V1441. LAURITZ MELCHIOR, w.Helena Scott, Ralph Herbert, Hope Holiday & William Chapman; Guy Lombardo Cond.: Arabian Nights (A Musical Extravaganza) (Carmen Lombardo & John Jacob Loeb). (England) Sepia 1116, recorded 13 June, 1954, American Decca. - 5055122111160
“When, in 1954, Melchior broke his vow never to do a musical comedy, there were extenuating circumstances….The part he was offered was the Sultan of Baghdad in Guy Lombardo’s lavish production of Arabian Nights in the open-air Marine Theater of Jones Beach on Long Island. Yes, the part was larger than life and appealed to his sense of drama….then there was the entrance on an elephant and the harem of beautiful dancing girls.”
- Shirlee Emmons, TRISTANISSIMO, p.281
“Lauritz Melchior, the Heldentenor, was born in Copenhagen, Denmark on 20 March, 1890. His childhood was full of amateur performing, and he was a boy soprano in the choir of Copenhagen's Anglican church. He made his début as a member of the Royal Danish Opera in the rôle of Silvio (PAGLIACCI) in 1913, after instruction with Poul Bang and others. 1913 was also the year of his first phonograph recordings. His performances for Royal Danish Opera over the next four years consisted of smaller baritone and even bass rôles.
In 1917 he trained with retired Danish tenor Vilhelm Herold. In 1918, now singing as a tenor, Melchior gave his first performance as Tannhäuser. He left Denmark for England in 1920. In England he tested new rôles through concert singing-as a regular at Sir Henry Wood's 'Proms'-while training with Victor Beigel. He performed regularly between 1922 and 1923, mainly in England, in concerts however, not in the opera. Moving to Germany in 1922, he studied with retired Wagnerian soprano Anna Bahr Mildenburg in Munich, and Ernst Grenzebach in Berlin.
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. He débuted Wagnerian rôles with which he would become most associated internationally, such as Siegfried and Tristan, along with Italian and French rôles he would not.
In the mid to late 1920s, his performances were divided between Berlin's two opera houses, the Städtische and the Staatsoper, and the Hamburg Staatsoper, in addition to the aforementioned Covent Garden, Bayreuth, and the Met. Perhaps the most important German theatre as far as his career was concerned (excepting Bayreuth) during the late 1920s was the Hamburg Staatsoper, as here occurred his first Lohengrin and Otello.
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's European opera career ended at Copenhagen's Royal Opera, where it had begun, shortly after the outbreak of World War Two, 1939. Melchior spent World War II in the United States, where his operatic performances were confined to the Met, with visits to San Francisco (début, 1934) and Buenos Aires (début, 1931). Melchior appeared in four Joe Pasternak-produced Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musicals between 1944 and 1948. Coincidental with his foray into Hollywood were his guest appearances on radio shows which began during World War II; his appearances on the radio paired him with almost all popular singers and comedians of the time. After the war he eased up on opera performances. He turned increasingly to concertizing across America, in big cities and small. He became an American citizen in 1947.
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. His final movie rôle was in Paramount's The Stars are Singing (1953). Intense concertizing, which included everything from joint Wagner concerts with soprano Helen Traubel to two summers in bandleader Guy Lombardo's musical comedy, ARABIAN NIGHTS, continued until early 1956, when Melchior, at 65 year old, more or less retired. He continued to give periodic charity concerts and make television and radio appearances, such as a 1960 Danmarks Radio performance of DIE WALKURE (Act I) to mark his 70th birthday. For a good part of the 1960s, Melchior worked to start a ‘Lauritz Melchior Heldentenor Competition’, finally established through Juilliard in 1969.”
- Zillah Dorset Akron