OP2580. GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG, Live Performance, 2 March, 1957, w.Stiedry Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Margaret Harshaw, Hermann Uhde, Wolfgang Windgassen, Jean Madeira, Kurt Böhme, Marianne Schech, Lawrence Davidson, etc. (E.U.) 3-Walhall 0366. - 4035122653663
“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
“Margaret Harshaw, an American soprano and mezzo-soprano who was best known as a Wagnerian singer but whose performances in Mozart and Verdi operas were also highly regarded, sang at the Metropolitan Opera for 22 seasons, from November 1942, when she made her debut as the Second Norn in DIE GOTTERDAMMERUNG until March 1964, when she gave her final performance as Ortud in LOHENGRIN. Because she spent the first nine years of her Met career as a mezzo-soprano and then switched to soprano roles, she sang more Wagner roles than any other singer in the Met's history. These include 14 roles in the RING operas, in which she began as a Rhinemaiden and eventually sang all three Brunnhildes, as well as both Senta and Mary (in the same season) in DIE FLIEGENDE HOLLANDER, Isolde in TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, Magdalene in DIE MEISTERSINGER, Kundry in PARSIFAL and Elisabeth and Venus in TANNHAUSER.
A series of competition victories in the early 1930s led to performances in Philadelphia, Washington and New York, all before she enrolled at the Juilliard Graduate School to begin her formal studies with Anna Schoen-Rene in 1936. In March 1942, Miss Harshaw won the Metropolitan Opera's Auditions of the Air, and she began her career at the house at the start of the next season. In 1950 Rudolf Bing, the Met's general manager, was looking for a dramatic soprano to succeed Helen Traubel, particularly in Wagner roles, and persuaded Ms. Harshaw to switch to the higher range. She did so with notable success: her recordings as a soprano show her to have a clear timbre and considerable power. All told, she sang 375 performances of 39 roles in 25 works at the house and was heard in 40 of the Met's weekly live broadcasts.
Ms. Harshaw also sang at Covent Garden, Glyndebourne, the San Francisco Opera, the Paris Opera and with companies in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, New Orleans, San Antonio, Pittsburgh and Houston. She also made several Latin American tours and was a soloist with many of the major American orchestras.
In 1962, Miss Harshaw became a professor of voice at Indiana University, where she taught until 1993.”
- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 11 Nov., 1997
“Two portrayals warrant greater approbation. Madeira this season moves up from the First Norn to Waltraute. Her voice is in peak condition and admirably employed: the tone is large, solid, smooth, and unbesmirched by vulgarities. Her imposing reading of the narrative is dramatically vivid, a high point of the performance. Gunther’s rôle is merely functional, but Uhde, the masterful interpretor, is a force in the unfolding drama….Uhde’s performance affirms that interpretive insight and convincing communication can be more powerful assets than innate vocal gifts might provide….though blessed with musical intelligence and reliable vocal technique, Harshaw has not been favored by nature with either adequate tonal mass or the enveloping timbre [her rôle requires]….Windgassen more than capably upholds his end of the enterprise….the overall quality of his portrayal deserves respect.”
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, p.215
"Born Jean Browning in Central Illinois, this contralto established for herself a singular identity among singers of the deepest, darkest roles for female voice. Tall and strikingly attractive, she possessed both the physical and vocal allure for Carmen and created a riveting portrait of Klytemnestra, both addled and imperious. The later role, perhaps the one with which she was most closely identified, was captured on disc in both studio (with Bohm) and on-stage at Salzburg (with Mitropoulos). Her RHEINGOLD Erda in Solti's RING was likewise striking, voiced with steady, earth-deep tones, a sound once likened to 'gleaming anthracite'."
Browning's father, half American Indian, half English, was a coal miner; her mother taught piano and soon included her daughter among her pupils. Upon her father's death, Browning moved with her family to St. Louis, where she won a scholarship to the Leo C. Miller School of Music. While a student there, she placed first in a competition whose prize was an appearance with the St. Louis Symphony. Under Vladimir Golschmann's direction, she performed Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto. In 1941, Browning entered the Juilliard School of Music, where she majored in piano, but also pursued singing, making her debut as Nancy in von Flotow's MARTHA in a 1943 Chautauqua Summer Opera production. At Juilliard, she met and subsequently married a piano student, Francis Madeira, who later became conductor of the Rhode Island Philharmonic, a faculty member at Brown University, and occasionally accompanied his wife following her transition to a full-time singing career.
Olga Samaroff urged the young woman in 1946 to concentrate on becoming a professional singer. While still studying voice at Juilliard, Jean Madeira (as she was by then known) began making appearances with such other groups as the (American) San Carlo Opera Company. Gian Carlo Menotti chose her in 1947 to alternate with Marie Powers in the title role of his THE MEDIUM on its European tour. That same year, she was the recipient of the St. Louis Woman of Achievement Award. In 1948, she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera as the First Norn in a performance of DIE GOTTERDAMMERUNG, beginning her steady progress through such roles as Amneris, Azucena, Ulrica, Orfeo, and Dalila. In 1954, she began a series of European appearances taking her to Covent Garden, Stockholm, Munich, and Salzburg.
The fall of 1955 brought Madeira's debut at the Vienna Staatsoper in the role of Carmen, a triumph resulting in 45 curtain calls. When she sang Carmen at the Metropolitan in 1956, critic Irving Kolodin, writing in the Saturday Review, described her as 'an intelligent artist who gives thought to what she undertakes' and noted her effective use of her striking height. He also praised her portrayal by commenting, 'Mostly it was done with a suggestion of youthful suppleness not often seen'.
In addition to her almost 300 Metropolitan performances in some 41 roles, Madeira continued to appear elsewhere in America and Europe, offering her Carmen at Chicago, where critic Claudia Cassidy praised her as 'svelte, darkly beautiful, with a mezzo soprano streaked in burnt umber and edged with a threat', and at Aix-en-Provence. Her authoritative Erda was heard at Munich, London, and Bayreuth. In 1968, she took part in the premiere of Dallapiccola's ULISSE IN BERLIN, creating the role of Circe. She retired in 1971, shortly before her death in 1972."
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“Hermann Uhde’s American mother was a student of the famous baritone Karl Scheidemantel. He was trained as a bass, by Philipp Kraus at the Opera School in Bremen, where he made his début as Titurel (1936). After engagements in Freiburg and Munich he appeared for the first time in baritone rôles at the Deutsches Theater im Haag in 1942. A prisoner-of-war from April 1945 to February 1946, he did not return to the stage until 1947. He subsequently appeared at the opera houses of Hamburg, Vienna and Munich where he became a member of the ensemble. He gained great success in rôles such as Mandryka, Gunther and Telramund, in which he was particularly admired. The artist was regularly invited to the Bayreuth Festival from 1951 to 1960 where he became one of its most important members, appearing as Holländer, Klingsor, Gunther, Donner, Wotan in RHEINGOLD, Telramund and Melot. He was also a guest at the Salzburg Festival and performed a superb Wozzeck at the Met (sung in English!) where he regularly appeared from 1955 to 1961 and again in 1964. He sang at the Grand Opéra Paris as well as at other European opera houses. He created several rôles, including Creon in Orff’s ANTIGONAE, the baritone rôles in Britten’s THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA and Wagner-Régeny’s DAS BERGWERK ZU FALUN. He died of a heart attack during a performance of Niels Viggo Bentzon’s FAUST III, at Copenhagen in 1965.”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile