OP1894. DIE WALKURE, Live Performance, 12 Aug., 1952, w.Keilberth Cond. Bayreuth Festival Ensemble; Inge Borkh, Astrid Varnay, Gunther Treptow, Hans Hotter, Josef Greindl, etc. (E.U.) 3-Myto 00204. - 8014399502047
“Inge Borkh, a soprano who inhabited with thrilling intensity some of the most hair-raising and daunting roles in the operatic repertoire, [was admired for] passionate portrayals [which] emerged through solid technique and secure, if fiery, tone. Howard Taubman, reviewing her in concert as Elektra at Carnegie Hall in 1958, wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES that she sang ‘with unremitting authority’, adding, ‘The word ‘sang’ is not used by courtesy, as it often has to be with Elektras’. (The role is so arduous that many sopranos practically scream through much of it.)
Ingeborg Simon was born on May 26, 1921, in Mannheim, Germany. Her father was Jewish, and the family fled Germany in 1935, after the rise of the Nazis, settling first in Geneva and then in Vienna.
Though her mother’s side of the family was dotted with singers, she began her education as an actress. After the Anschluss in 1938 she returned to Switzerland, where she encountered the bass Fritz Ollendorff, who recommended she develop her singing voice. She studied in Milan, and made her debut in 1940 in Lucerne, adopting Inge Borkh as her stage name.
Spending the 1940s in Switzerland, she swiftly moved from lighter lyrical roles to heavier ones in operas by Wagner, as well as the formidable Strauss antiheroines who became her calling cards.
In 1951, Ms. Borkh caused a sensation when she appeared in Berlin as Magda Sorel in Gian Carlo Menotti’s opera THE CONSUL, just a year after its debut. She ‘not only emerged with top honors for a brilliant performance’, Kathleen McLaughlin wrote in THE TIMES, ‘but also experienced that rarest of tributes for an actress by ‘stopping the show. The reaction of the audience’, Ms. McLaughlin added, ‘was an ovation of shouts, stamping and hand-clapping that lasted for several minutes’.
That success put Ms. Borkh on the international map, leading to debuts as far afield as London, New York and San Francisco, though her career remained focused on Continental Europe. She made few commercial recordings, but when her live performances were captured on disc they frequently became cult favorites - none more so than a delirious 1957 ELEKTRA at the Salzburg Festival led by Dimitri Mitropoulos, who also conducted her Met debut, as Salome, the next year. [Salome and Elektra], those two fiendishly difficult characters, were the ones for which Ms. Borkh was most renowned. She went on to appear at the Met as Sieglinde in Wagner’s DIE WALKÜRE, the Dyer’s Wife in Strauss’ DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN and Leonore in Beethoven’s FIDELIO.
She retired from opera after a run of ELEKTRA in Palermo, Italy, in 1973, but continued to appear onstage as a monologuist and as a suave, witty cabaret artist; a memorable recording was made of her cabaret show, ‘Inge Borkh Sings Her Memoirs’.
- Zachary Woolfe, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 28 Aug., 2018
"The dramatic soprano Astrid Varnay was born into an operatic family: her mother was a coloratura soprano and her father a spinto tenor. The year in which she was born they founded the Opera Comique Theatre in Kristiania, Sweden, although they were both born in Hungary, and they managed it until 1921.The family then moved to Argentina and later to New York, where her father died in 1924. Her mother subsequently remarried another tenor, and the young Astrid, after studying to be a pianist, decided at the age of eighteen to become a singer. She worked intensively, first with her mother and then with the Metropolitan Opera conductor and coach Hermann Weigert, whom she later married. She made her sensational stage début at the Metropolitan in 1941, substituting at short notice for Lotte Lehmann as Sieglinde in DIE WALKÜRE with no rehearsal. After this triumph, six days later she replaced Helen Traubel in the same opera as Brünnhilde, and her operatic career was effectively launched. She made her Covent Garden début in 1948 and, at the suggestion of Kirsten Flagstad, her Bayreuth Festival début in 1951. She sang every year at Bayreuth for the next seventeen years and at the Met until 1956, when she left following a disagreement with Rudolf Bing. She henceforth concentrated her career on Germany where she was revered, living in Munich. She moved from the dramatic soprano repertoire into that for mezzo-soprano in 1969, and during the 1980s into character parts. She made her last appearance in Munich in 1995, almost fifty-five years after her Metropolitan début. Her brilliant career is well documented in both commercial and unofficial sound recordings."
- David Patmore
“Joseph Keilberth was a German conductor active during the mid-twentieth century. His talents developed early: he pursued a general education and musical training in Karlsruhe, and at the age of seventeen joined the Karlsruhe State Theater as a répétiteur (vocal coach - a common starting place for European conductors). He remained with the theater and ten years later, he was appointed general music director.
He remained there until 1940, when he was appointed chief conductor of the German Philharmonic Orchestra of Prague. He became chief conductor of the Dresden State Opera in 1945. With a minimum of disruption for deNazification he remained in that position until 1950. In 1949 he became chief conductor of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, which was in fact a reunion. After the War, the German population of the Sudetenland (the German-speaking part of Czechoslovakia), which had been the excuse for Hitler's occupation of the country, were returned to Germany, and with them went the German Philharmonic of Prague, Keilberth's old orchestra, which settled in Bamberg. Causing unwary biographers some confusion, he also became the chief conductor of the Hamburg Philharmonic in 1950.
He frequently appeared as a guest conductor elsewhere in Germany, notably with the Berlin Philharmonic and, beginning in 1952, the Bayreuth Festival, and appeared regularly at the Salzburg and Lucerne festivals. In 1952 he also led his first performance in the Edinburgh Festival with the Hamburg State Opera.
He was a favored conductor for the RING and other operas through 1956. In 1959 he succeeded Ferenc Fricay at the helm of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. There, history repeated itself. Keilberth died after collapsing during a performance of Wagner's TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, just as Felix Mottl—conductor at the same theater - had done in 1911.
Keilberth was very strong in Mozart and in the Wagnerian repertory, and in later German classics such as Pfitzner, Bruckner, Richard Strauss, Max Reger, and Paul Hindemith. His classic recordings included Hindemith's opera CARDILLAC.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
ï¿½Gï¿½nther Treptow began his vocal studies at the Berlin Musikhochschule, and later in Milan with Giovanni Scarmeo. Treptow was a member of the SA and Nazi Party (membership #38 579) until the discovery in 1934 of his mother's Jewish heritage. He was banned from performing until being granted special permission to do so from Josef Goebbels on 6 June, 1935. He made his stage dï¿½but in Berlin, as the Italian singer in DER ROSENKAVALIER in 1936. He sang at the Vienna Volksoper in 1938, as Florestan in FIDELIO. He appeared at the Zopot Festival in 1939, in the title role of TANNHï¿½USER. He made his dï¿½but at the Munich State Opera in 1940, the Vienna State Opera in 1947, and the Bayreuth Festival in 1951.
He quickly established himself as one of the leading heldentenors of his generation, in roles such as Siegmund in DIE WALKï¿½RE, Siegfried in SIEGFRIED and Gï¿½TTERDï¿½MMERUNG, and Tristan. Besides Wagner, he also sang such roles as Max in DER FREISCHï¿½TZ, Steva in JENUFA, Canio in PAGLIACCI, and the title role in OTELLO.
On the international scene, he made guest appearances at La Scala in Milan, La Monnaie in Brussels, the Royal Opera House in London, the Teatro Colï¿½n in Buenos Aires, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, also appearing in Leningrad and Moscow. He sang at the Deutsche Oper Berlin from 1961 until his retirement in 1972.ï¿½
- Zillah Dorset Akron
"Of all the singers of the 20th century, the man whose voice and presence were most capable of conveying the essence of the archetypal father was bass-baritone Hans Hotter. Blessed with a huge, resonant instrument that could be scaled down to an intimate whisper, the man could sound invincible one minute and vulnerable the next. No matter what he sang, Hotter communicated a profundity and depth of spirit that seemed rooted in a primordial place of holiness and sagacity. If you can imagine a man whose voice could convincingly express the power of a God, the wisdom of a sage, and the humanity of an open-hearted mortal, you can begin to hear the sound of Hans Hotter in your head.
In the world of opera, Richard Wagner's Wotan, the God of Valhalla, is perhaps the greatest Daddy of them all. In DIE WALKÜRE, he has no choice but to punish his favorite daughter Brünnhilde for her sin of intervening in the affairs of mortals. But even as he puts his beloved daughter to sleep, protecting her with a ring of fire, he makes sure that love can dowse the flames and return her to life. It was the Wotan of Hans Hotter, more than of any other recorded singer, that most fully expressed the tortured godliness of this strangely mortal immortal.
At the same time as Hotter dominated the opera stage as Wotan, he became known as a supreme interpreter of German art song. With his voice pared down as necessary, Hotter's lieder interpretations evinced the same strength and surety that thundered through him when he strode across the stage carrying sword and shield."
- Jason Serinus