OP2141. DIE WALKURE, Live Performance, 27 July, 1960, w.Kempe Cond. Bayreuth Festival Ensemble; Jerome Hines, Gottlob Frick, Aase Nordmo-Lovberg, Wolfgang Windgassen, Astrid Varnay, Hertha Topper, etc. (E.U.) 3-Myto 00271. - 0801439902718
"The American bass Jerome Hines had a long and distinguished career at the Metropolitan Opera singing a wide variety of roles with true consistency of voice and style. He appeared with the company for more than 40 years from 1946. An imposing figure - he was 6ft 6in tall - he had a voluminous bass to match his stature.
His charismatic presence made him ideal for the many roles demanding a big personality. It was thus hardly surprising that Sarastro in THE MAGIC FLUTE, Gounod's Mephistopheles, the high priest Ramfis in AIDA, the Grand Inquisitor in DON CARLOS, Boris Godunov, and King Mark in TRISTAN UND ISOLDE were among his leading roles.
Although always faithful to the Met, Hines made many forays abroad. In 1953, he undertook Nick Shadow, with Glyndebourne, at the Edinburgh festival, in the first British performances of Stravinsky's THE RAKE'S PROGRESS. That led to engagements in leading houses in Europe and south America, and eventually to Bayreuth, where he sang Gurnemanz, King Mark and Wotan (1958-63). In 1958, he made his La Scala debut in the title part of Handel's HERCULES, and, in 1961, he first appeared at the San Carlo in Naples, in the title role of Boito's MEFISTOFELE. His Boris Godunov, at the Bolshoi in Moscow in 1962, was, by all accounts, a deeply impressive portrayal.
He was fortunate to arrive at the Met just as the opera house was in need of replacements for the great Ezio Pinza, who had decided to appear in SOUTH PACIFIC. Unlike his distinguished predecessor, Hines could also sing the German and Russian repertory, in addition to Italian and French. In all, his innate musicianship stood him in good stead. Most of his discs derived from live performances. They reveal a sterling voice, a refined style, consisting of a burnished tone, a fine line and exemplary diction, although he never seems to have have been a very profound interpreter.
Hines was both a deeply religious person and a good writer. He combined these qualities in his own opera, I AM THE WAY, a work about Jesus, performed, with Hines as the protagonist, at Philadelphia in 1969. The previous year, he had published his autobiography, THIS IS MY STORY, THIS IS MY SONG, but his most lasting volume was GREAT SINGERS ON GREAT SINGING (1982), in which he made discerning comments on the art of many colleagues.
Hines' later appearances befitted his advancing years: he was Arkel, the elderly grandfather in PELLEAS ET MELISANDE (Rome, 1984), and the blind father in Mascagni's IRIS (Newark, 1989). His last stage appearance was as Sarastro, in New Orleans in 1998, when he was 77."
- Alan Blyth, THE GUARDIAN, 13 Feb., 2003
“The most important singer of the German Heldentenor repertory in the 1950s and 1960s, Wolfgang Windgassen employed his not-quite-heroic instrument, believable physique, and considerable musical intelligence to forge memorable performances on-stage and in the recording studio.
The tenor made his début as Alvaro in LA FORZA DEL DESTINO at Pforzheim in 1941. In 1945, he joined the Württembergisches Staatstheater in Stuttgart, steadily moving from lyric rôles to more heroic parts; he remained a singer there until 1972. Upon making his début in the first postwar season at Bayreuth in 1951, he came to international attention. His Parsifal, growing from uncomprehending innocence to maturity and service, was a moving portrayal and was recorded live by Decca Records. Windgassen became indispensable at the Bayreuth Festival, excelling as Lohengrin, the two Siegfrieds, Tannhäuser, and Tristan. There, he earned the respect and devotion of the three leading dramatic sopranos of the age: Martha Mödl, Astrid Varnay, and Birgit Nilsson. Elsewhere, Windgassen made positive impressions at La Scala (where he débuted as Florestan in 1952), Paris (Parsifal in 1954), and Covent Garden, where he appeared as Tristan in 1954. Although regarded by English critics as somewhat light of voice for Wagner's heaviest tenor rôles, his lyric expression and dramatic aptness were wholly admired. The Metropolitan Opera briefly heard him as Siegmund beginning in January 1957 and as Siegfried. Windgassen did not return to America until 1970, when he sang Tristan to the Isolde of Nilsson at San Francisco. Beginning that same year, he turned to stage direction. Among Windgassen's finest recordings are his Bayreuth PARSIFAL, captured with a superb cast under Knappertsbusch's direction, his 1954 Bayreuth LOHENGRIN under Jochum, his SIEGFRIEDs under both Böhm at Bayreuth and in the studio with Solti, and his Bayreuth TRISTAN with Böhm conducting and Nilsson as his Isolde.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
"More than twenty-five years after she retired, Aase Nordmo Lovberg remains a vocal enigma. The Norwegian soprano enjoyed a long and successful career in Scandinavia but, despite her handsome voice and solid musicianship, never established a lasting presence on international stages. A single season at Bayreuth is commemorated in live recordings of LOHENGRIN and DIE WALKURE. A broadcast of DIE WALKURE also documents her brief career at the Metropolitan Opera: two seasons, four roles, and thirteen performances. From her debut in 1957 until her final performance in 1965, Lovberg also sang only thirteen times in four roles at the Vienna Staatsoper: a single Amelia along with Leonore, Sieglinde, and Elisabeth. She sang in Hamburg, Munich, and London without achieving enduring success in any of those cities.
Lovberg began her career in the shadow of Kirsten Flagstad. But so did Ingrid Bjoner. Unlike Lovberg, Bjoner made an international career on major European and American stages...[regardless], Lovberg was an estimable singer."
- Robert Baxter, THE OPERA QUARTERLY, Vol. 20, #4, Autumn 2004, pp. 750-752
"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
"One of the great unsung conductors of the middle twentieth century, Rudolf Kempe enjoyed a strong reputation in England but never quite achieved the international acclaim that he might have had with more aggressive management, promotion, and recording. Not well enough known to be a celebrity but too widely respected to count as a cult figure, Kempe is perhaps best remembered as a connoisseur's conductor, one valued for his strong creative temperament rather than for any personal mystique. He studied oboe as a child, performed with the Dortmund Opera, and, in 1929, barely out of his teens, he became first oboist of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. His conducting dï¿½but came in 1936, at the Leipzig Opera; this performance of Lortzing's DER WILDSCHUTZ was so successful that the Leipzig Opera hired him as a rï¿½pï¿½titeur. Kempe served in the German army during World War II, but much of his duty was out of the line of fire; in 1942 he was assigned to a music post at the Chemnitz Opera. After the war, untainted by Nazi activities, he returned to Chemnitz as director of the opera (1945-1948), and then moved on to the Weimar National Theater (1948-1949). From 1949 to 1953 he served as general music director of the Staatskapelle Dresden, East Germany's finest orchestra. He then moved to the identical position at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, 1952-1954, succeeding the young and upwardly mobile Georg Solti. During this period he was also making guest appearances outside of Germany, mainly in opera: in Vienna (1951), at Covent Garden (1953), and at the Metropolitan Opera (1954), to mention only the highlights. Although he conducted Wagner extensively, especially at Covent Garden, Kempe did not make his Bayreuth dï¿½but until 1960. As an opera conductor he was greatly concerned with balance and texture, and singers particularly appreciated his efforts on their behalf. Kempe made a great impression in England, and in 1960 Sir Thomas Beecham named him associate conductor of London's Royal Philharmonic. Kempe became the orchestra's principal conductor upon Beecham's death the following year, and, after the orchestra was reorganized, served as its artistic director from 1963 to 1975. He was also the chief conductor of the Zï¿½rich Tonhalle Orchestra from 1965 to 1972, and of the Munich Philharmonic from 1967 until his death in 1976. During the last year of his life he also entered into a close association with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Interpretively, Kempe was something of a German Beecham. He was at his best -- lively, incisive, warm, expressive, but never even remotely self-indulgent -- in the Austro-Germanic and Czech repertory. Opera lovers prize his versions of LOHENGRIN, DIE MEISTERSINGER, and ARIADNE AUF NAXOS. His greatest recorded legacy, accomplished during the last four or five years of his life, was the multi-volume EMI set of the orchestral works and concertos of Richard Strauss, performed with the highly idiomatic Dresden Staatskapelle. These recordings were only intermittently available outside of Europe in the LP days, but in the 1990s EMI issued them on nine compact discs.ï¿½
- James Reel, Rovi
"This performance was the first of the Wolfgang Wagner productions for which he engaged an entirely new cast. Because of scheduling problems, Jerome Hines, Wolfgang's first choice for Wotan, could only do the WALKURE, so that Hermann Uhde had to bail him out for RHEINGOLD and SIEGFRIED. Hines' WALKURE Wotan's Farewell is heartbreaking, as moving as any other in my experience. Gottlob Frick is for me the perfect Hunding, and even more, Hagen. He gives both roles a grim, dour, and yet, dignified quality, something that Greindl couldn't aways do. Likewise, Astrid Varnay did the WALKURE Brunnhilde, with Birgit Nilsson making her Bayreuth debut in the role in SIEGFRIED and GOTTERDAMMERUNG. Personally, I am not troubled by this casting inconsistency. Hertha Topper is a youthful and superbly outraged Fricka. Varnay projects a fiery, youthful Brï¿½nnhilde, if anything even more gleaming in tone than in the superb 1956 Knappertsbusch set; at times, she resembles Nilsson! Her 'Hojotoh' is truly thrilling; what we would give to have her back! This is a treasurable RING, and I would recommend it to anyone. Not being terribly fond of any of the stereo RINGS, this Kempe RING would be my first choice, along with Knappertsbusch's 1956 Bayreuth set."
- Ralph John Steinberg, wagneropera.net