OP3439. FAUST (in German), w.Bruno Seidler-Winkler Cond. Court Opera Berlin Ensemble; Emmy Destinn, Karl Jörn, Paul Knüpfer, Desider Zádor, Ida von Scheele-Müller, etc.; EMMY DESTINN: Arias from Il Trovatore, Aida, Madama Butterfly, Mignon, Hubicka, Dalibor, Der Fliegende Holländer, Lohengrin & Tannhäuser - recorded 1906-09. 2-Marston 52074, recorded 1908. - 638335200743
“It was a bold venture for the Berlin branch of the Gramophone Company to record FAUST, CARMEN, and an all-star DIE FLEDERMAUS in 1908 with leading singers of the Berlin Opera. Records were expensive and few people could have afforded a complete FAUST on thirty-four sides. It is fascinating to hear a complete opera with a legendary star such as Destinn; would that the London and New York branches had invested in similar generous offerings by Melba, Calvé, or Tetrazzini! Featuring Emmy Destinn as Margarethe, this recording has come to be known as the ‘Emmy Destinn’ FAUST.
On the recommendation of the conductor Karl Muck, Cosima Wagner invited Destinn to create Senta in the first Bayreuth performances of DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER (22 July, 1901). Her triumph could not but increase her prestige - and she was only twenty-three years old! She returned in 1902 to repeat her Senta, after which the conductor Felix Mottl invited her to do regular guest performances at Munich. Richard Strauss told her that he had composed SALOME with her voice in mind, after having been impressed by her singing in FEUERSNOT, and was surprised when she initially refused to sing the first Berlin performances of the new opera. In the end she allowed herself to be persuaded, and enjoyed another great triumph (5 December 1906). She sang Salome twelve times in Berlin, with further performances at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, in 1907. Interestingly, she then dropped Salome from her repertoire, saying that the Strauss roles made her voice too heavy for lighter parts. Strauss wanted her to create Ariadne, but when she made it a condition that there should be a part in the opera for her lover, Dinh Gilly, Strauss explained that there was no role for a star baritone in ARIADNE AUF NAXOS, but offered the couple three performances of SALOME at Stuttgart. When Destinn learned that these performances would have to be on three consecutive nights, she turned down the offer; Maria Jeritza created Ariadne.
Like Lilli Lehmann before her, Destinn heard the siren call of the Metropolitan, but had the greatest difficulty in persuading the management in Berlin to release her for long enough to take part in the New York seasons. Her Met debut finally took place on 16 November 1908, as Aida, with Homer, Caruso, Scotti, and Didur, conducted by Toscanini. She returned every season until 1915–1916. In the pages of THE NEW YORK TIMES Richard Aldrich welcomed her: ‘Mme. Destinn … has a voice of great power, body, and vibrant quality, dramatic in expression, flexible and wholly subservient to her intentions, which are those of a singer of keen musical feeling and intelligence. She showed the possession of strong dramatic gifts. She was a most interesting figure in the performance, and what she did may well have aroused a lively expectation of what she has in store for frequenters of the Opera House this season’. Unfortunately, Destinn found such well-established prime donne as Eames, Gadski, Fremstad, and Farrar rather difficult to dislodge. Farrar, in particular, had almost a monopoly of Tosca and Cio-Cio-San, so Destinn never managed to chalk up as many performances of these Puccini roles as she did in London. On the other hand, she created LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST with Caruso and Amato in 1910, singing in a total of twenty-four performances of this work between 1910 and 1914. Of her Minnie, Aldrich wrote: ‘Mme. Destinn was singularly delicious as Minnie.… She acted the part with great energy and sincerity, and her singing of the music, which is very well adapted to her, was of splendid power and expressiveness’. Her Aida, too, was not seriously challenged (fifty-two performances in the house and on tour!). After the Caruso-Destinn opening night of AIDA in 1908, the spectacular soprano-tenor combination was also featured in the opening nights of 1909 (LA GIOCONDA), 1911 (AIDA), 1913 (LA GIOCONDA) and 1914 (UN BALLO IN MASCHERA). Her musicianship made her invaluable to the Metropolitan for revivals of less familiar works, so in her first season she sang in the first American performances of TIEFLAND, LA WALLY, and THE BARTERED BRIDE, besides appearing as Santuzza, Nedda, Eva in DIE MEISTERSINGER, Butterfly, and Mistress Ford in FALSTAFF. She sang in a gala performance, a miscellaneous concert, and in the VERDI REQUIEM. This pattern, amounting to about thirty-two performances, would be repeated each season. At the Metropolitan she also sang in DER FREISCHÜTZ, GERMANIA, LES HUGUENOTS, LOHENGRIN, THE QUEEN OF SPADES, TANNHÄUSER, IL TROVATORE, DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE, and one performance only as Gerhilde in DIE WALKÜRE, one of her Berlin roles. In the 1915–1916 season, after singing only six performances, she hurriedly returned to Europe to be with Dinh Gilly, who could not get to America; the Austrian authorities confined her to her castle for the duration of the war. Considering herself to have been penalized for her Czech-nationalist sympathies, when she returned to New York and London in 1919 she ‘nationalized’ her own (already borrowed) name to Ema Destinová. On 8 December 1919 she returned to the Metropolitan for three performances only, in her ‘own’ role of Aida - though now she was sharing it with Claudia Muzio - appearing also as Santuzza. In the 1920–1921 season, her last, she sang Santuzza and Nedda with Caruso once more, Tosca with Gigli, and Verdi’s REQUIEM, also deigning to sing in one Sunday evening concert, her first since 1908. Over the years she had sung 247 performances with the Metropolitan, in twenty-two roles.
Although Marguerite was one of the first parts that the young Emmy Destinn studied, she did not sing it so often as Carmen. She demonstrates complete command of all aspects of this complex role, which begins lightly, requiring flawless lyrical singing with some bursts of coloratura in the Jewel Song, and graduates into full-blooded dramatic singing in Marguerite’s last two scenes. Destinn and Jörn, in particular, introduce changes and variants that must belong to a now lost German performing tradition, unknown to singers and audiences at Covent Garden and the Metropolitan, unless Lilli Lehmann and Max Alvary sang the music this way in the uncut German performances at the Met in the 1880s.
Jörn declaims Faust’s opening soliloquy and air with intense dramatic fervor and brilliant tone….When they come to the vision of Marguerite at her spinning wheel, ‘Ô merveille’, Jörn sings the orchestral melody instead of the few phrases of recitative found in the score, rising to a splendid high B natural. His high notes are those of a virtuoso tenor, taken in a mixed voice, always brilliant, and he can swell or diminish them at will….Jörn offers a polished rendering of ‘Salut! demeure chaste et pure’, with good legato and a splendid, if hardly spontaneous high C; he decorates the aria with a few turns and appoggiature. Destinn phrases the arias exactly like the Gounod pupils (Patti, Melba, Eames, and Adams) but also introduces some embellishments unknown to those ladies. Both singers perform attractively and eloquently and Jörn finds a lovely head voice piano for ‘Éternelle!’. In her concluding solo ‘Il m‘aime!’ Destinn sings splendidly in the kind of ecstatic, impulsive music that suits and inspires her, with some soft touches and some thrillingly expansive moments, and a good high C, even though, like many another great singer of the period, she has not yet realized that what is effective on stage cannot always be successfully reproduced on the gramophone. In the final scene of Act Five, Destinn and Jörn are very fine: she phrases ‘Oui, c’est toi, je t’aime’ beautifully, but he is even more touching when he repeats the phrase. I find Destinn’s singing of the reminiscence of the Waltz, ‘Attends! Voici la rue’, quite memorable in its heartfelt simplicity. Then comes another surprise, for Marguerite sings some softly dreaming phrases, not to be found in my scores, while the orchestra plays the reprise of ‘Je veux t’aimer’. In the final Trio both Destinn and Jörn are in top form. The last repeat of the melody gains immeasurably (despite the cut) from the conductor’s observing Gounod’s instruction: ' molto maestoso e grandioso'. Jörn offers a sound interpretation with moments of distinguished singing. The excellent tenor, in 1914, sang in the first Berlin performances of PARSIFAL at the Deutsches Opernhaus. He then returned to America and took American citizenship. When Johanna Gadski returned to America with her German Opera Company in 1929 she looked up Jörn and persuaded him to try a comeback. He enjoyed a phenomenal success and added Tristan to his repertoire. He dedicated his last years to teaching in New York and Denver, and died in Denver in 1947.
The famous bass Paul Knüpfer made his debut at Sondershausen in 1884 and was contracted to the Leipzig theater from 1888-1898, after which he spent the rest of his career at the Berlin Hofoper. Knüpfer’s performance of Mephistopheles in the complete FAUST is that of a charismatic star singer a little past his best. He was forty-three at the time of this recording but sounds older: so, too, does thirty-five-year-old Desider Zádor, another victim of the répétiteur Julius Kniese at Bayreuth.
We have included a few of Emmy Destinn’s Berlin recordings, which show something of the lovely quality of her voice, her temperament, her versatility, and her technical control of her voice before any decline began to set in. A group of recordings from LOHENGRIN also finds her at her very best. Elsa’s Dream gives a good impression of her voice, floating dreamily in the first half, ringing out excitedly in the martial declamation of the second. Her very first phrase, ‘Einsam in trüben Tagen’, is deliciously poised on the breath. Elsa’s song to the breezes, ‘Euch Lüften, die mein Klagen’ is a great record, with a lovely legato and gracefully turned phrasing. Her enunciation of German has nothing of the harshness of Bayreuth: her consonants are clear and limpid, never exaggerated, and she never indulges in a glottal stop. In this record she produces her F, fifth line, in various different mixtures of register; when she sings it pianissimo it is particularly successful, especially on the attack of the last phrase, ‘In Liebe. This is virtuoso singing of a high order….’Dich teure Halle’ is another precious example of the Destinn impact.
It is rather surprising that there should exist so many good performances on record of that particularly demanding aria, ‘D’amor sull’ali rosee’ from IL TROVATORE, from Siems and Gadski to Raisa, Ponselle, and Arangi-Lombardi, from Turner and Amerighi-Rutili to Callas, Caballé, and Sutherland. Destinn joins the ranks of these virtuose with her stunning performance in German on an Odeon record of 1908, displaying a considerable grounding in the requirements of bel canto: her voice floats on the breath, she has an easy command of high notes (up to the D-flat) both soft and loud, and a clearly defined and elegantly turned trill."
- Michael Aspinall, Program Notes