OP2249. SALOME, Live Performance, 14 July, 1974, Festival d'Orange, w.Kempe Cond. Orchestre National de France; Leonie Rysanek, Ruth Hesse, Jon Vickers, Horst Laubenthal, Thomas Stewart, etc. (Croatia) 2-Melodram GM 3.0047. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 608974130473
"Rysanek is, first and foremost, an operatic actress. It is this quality that has led to her remarkable success. In everything she does, one senses total involvement with the dramatic aspects of the role. Without knowing whether this is true, I suspect she immerses herself completely in the libretto before studying out any of the vocal problems. An actress in the grand manner does not bother very much whether a role is in the creation of a German or an Italian librettist; her concern is with the flesh and blood of the woman being portrayedc.Though the drama comes first, Rysanek has given the matter of voice a great deal of careful thought. She has a beautiful instrument to think about, and she wants to keep it that way."
- Alan Rich, OPERA NEWS, 6 March, 1965
gLeonie Rysanek was both a great actress and a great singer - ethe singer with a thousand facesf. For decades she sang some of the most difficult roles of the German and Italian repertories with dramatic intensity and a large vocal tone - her rapturous Sieglinde which she first sang in Bayreuth in 1951 is still much talked about, and there can be no question that she was (among many other roles) memorable as Senta, Leonore, Elizabeth, Desdemona, Kundry, Donna Anna, Aida and Arabella. In her later years, she took on the darker- toned character roles of the repertories and triumphed in them as well. She was beloved in New York and Vienna where she spent most of her professional time and in every city where there was a great opera house. Altogether, she gave 3000 performances and sang 50 roles. It is said that while Vienna was to Ms. Rysanek a very special place (over 500 performances at the Staatsoper from 1950 on) , the Metropolitan Opera in New York was her operatic home. It was here where on 5 February, 1959 she first fascinated New York audiences as Lady Macbeth, a role that was to have been sung by Maria Callas. By all accounts it was a legendary performance, marking the beginning of an enduring love affair with MET audiences. After 300 performances, she gave her farewell performance at the MET on 2 January, 1996 as the Duchess in Tchaikovsky's QUEEN OF SPADES after which, amidst a tumultuous ovation which she shared with her husband Ernst-Ludwig Gausmann, she thanked the audience for the love and devotion they had shown her through the years. This scene repeated itself the following August at the Salzburg Festival House - after her farewell performance as Klytemnestra in Strauss' ELEKTRA, she thanked an adoring audience for a beautiful life, as indeed it was.h
- Dr. Peter Dusek, FAREWELL TO A VIENNESE DIVA
gThe Canadian tenor Jon Vickers brought a colossal voice and raw dramatic intensity to everything he sang, including legendary portrayals of Wagnerfs TRISTAN, Verdifs OTELLO, Beethovenfs Florestan and Brittenfs Peter Grimes, had few rivals. Yet, even in subdued passages, whether posing questions as the clueless title character of Wagnerfs PARSIFAL or singing tender phrases of a Schubert song, Mr. Vickersf voice had penetrating body and depth. For all his power, he was a master at singing high pianissimo phrases with ethereal beauty. Making every word he sang matter was another hallmark of his artistry. Mr. Vickers was incapable of fudging a text for the sake of vocal effect, a priority he traced to his Christian upbringing, in which hymns and prayers were revered. Still, Mr. Vickers had his share of detractors, who found his singing burly and gruff.
He identified intensely with the characters he portrayed, especially misfits, like Peter Grimes, and misunderstood heroes, like Verdifs Otello, who are outwardly strong but struggling against brutal destinies. Yet he readily admitted that in taking risks and giving his all, his singing could be inconsistent and uncontrolled. That Mr. Vickers lost himself in his roles did not surprise those who knew him. He was a volatile and enigmatic person, in many ways decent and principled, but hot-tempered and quick to jump on any perceived slight.
The soprano Birgit Nilsson, the great Isolde to his Tristan, said that Mr. Vickers ewas almost always unhappyf, and that his enerves were outside the skin, not inside the skinf, as she told Jeannie Williams, the author of JON VICKERS: A HEROfS LIFE. In her book, Ms. Williams recounts stories of Mr. Vickers bullying underlings and dressing down colleagues. When a 1986 Metropolitan Opera production of Handelfs SAMSON traveled to the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Mr. Vickers insulted the conductor, Julius Rudel, during a rehearsal in front of the entire cast and orchestra, shaking Mr. Rudel so much that he offered to quit. Yet in interviews he often spoke of how his rural roots and Christian convictions had shaped his life philosophy, as he explained in a 1974 documentary for the Canadian Broadcast Company: eThe understanding, which slowly and surely developed in me, of the necessity of human contact and an understanding of the needs of others and their problems has probably, more than anything else, given me the ability to analyze my roles, to come to grips with a score, to study a drama, to project my feelings into the life of someone Ifve never met except on a piece of paperf.
Encouraged to pursue singing seriously, he auditioned for George Lambert, a voice teacher who recruited students for the Royal Conservatory in Toronto, and was offered a scholarship, beginning with the 1950-51 academic year. While at the conservatory, Mr. Vickers met Henrietta Elsie Outerbridge, a child of missionaries who had worked in China. Hetti, as she was called, had studied medicine for several semesters and taught English and art. They married in July 1953. A devoted couple, they were eone of the great love stories of our timef, in the words of the soprano Teresa Stratas.
Mr. Vickers considered his professional stage début to be a performance in 1954 as the Duke of Mantua in Verdifs RIGOLETTO at the Toronto Opera Festival, which in 1959 became the Canadian Opera Company. Over the next two years with the festival he sang Alfredo in LA TRAVIATA, Don José in CARMEN and other roles but preferred singing for radio and television because the work paid better.
In 1957, for his first season at the Royal Opera at Covent Garden in London, he sang Don José, Riccardo in BALLO IN MASCHERA and Enée (Aeneas) in Berliozfs epic opera LES TROYENS. Mr. Vickers would later sing Enée in a new production of the opera at Covent Garden in 1969, the centennial of the composerfs death. The conductor was Colin Davis, an inspired Berlioz interpreter. During the run, the Covent Garden forces recorded the opera in a London studio, and the sessions were tense. The cast, especially Mr. Vickers, complained of the strain of recording the work while also performing it on stage. Some rough patches in Mr. Vickersfs singing come through. Still, he brought a heroic cast to the music, and the recording remains a classic.
Mr. Vickersf first performances at the Metropolitan Opera came in early 1960, singing Canio in Leoncavallofs PAGLIACCI, Florestan in Beethovenfs FIDELIO and Siegmund in Wagnerfs WALKÜRE, all within two months. It was on the Met stage in 1967 that Mr. Vickers introduced what many consider his greatest achievement, the title role of Brittenfs PETER GRIMES, conducted by Mr. Davis and directed by Tyrone Guthrie. Working with a libretto by Montagu Slater, Britten conceived the title role of the loner fisherman in an English village for his lifelong partner, the tenor Peter Pears, who gave the first performance in London in 1945. With his ethereal voice, Pears portrayed the fisherman as an alienated dreamer, a misfit in a narrow-minded town. While yearning to be accepted, Grimes takes out his thwarted anger on homeless boys who are drafted into work as his apprentices. Britten described the opera as depicting the struggle of an individual against the masses. But many see Grimesf persecution as a metaphor for the oppression of homosexuals. Mr. Vickers, who was, as many of his colleagues recounted, quite homophobic, could not abide such an interpretation. For him [the role of] Peter Grimes was a study in the epsychology of human rejectionf, a view shared by Mr. Davis and Guthrie. With his powerful heldentenor voice, Mr. Vickers revealed the danger within the twisted psyche of the ostracized fisherman. His Grimes was one moment lost in reverie, the next exploding with brutality. His bleakly poignant portrayal and fearsome singing altered the public perception of the role. Though they did not like to voice their attitudes publicly, Britten and Pears were dismayed by Mr. Vickersf Grimes. But they could not argue with success. Companies around the world mounted productions of PETER GRIMES for Mr. Vickers.
He sang more than 280 total performances at the Met, including the company premiere of LES TROYENS in 1973, and the title roles of Verdifs OTELLO and Wagnerfs PARSIFAL. For years Mr. Vickers resisted the role of Wagnerfs Tristan, to the frustration of Birgit Nilsson, the great Isolde of her day, who had been searching for a powerhouse tenor who could match her in the opera. Mr. Vickers finally came through in Buenos Aires in 1971, singing Tristan to Ms. Nilssonfs Isolde. It was a triumph. They went on to sing it many times, though not as often as Ms. Nilsson had hoped. eI told him at the time that I waited and waited for my Tristan for 14 yearsf, Ms. Nilsson told THE NEW YORK TIMES, eas long as Jacob waited for Rachel in the Biblef. He sang the role just twice at the Met, and only one of those was with Ms. Nilsson, on 30 Jan., 1974.
Mr. Vickers lived in Toronto at the start of his career and then settled in London before returning to Canada and buying a farm about an hourfs drive from Toronto. After his retirement in 1988 he gave occasional master classes but mostly kept a low profile. He once touched on the impetus of his artistry in a graduation address in 1969 at the Royal Academy of Music in Toronto. eI sang because I had tof, he said. Singing, he explained, was ean absolute necessity, fulfilling some kind of emotional and even perhaps physical need in mef.h
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 12 July, 2015
gOne 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 début came in 1936, at the Leipzig Opera; this performance of Lortzing's DER WILDSCHÜTZ was so successful that the Leipzig Opera hired him as a répétiteur. 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 début 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 Zürich 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.h
- James Reel, Rovi