OP2985. DIE WALKÜRE, Live Performance, (Re-creation of the 18 December 1937 broadcast), w.Artur Bodanzky Cond.Met Opera Ensemble; Kirsten Flagstad (Sieglinde), Marjorie Lawrence (Brünnhilde), Kerstin Thorborg (Fricka), Lauritz Melchior (Siegmund), Friedrich Schorr (Wotan), Emanuel List (Hunding), etc.; DIE WALKÜRE: Act I, Scene 3 – Excerpts, w.Leinsdorf Cond. Melchior & Lawrence. (Canada) 3-Immortal Performances IPCD 1046, incl.commentary by Milton Cross. Transfers by Richard Caniell; Notes by Dewey Faulkner. - 748252293046
“Given the almost knee-jerk reaction to Flagstad among critics as ‘matronly’, many will be surprised at the femininity of her Sieglinde. Her voice positively glows, and she and Melchior are a thrilling pair…It is true that Flagstad lacks the ability or willingness to inflect with the kind of specificity that was a Lehmann specialty. But this Sieglinde makes her impact through, as Caniell himself puts it, floods of glorious tone.
(The booklet’s annotator) Dewey Faulkner points out the thrilling singing she does [in 1940, as Brünnhilde] in the opening war cries, and in so much else of her singing. She had both the low and high notes required by the role, a voice of glowing beauty, and a keen dramatic sense as well. Her Brünnhilde is somewhat more human and more vulnerable than many we have encountered, and it is a complex and convincing portrayal.
Schorr was the Wotan of his day for a reason, and it is demonstrated here by both his ability to characterize with tone color and his ability to sing the music both beautifully and forcefully at the same time. The interchanges between Schorr and Lawrence never feel like merely great Wagnerian singing, but actually engage us as real music drama. The sound after the first act gets progressively better, and in much of Acts II and III is actually quite good, and far superior to any prior versions. The voices and the orchestra really come to life in this transfer….While the base for the performance is the 18 December, 1937 Met broadcast of DIE WALKÜRE…producer Richard Caniell had to make [very occasional] replacements from other performances, mostly from the Met in 1935, 1940 and 1946…three quarters of what we hear is conducted by Bodanzky, and the remainder by Leinsdorf (1940 Met) or Paul Breisach (1946 Met).
The bonus excerpts from the 17 Feb., 1940 Met broadcast with Lawrence as Sieglinde and Melchior as Siegmund, Leinsdorf conducting, is a perfect ‘extra’. Immortal Performances includes some commentary by Milton Cross, which of course re-creates the atmosphere of the way so many of us heard these broadcasts….
The usual lavish booklet, with superb essays and photographs, accompanies the discs.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE Nov./ Dec., 2014
"[Lawrence] makes a stunning entrance with the battle cry: her attack is firm, her trills well articulated, the high B excellent, and the treacherous octave leaps (not swoops as so often heard) are as clear and clean as mountain air. All the uncontained joy of the warrior maid is suggested in her knifelike thrusts of brilliantly colored tone."
- Paul Jackson, SATURDAY AFTERNOONS AT THE OLD MET, p.163
“Marjorie Lawrence's career unfortunately lasted only about a decade. She started at the top and stayed there. Born 17 February, 1909 near Melborne, Australia, she responded quickly to her initial training, winning all possible prizes. After this she studied in Paris making her début in 1932 in Monte Carlo as Elisabeth in TANNHÄUSER (with Georges Thill). In 1933 she made a sensational début at the Paris Opéra- Comique as Ortrud in LOHENGRIN, later that season singing Brünnhilde, Salomé in Massenet's HÉRODIADE, Rachel in LA JUIVE, Aïda, and in the world première of Canteloube's long-forgotten VERCINGETORIX. The following year she added Donna Anna, Strauss' Salome and Reyer's Sigurd to her repertory. In 1934 she made her Met début as Brünnhilde in DIE WALKÜRE (with Lauritz Melchior, Friedrich Schorr, Emanuel List and Elisabeth Rethberg) to great acclaim, and in 1938 the Met mounted a new production of Salome for her.
Her career took a tragic turn when it was found she had infantile paralysis. She defied the disease and was able to return to singing as her voice was not affected. In 1942, in a special Met production in which she could be seated throughout the performance, she sang Venus in TANNHÄUSER with Melchior, and later Isolde at the Met as well as in Montréal, and Amneris at the Paris Opéra, while seated. Highly patriotic, she gave many performances for the military, a magnificent example of courage and generosity. She died 10 January, 1979 in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Lauritz Melchior trained with retired Danish tenor Vilhelm Herold. In 1918, now singing as a tenor, Melchior gave his first performance as Tannhäuser. 1924 saw his first performances at Bayreuth (Siegmund, Parsifal), and at Covent Garden (Siegmund), two of the most important theaters of his career. Another crucial debut came in 1926: the Metropolitan Opera, portraying Tannhäuser. The remainder of the 1920s passed by in a whirlwind of newness.
Although in the 1920s Melchior was planning to make Germany the center of his career, the unforeseen Nazification and Great Depression of the early 1930s in fact moved him away from that country's theaters, including ‘Hitler's Bayreuth’. After 1933, the majority of his opera season was spent at the Metropolitan. It was a Dionysiac time for Wagner performance. His only new operatic rôle in the 1930s was Florestan.
Melchior left the Met and the opera after a much publicized kafuffle with incoming General Manager Rudolf Bing, giving his last performance (Lohengrin) in February of 1950."
-Zillah D. Akron