Maggie Teyte - The 1948 Town Hall Recital  (VAIA 1063)
Item# V0493
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Maggie Teyte - The 1948 Town Hall Recital  (VAIA 1063)
V0493. MAGGIE TEYTE, w.John Ranck & George Reeves (Pfs.): The 1948 Town Hall Recital, incl. Les Illuminations (Britten), plus extended excerpts from Pelléas et Mélisande; also featuring Unpublished recordings, incl. excerpts from Strauss' Salome. VAIA 1063. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 089948106326


“The recorded legacy of Dame Maggie Teyte, the 'Steel Butterfly' soprano from Scotland who conquered American and European audiences in opera and art song, has been miserably served on compact disc. One can only hope that EMI will soon reissue the Teyte treasures residing in its vaults, especially her Debussy songs with pianist Alfred Cortot. Meanwhile, this VAI issue, most of its contents drawn from a 1948 recital in New York's Town Hall, will suffice.

With the Chicago Opera, Teyte sang her signature role of Mélisande over nine notable seasons, from 1910 until 1931. (She studied the part with Debussy himself.) And it is the excerpts from PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE, presented here with Teyte singing all the roles (even Arkel), that are the best reason for buying the VAI disc. Her Debussy makes clear why Teyte's vocalism with its radiant, high-placed voice of crystalline purity, limpid French diction and exquisite style-won all hearts wherever she appeared.

Brief excerpts from SALOME, recorded privately in 1935, bring a far more slender soprano to the role than one hears these days, although the instrument was close to Strauss' ideal. (He had sought Elisabeth Schumann for the title role.)

Britten's LES ILLUMINATIONS, taped at the same 1948 recital that includes the PELLÉAS scenes, affords further insights into Teyte's art. Ward Marston's transfers are up to his usual high standard, making the disc a ‘must-acquire’ for admirers of this irreplaceable singer.”

John von Rhein, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 14 Aug., 1994

“Dame Maggie Teyte became a pupil of the celebrated tenor Jean de Reszke who had given up his career in 1900 to teach. In March 1906, she made her debut in a series of Mozart concerts conducted by Reynaldo Hahn and in 1907 became a member of the Paris Opéra-Comique. After a few small parts, she was cast as Mélisande, replacing the celebrated originator of the role, Mary Garden. To prepare for PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE, Teyte was sent to study with Debussy himself, every day for six months! By reputation he was a terror and a martinet, but according to Teyte, he rarely corrected her; in fact he hardly spoke to her at all (!). ‘It was Bonjour, Monsieur Debussy and Bonsoir, Monsieur Debussy’, she later recalled. Clearly he appreciated her talents, both the natural beauty of her voice and her instinctive interpretation of his music. In 1910, she conquered London audiences with her portrayals of Cherubino in NOZZE, Blonde in ENTFÜHRUNG, and Mélisande, all under the baton of Sir Thomas Beecham. When Sir Paolo Tosti was asked his impression of the young soprano, he replied, ‘she is the only singer today who can sing’. Rare praise in an era when Melba and Caruso were still in their prime!

Despite her early successes, Teyte had a difficult time finding a place for herself in the main opera houses of the world. She developed a following in Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia, and sang in America through the end of World War I, but did not appear in New York. She married in 1921 and went into a period of semi-retirement. Upon the disruption of her marriage in the early 1930s, Teyte faced difficulties of resuming her career after an absence of nearly a decade. An Australian tour was a financial fiasco. Twice she attempted an American comeback, but managers, though kind and sympathetic, were reluctant to hire her. It seemed that the public had forgotten her. At some point in the mid-thirties, it was proposed that Maggie Teyte sing Salome with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. The project never became a reality, but Teyte privately recorded four excerpts from the opera with the noted pianist George Reeves at the keyboard. Judging by these recordings, Teyte would have made a formidable Salome, perhaps the closest to Strauss’ ideal (the composer’s unrealized fantasy was to hear the slender-voiced Elisabeth Schumann in the title role).

Unfortunately, we have too few recordings of this superb singer. Most of her recordings were made when she was over 50 years old. What a loss that such a voice and interpreter was not captured on record at the previous decade. Her voice is of exquisite purity, perfect placement, there is spontaneity and distinction. Hers is a voice of a ‘femme fragile’, perfectly adapted for French mélodies. She had a conscientious and painstaking approach to the art of interpretation. There was hardly a bar of music not heavily scored: vowel sounds, dynamic and expressive nuances, all were noted, and vertical pencil lines divided each bar into beats, so that every of the groupings of short time-values was exact and also exactly in place. Maggie Teyte’s recordings are indispensable for lovers of French music.”

- Edward Blickstein