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Thread: Wagner on disc...Tristan and Isolde

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by interestedin View Post
    Flagstad and Melchior never sang together after the war. I don't really remember the details but they probably didn't have the best relationship after Flagstad got little or no support from Melchior (and his wife?) when the lies about her being a Nazi were spread in America after the war....
    Whatever the truth about Flagstad and her husband's relationship with the Nazis, it is foolish to blame Melchior after a Nazi-inspired war in which fifty million people had lost their lives. People tended to think rather differently then not having the luxury of a 70 year time lapse.

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    Senior Member Granate's Avatar
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    Default Wagner Challenge update - Favourite MONO TUI - I

    Winner



    Wagner
    TRISTAN UND ISOLDE WWV 90
    Ludwig Suthaus
    Kirsten Flagstad
    Blanche Thebom
    Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
    Josef Greindl
    Rudolf Schock
    Edgar Evans

    Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
    Philharmonia Orchestra
    Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Warner Classics (1952/2001 Remastered Edition)


    Runner-up



    Wagner
    TRISTAN UND ISOLDE WWV 90 Live recording
    Rudolf Lustig
    Gertrud Grob-Prandl
    Georgine von Milinkovič
    Toni Blankenheim
    Kurt Böhme
    Hugo Meyer-Welfing
    Hans Braun

    Chor und Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper
    André Cluytens
    Walhall (1956/2008 Remastered Edition)


    3rd position



    Wagner
    TRISTAN UND ISOLDE WWV 90 Live recording
    Ramón Vinay
    Martha Mödl
    Ira Malaniuk
    Hans Hotter
    Ludwig Weber
    Gerhard Unger
    Hermann Uhde

    Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele
    Herbert von Karajan
    Orfeo/Walhall (1952, Remastered Edition)


    4th position



    Wagner
    TRISTAN UND ISOLDE WWV 90 Live recording
    Wolfgang Windgassen
    Birgit Nilsson
    Grace Hoffman
    Hans Hotter
    Arnold van Mill
    Hermann Winkler
    Fritz Uhl

    Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele
    Wolfgang Sawallisch
    Walhall (1957/2008 Remastered Edition)


    Followed by Sawallisch Bayreuth 1958 (5th position). Almost no difference.

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  5. #48
    Senior Member Granate's Avatar
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    Default Wagner Challenge update - Favourite MONO TUI - II

    Honourable mentions:

    6th position



    Wagner
    TRISTAN UND ISOLDE WWV 90 Live recording
    Max Lorenz
    Paula Buchner
    Margarete Klose
    Jaro Prohaska
    Ludwig Hofmann
    Erich Zimmermann
    Eugen Fuchs

    Männerchor der Staatsoper Berlin
    Staatskapelle Berlin
    Robert Heger
    Preiser (1943/1995 Issue Edition)


    7th position



    Wagner
    TRISTAN UND ISOLDE WWV 90 Live recording
    Lauritz Melchior
    Kirsten Flagstad
    Kerstin Thorborg
    Julius Huehn
    Ludwig Hofmann
    Hans Clemens
    Arnold Gabor

    Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra
    Artur Bodanzky
    Walhall (1937/2005 Remastered Edition)


    8th position



    Wagner
    TRISTAN UND ISOLDE WWV 90 Live recording
    Set Svanholm
    Astrid Varnay
    Blanche Thebom
    Josef Metternich
    Jerome Hines
    Paul Franke
    James McCracken

    Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra
    Rudolf Kempe
    Walhall (1955/2005 Remastered Edition)


    9th position



    Wagner
    TRISTAN UND ISOLDE WWV 90 Live recording
    Wolfgang Windgassen
    Birgit Nilsson
    Hilde Rössel-Majdan
    Gustav Neidlinger
    Hans Hotter
    Anton Dermota
    Claude Heater

    Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala
    Herbert von Karajan
    Myto (1959/2010 Remastered Edition)


    10th position



    Wagner
    TRISTAN UND ISOLDE WWV 90 Live recording
    Ramón Vinay
    Astrid Varnay
    Ira Malaniuk
    Gustav Neidlinger
    Ludwig Weber
    Gerhard Stolze
    Hasso Eschert

    Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele
    Eugen Jochum
    Andromeda (1953/2010 Remastered Edition)


    Top 11-22
    11: Leinsdorf Met 41
    12: Mehta RAI 72
    13: Knappertsbusch BaySO 50
    14: Reiner Met 50
    15: Böhm WPO 67
    16: Böhm BFO 62
    17: Furtwängler SKB 47
    18: Karajan BPO Salzburg 72
    19: Reiner ROH CG 36
    20: Kleiber (E) BaySO 52
    21: Beecham ROH CG 37
    22: Sabata Scala 51

    Although being a long opera, many TUI performances from the 30s felt even more rushed than a Lohengrin. To take advantage, I also dropped a few OperaDepot in stereo from 1972 like Mehta in Rome and Karajan in the Salzburg premiere of his later acclaimed production with Vickers and Dernesh. However, these weren’t really brilliant vocally and the sound quality of this broadcast was annoying. I can only be thankful for the Mehta free download because the sound is pristine and with no cuts. Every detail of the orchestration is there. The problem is that the famous Böhm 67 recording with DG exists and shows almost the same.

    This time there were a lot of recordings to rate: 22. And, especially through the various Nilsson-Windgassen recordings, it felt really tiring. For the bottom 10, we could go by decades:

    1930s: Flagstad and Melchior are the protagonists. This is troubling because all Markes and Brangänes are mere furniture. They never shine. There are two Covent Garden recordings, the Reiner 1936 for HMV and now remastered by Naxos that is recorded in various live sessions in close microphones, so there is no sense of space or representation. However, there are ways to overcome this issue and Bodanzky in the 1937 matinée broadcast finally does it. The Andromeda remaster of the Covent Garden Beecham recording in that same year feels more natural, but this time I end up missing the clearer voices instead of so much white noise. The culmination of so many duets Flagstad-Melchior is the Erich Leinsdorf broadcast from the Metropolitan in 1941, with more mature singers and better soundscape that enables to appreciate the conducting layers. There are two negative remarks. Leinsdorf’s conducting and a bored (not boring) Melchior. This whole recording lacks excitement in Acts II and III but totally works out in Act I, imposing all the dark layers for Isolde that were missing in the Bodanzky broadcast.

    1940s: This decade is a mixed bag in the years that Flagstad and Melchior stopped singing. More than in the cast, there are more issues in the sound. The Robert Heger 1943 performance in Berlin is the exception. The secondary casts are more able to play a major role. In Berlin 1947, Furtwängler could have given us a great recording, but we’ll never know because to have the proper context in the recording we need Act I. His live recording doesn’t have it. Terrific Act II overture though. Very close in this decade, I needed to skip the 1951 Scala broadcast of Victor de Sabata because it reminded me of those Covent Garden recordings in the 30s.

    1950s: Outside Bayreuth, there are many worthy recordings. However, some of them have something special that only makes me focus in the other flows. The Bayerischen Staatsoper 1950 production with Hans Knappertsbusch is a TUI with Hans Knappertsbusch. Barely anything else. He is the one who lifts everything despite a bland, thin cast. In the same place in 1952, Erich Kleiber is one more of the quite decent team behind this recording. Nothing competitive can come out here. Even stylistically it’s questionable in the singers. The Reiner Metropolitan broadcast in 1950 is quite ordinary with a fine Ramón Vinay, who would later become one of the best Tristans of the decade, probably even above Windgassen. I think that many of his performances are really accurate in the voice tone and strength. We don’t talk now about the extraordinary Wiener Staatsoper broadcast in 1956. Later, later.
    In Bayreuth there are memorable performances, both in the top 10: Karajan and Jochum 52 & 53. In the final reviews there are more details.

    1957-72: The reign of Birgit Nilsson leaves many broadcasts orphan, especially 1959 and 1962 of the commercial releases and some like the two OperaDepot in Vienna 67 and Rome 72. The Vienna recording has Jess Thomas as Tristan and honestly he is the main interest of the recording. The disadvantage of this reign was that once I had listened to the 1957 Bayreuth premiere, with that voice, nothing could go better even if I hoped to.




    Now that the decade sum-up is done, let’s dive into my top 10:

    10th: Eugen Jochum, Bayreuth, 1953

    This recording is not the best one can hope about these singers. The problem I have is essentially that it feels like an eternity. However, Andromeda deserves props for the remaster. The monaural sound helps Jochum. From 1952 we still have Malaniuk’s Brangäne and Vinay’s Tristan, who signs an excellent Act III. Unfortunately, Jochum doesn’t add up anything, and Varnay has a much better performance two years later in the Metropolitan led by Rudolf Kempe.

    9th: Herbert von Karajan, Teatro alla Scala, 1959

    Because this was rejected for the better-recorded Bayreuth premieres, I felt pity for this broadcast. I would say that this sounds like Heavy Metal. I love when the loud parts burst the microphones and make everything explode. It reminds me of Furtwängler. It’s like vintage, emotional, historical.
    The singers are quite similar in quality to Sawallisch 57. I still do not see Hans Hotter at any role in this opera, not even King Marke. And Neidlinger and Windgassen boost up Act III and generally the performance. Never a first choice, but a pleasure to listen.


    8th: Rudolf Kempe, Metropolitan Opera, 1955

    Varnay as Isolde Part II, and the triumphant. Compared to other rivals it's not of my taste, but she delivers the best she can. Act I is lifted up by her unique voice. Almost no one else can do it. Svanholm's Tristan is suitable for the Isolde but generally under her shade, quite fine in Act II but whiny in Act III. Nice.

    7th: Artur Bodanzky, Metropolitan Opera, 1937

    Easily my pick for Flagstad-Melchior. Their most tender performance without boredom. The noise floor exists but it is bearable. This is a matinee Broadcast so the voices are clear, but the most shocking feature is Bodanzky’s fast, intense, never rushed conducting that speeds up the love-making of Act II and creates passion. The secondary cast, Kerstin Thorborg (Brangäne), Julius Huehn (Kurwenal) and Ludwig Hofmann (Marke) have a spot with their great voices. A thrilling, mesmerizing recording from the 30s with fine sound for the age.

    6th: Robert Heger, Berlin, 1943

    I have mixed feelings. I agree with a TC member that Max Lorenz starts to sing it out like he would never perform again and his Tristan is in full suicide mode. It’s beautifully scary. Probably the pitch is too high and the singers, especially Isolde, seem too histrionic. The orchestral sound is exceptional for 1943, with a thrilling Act III overture. Jaro Prohaska also creates a great Kurwenal. Margarete Klose is good as Brangäne, but Paula Buchner’s Isolde seems a bit lost without Lorenz. Act I is generally quite good and Act II is spectacular in the love duet. Not to talk about mentioned suicidal-mode in a mind-blowing Act III. The duet and Tristan's act III are the highlights. Worth having and very few flaws.

    Greatest recordings:

    5th & 4th: Wolfgang Sawallisch, Bayreuth, 1957 & 1958 (I pick 57)

    Two strikingly similar recordings despite their differences in the secondary cast. I would have thanked a different Kurwenal (Saedén) in 1958, but Hans Hotter strangely fit in the performance and did nicely. I could do without 1958 because Nilsson’s Isolde is slightly more refined and less intense. With 1958 out, let’s discuss the (second) performance of the 1957 premiere by Wolfgang Wagner.

    The sound is not what I would expect in 1957. There is a lot less clarity than in the Andromeda Jochum 53. I needed to visit all the Nilsson-Windgassen performances between 1957 and 1967 to find out that this performance is unique, irreplaceable. Two young singers bringing freshness to two big roles. Remember when I said in the studio 1960 recording by Solti that Nilsson sung like in an atonal opera? This time it was slightly the same story. The first Isolde lines are usually annoying, but this young Nilsson magnifies the effect. Eek. Nilsson grows in the opera and from Act II Scene I she is faultless. Incredibly intense. Windgassen is very good as a young Tristan although it can seem that the role is too big for him then. The combination cannot be better and that energy is used by Windgassen in Act III. And Nilsson becomes herself in the Liebestod. Not my pick for the couple, considering mono and stereo competitors, but a worthy listen.


    3rd: Herbert von Karajan, Bayreuth, 1952

    I listened to this from Orfeo, and unfortunately the sound is not ideal. My complaint is that it wasn’t as exciting as many had told. Failed expectations. Also… what is Hans Hotter doing as Kurwenal? I didn’t like at all. However, the conducting and singing has top quality.
    Except for Kurwenal, this recording is not only flawless. This one and Furtwängler are the only two ones that share a sense of art in the product. Vinay is really suitable for Tristan, London for a mourning King Marke, and Malaniuk for a silky and fearlul Brangäne. Mödl has a special quality, she is the star.


    2nd: André Cluytens, Wiener Staatsoper, 1956

    The biggest surprise of the challenge. Except for the decent Rudolf Lustig Tristan, this could not be better sung. The sound quality is beyond words. It sounds better than any recording here, saving Furtwängler in Studio. A lot of string weight, incredible cleanness, wow. This is the Isolde of the long name: Gertrud Grob-Prandl, so I could say GGP, who strangely had a similar voice with Milinkovič’s Brangäne. They both sound like Gundula Janowitz. GGP is amazing and lifts Act I above anything imaginable except my two favourite stereo recordings. In comparison with her, it seems that Rudolf Lustig is saving energy, but Act III shows that it is just a shortcoming. He can only cope with the level in Act III when he is not competing with Isolde. They have a relaxed love duet in Act II and we are delighted with Kurt Böhme’s Marke. All of this, remember, in pristine mono sound. Cluytens should be also congratulated for his conducting, especially during Act III's overture.

    1st: Wilhelm Furtwängler, Philharmonia Orchestra, 1952

    A recording that Sergiu Celibidache would sign. 4h15m. The concept of an extremely long recording is mesmerizing thanks to Furtwängler and the cast. But my complaint is that he seems more enthusiastic in tasting every note of the score than sharing emotions. It sometimes seems like an eternity, especially Act II.

    The sound is way better than Karajan 52, and benefits the Brangäne solo in Act II. They share the uniqueness of the voices and conducting, in very different styles. Here, the cast cannot be beaten. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as a youthful heldenbariton Kurwenal is decisive (remember an elderly Hotter in the same year). He sings like a youthful and imposing, never a soulful Wolfram.

    For the lovers: Flagstad sounds adult, but never matronly. Her voice is suited for Isolde and achieves an intensity that only Nilsson can equal. She is only a bit drowned in Act II and the liebestod is spectacular. And Suthaus leaves apart the Siegfried character and sings in Act III serenely, a term that Lauritz Melchior seemed to ignore in his vocabulary. Suthaus manages to forget boredom in Act III and delivers a contemplative Tristan, flowing with the slow pace. This has never been repeated.




    I think only Furtwängler can make me doubt if my favourite Tristan is Barenboim or Karajan 72. These three, plus Cluytens Vienna and Karajan 52 would be my other two purchases. Those complete my overall top five for this opera.

    I advanced in HWR that I would move forward the Parsifal episode and leave Meistersinger and the Ring for later. I’m currently through my third Parsifal finishing Act I.

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    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    1st: Wilhelm Furtwängler, Philharmonia Orchestra, 1952

    A recording that Sergiu Celibidache would sign. 4h15m. The concept of an extremely long recording is mesmerizing thanks to Furtwängler and the cast. But my complaint is that he seems more enthusiastic in tasting every note of the score than sharing emotions. It sometimes seems like an eternity, especially Act II.

    The sound is way better than Karajan 52, and benefits the Brangäne solo in Act II. They share the uniqueness of the voices and conducting, in very different styles. Here, the cast cannot be beaten. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as a youthful heldenbariton Kurwenal is decisive (remember an elderly Hotter in the same year). He sings like a youthful and imposing, never a soulful Wolfram.
    Did I read somewhere that you have a subscription currently for Pristine XR website, did you compare Pristine to the stock EMI/Warner release? Are you a fan of Pristine XR......

    How many hours a day do you listen to music, that is insane amount of material to cover so fast......

    BTW you have come to the correct conclusion, enter the mighty hall of fallen heroes my son
    Last edited by DarkAngel; Dec-27-2017 at 03:31.

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    Senior Member Granate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
    Did I read somewhere that you have a subscription currently for Pristine XR website, did you compare Pristine to the stock EMI/Warner release? Are you a fan of Pristine XR?
    I don't have it yet. I've been posting several times my intention to pay for one month of Pristine Classical Streaming so I can review the Furtwängler and Krauss Rings, plus the Kempe and Jochum meistersingers. I would have done it in a week, but it happens that I will be more busy within these two weeks for an exhibition I'm organising at University. Because time flies, I cannot allow myself to waste days of a monthly subscritpion. That's why I moved forward Parsifal, because they have a lot of releases and when the exhibition is done I will probably be about to finish that episode too.

    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
    How many hours a day do you listen to music, that is insane amount of material to cover so fast.
    An insane amount of time. It can be quite boring to listen to two TUIs every day while drawing on cardboard and cutting shapes. The Nilsson-Windgassen series was testing my patience.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    There was always an interesting combative relationship between Karajan and Nilsson although they worked together int the theatre on Tristan and Isolde. Christa Ludwig once said that the actually sound Nilsson made ('not particularly rounded') was not Karajan's tipple. And she added: "And as she [Nilsson] had quite a mouth on her, it was never going to be a marriage made in heaven!" Unfortunately John Culshaw chose the (then) inexperienced Solti rather than Karajan to conduct the Decca Tristan with Nilsson.
    Last edited by DavidA; Dec-28-2017 at 22:15.

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    Senior Member Granate's Avatar
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    O don't think the superb (to my ears) Vickers/Dernesch recording would have happened had Karajan been appointed to a Nilsson Isolde + random Tristan in Decca contract. Anyway, not only Fritz Uhl deserved criticism in that frustrated try.

    That was a sweet vengeance by EMI on Decca. My three favourite Tristan und Isoldes interestingly belong to the Warner Classics catalogue (Furtwängler, Karajan and Barenboim).

    In terms of my favourites of the giant rivals, Warner vs Universal, their catalogues are quite balanced:

    DFH (Universal; not even Klemperer EMI)
    Tannhäuser (Warner & Universal)
    Lohengrin (Warner)
    Tristan und Isolde (Warner; Böhm DG is nice enough)
    Meistersinger (Warner + BR)
    Der Ring (Universal; not even Barenboim Teldec; Furtwängler RAI still not rated)
    Parsifal (Universal; I don't get Barenboim Teldec; EMI never really cared)
    Last edited by Granate; Dec-29-2017 at 10:10.

  13. #53
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Granate View Post
    O don't think the superb (to my ears) Vickers/Dernesch recording would have happened had Karajan been appointed to a Nilsson Isolde + random Tristan in Decca contract. Anyway, not only Fritz Uhl deserved criticism in that frustrated try.
    I think HvK probably would have re-recorded it. He did most of his operas for EMI

  14. #54
    Senior Member Granate's Avatar
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    If Tristan was your key character in Tristan und Isolde, which would be your favourite interpretation of the character on CD? Would it be balanced with other great singers?

    I recall plenty of great Isoldes on record, and the two ones I own (W. Meier and M Mödl) are near-definitive, but I sometimes doubt if their strength eclipses their male counterparts (I think 1952 was Vinay's neatest and most intense Tristan, but I missed a bit of energy in the studio with Jerusalem). Also, I sometimes find Vickers odd before Act III, and I don't remember Suthaus' voice at all. Melchior has two favourite recordings of mine: one with energy and very poor sound in 1937 and one with very nice sound and a lot of tireness by his part in 1941. I wish Windgassen ever performed the role with an Isolde different than Brünnilsson, but his 1958 Act III left a great mark on me...

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    Senior Member Barbebleu's Avatar
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    Thanks to Granate's recommended top ten I've added the '37 Bodansky and the '56 Cluytens to my ever expanding list of Tristans. Thanks for that. See you in the madhouse!!

    Btw, I love the idea of Brünnilsson!!
    Last edited by Barbebleu; Jan-17-2019 at 15:05.
    Remember that the lesser of two evils is still evil

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  18. #56
    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Granate View Post
    If Tristan was your key character in Tristan und Isolde, which would be your favourite interpretation of the character on CD?
    It'd probably be Melchior, in one of the live broadcasts with Flagstad.

    I don't remember Suthaus' voice at all
    .
    He really wasn't at his best for the Furtwangler recording. He was seriously overworked after WW2 - I'm guessing that he might have been just about the only legitimate Wagnerian tenor not tainted by association with the Nazi party (according to Wikipedia, he refused to join), unlike, for example, Max Lorenz. Suthaus was in much better voice in a live broadcast (of a concert performance, I think) in Berlin under Furtwangler in 1947. Unfortunately, it's not complete (no Act 1 at all). He's also in pretty good shape on a 1950 recording conducted by Konwitschny, but the rest of the cast isn't particularly good (with the exception of Gottlob Frick's tremendous King Mark). That was the Tristan recording that I imprinted on in high school, since that's the only one that the local library had on the shelf.
    Last edited by wkasimer; Jan-17-2019 at 15:44.

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    Senior Member Barbebleu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wkasimer View Post
    It'd probably be Melchior, in one of the live broadcasts with Flagstad.

    .
    He really wasn't at his best for the Furtwangler recording. He was seriously overworked after WW2 - I'm guessing that he might have been just about the only legitimate Wagnerian tenor not tainted by association with the Nazi party (according to Wikipedia, he refused to join), unlike, for example, Max Lorenz. Suthaus was in much better voice in a live broadcast (of a concert performance, I think) in Berlin under Furtwangler in 1947. Unfortunately, it's not complete (no Act 1 at all). He's also in pretty good shape on a 1950 recording conducted by Konwitschny, but the rest of the cast isn't particularly good (with the exception of Gottlob Frick's tremendous King Mark). That was the Tristan recording that I imprinted on in high school, since that's the only one that the local library had on the shelf.
    Lorenz, of course, had a Jewish wife, so perhaps self-preservation for himself and his wife may have had some bearing on his lifestyle choices in that horribly challenging time.
    Last edited by Barbebleu; Jan-28-2019 at 11:39.
    Remember that the lesser of two evils is still evil

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    Senior Member howlingfantods's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barbebleu View Post
    Lorenz, of course, had a Jewish wife, so perhaps self-preservation for himself and his wife may have had some bearing on his lifestyle choices in that horribly challenging time.
    He was also gay--it's actually a testament to how respected he was as an artist that he survived as the premier heldentenor during the Third Reich considering his sexuality and his attachment to his wife.

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  24. #59
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Granate View Post
    If Tristan was your key character in Tristan und Isolde, which would be your favourite interpretation of the character on CD? Would it be balanced with other great singers?
    I think Both the Tristans on Karajan's very different recordings are really fine - Vickers and Vinay. Modl opposite Vinay strains the ear a bit but is great on characterisation. I just wish Denersch hadn't been ill when she recorded it for Karajan as it might have been even better. As it is she is my favourite Isolde.
    Just a mention of Domingo. Of course he never sung it on stage but I have a recording of the love duet Wagner made for concert opposite Voigt. People have cavilled at his German but he sings mighty fine!

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    Senior Member Barbebleu's Avatar
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    Now that I would love to have seen, Wagner singing the love duet opposite Voigt!! Although I would have thought his German would have been ok, even for a Saxon.
    Remember that the lesser of two evils is still evil

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