time. In Vienna, the highly-esteemed tenor was a leading representative of the lyric category. He was an outstanding figure in Austria’s musical life. It is a delight to hear his smooth line, his gleaming tone and his ‘slavic-elegiac’ vocalism. His smooth, honeyed mezza voce was marvellous. He had an imaginative way with Italian and French music. Today, he is best remembered as a Mozartian tenor…whatever he sang was superbly chiselled and presented as precious musical gems!”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
“Karl Böhm was one of the greatest conductors of the twentieth century in the German tradition. He studied music as a child and continued to work and study in music while serving in the Austrian Army during World War I - and while completing a doctorate in law. He never had conducting lessons, but made close studies of the work of both Bruno Walter and Karl Muck.
In 1921 he was hired by the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and then he became Generalmusikdirektor in both Darmstadt (1927) and Hamburg (1931-1933). He gained a reputation for his fine performances of Mozart, Wagner and Richard Strauss, as well as his championing of modern German music, including operas by Krenek and Berg. Böhm débuted in Vienna in 1933, leading Wagner's TRISTAN UND ISOLDE. In 1934 he became director of the Dresden State Opera, Richard Strauss's favorite theater. There, Böhm conducted premieres of Strauss's DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU (1935) and DAFNE (1938). He remained at the helm in Dresden through 1943, at which point he became director of the Vienna State Opera (1943-1945). Richard Strauss was not in official favor, and Joseph Goebbels banned any recognition of the great composer's 80th birthday in 1944. However, Böhm participated in a de facto observance, as a large number of Strauss' orchestral and operatic works ‘just happened’ to be played about the time of the birthday.
After the war, Böhm was forbidden to perform until he underwent ‘de-Nazification’, a procedure whereby prominent Austro-Germans were investigated for complicity in Nazi crimes. He was eventually cleared of any suspicion, and was permitted to resume work in 1947.
Böhm oversaw the German repertory at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires (1950-1953), and again served as director of the Vienna State Opera (1954-1956). He débuted in the USA at the Metropolitan Opera with Mozart's DON GIOVANNI in 1957, and took prominent German orchestras and opera companies on tour. The Vienna Philharmonic bestowed on him the title ‘Ehrendirigent’, and he was proclaimed Generalmusikdirector of Austria. He left a legacy of many great recordings, including a complete Wagner RING cycle considered by many critics to be the best. While his Wagner and Strauss were sumptuously Romantic, his Mozart was scrupulously Classical in approach.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
“The incredibly lengthy career of Martha Mödl has been well documented. In that time she sang it all: beginning as a mezzo (Hänsel, Eboli, Carmen, Azucena), then soprano (Isolde, Brünnhilde, Kundry), then in the 1960s returning to mezzo and some great character rôles (Klytemnestra, Die Amme, Waltraute). In the 1970s she adapted to secondary character rôles (Widow Begbick, Grandmother Burya, the Old Countess in QUEEN OF SPADES), some of which were rechristened ‘Mödl-Rollen’ in her honor. She was often called the ‘German Maria Callas’ with her dramatic intensity, excitement, unique, colorful mezzo-tinted soprano voice.
She was one of the singers very important to the re-establishment of the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth in the 1950s. She appeared in several world premières, creating rôles in operas by Fortner, Cerha, and von Einem. There is a little-known video of an interview with Mödl, Astrid Varnay, and Birgit Nilsson—great Wagnerians all. Varnay and Nilsson defer to Mödl!”
- Charles H. Parsons, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, July/Aug., 2012
“This busy tenor, Kmentt, established his reputation early as a reliable artist in Mozart and Bach. With a voice less sensuous than those of Léopold Simoneau or Anton Dermota, Kmentt nonetheless was frequently engaged for stage performances, concert work, and recordings. Eventually, he ventured as far into a heavier repertory as Walter von Stolzing, a role he sang at the Bayreuth Festival. Kmentt's Metropolitan Opera début -- in a speaking role -- awaited the new millennium, but still brought encomiums from audiences and the press. First intending to pursue a career as a pianist, Kmentt later studied singing at the Vienna Academy of Music with Hans Duhan, Elisabeth Rado and Adolf Vogel. At that time, he was selected to tour Belgium and the Netherlands with a student opera ensemble that included two singers who would later achieve considerable fame: tenor Fritz Uhl and bass baritone Walter Berry. Kmentt's formal début took place in 1950 with a performance in Vienna of Beethoven's Symphony #9 conducted by Karl Böhm. In 1951, he made his professional stage début singing in a Wiener Volksoper production of Prokofiev's THE LOVE FOR THREE ORANGES. The year following, Kmentt became a member of the Wiener Staatsoper. For the first three years of his tenure, the company performed at the Theater an der Wien while awaiting reconstruction of the company's own house. For the reopening of the Staatsoper in 1955, Kmentt was cast as Jacquino in FIDELIO, sharing the stage with such luminaries as Martha Mödl, Anton Dermota, and Ludwig Weber. That same year, he made his début at the Salzburg Festival singing Dandini in Pfitzner's PALESTRINA. Mozart served for his introduction to La Scala in 1968 when he sang the title role in IDOMENEO. Kmentt made his début at Bayreuth the same year, singing Walter in DIE MEISTERSINGER. During the years of his prime, he also appeared frequently in operetta. When Kmentt gradually relinquished leading roles, he moved into comprimario parts, such as the Major-Domo in DER ROSENKAVALIER. Ironically, it was another Major-Domo, this one in Strauss' ARIADNE AUF NAXOS, who finally brought Kmentt to the Metropolitan Opera in spring 2001."
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com