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Lotte Lehmann in Opera: Volume One - 1916–1921
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
1. Ozean du Ungeheuer [7 :59]
2. Der Freischütz: Act 2 Wie nahte mir der Schlummer...Alles pflegt
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 -
Le Nozze di Figaro
3. Act 2 Porgi amor [3:59]
4. Act 3 Crudel, perchè finora [3:07]
5. Act 4 Deh vieni, non tardar [3 :52]
6. Act 1 La ci darem [3:05]
7. Act 1 Nun eilt herbei...Ha, ha, ha, er wird mir glauben [6:49]
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)
8. Act 1 Connais-tu le pays? [3 :45]
9. Act 2 Elle est là près de lui [4 :03]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
10. Act 2 Dich teure Halle [3:41]
11. Act 3 Allmacht'ge Jungfrau [3:58]
12. Act 2 Du armste kannst [4:08]
13. Act 1 Der Männer Sippe [4.00]
14. Act 2 Gut'n Abend, Meister!...Doch starb eure Frau [8:50]
15. Act 3 O Sachs, mein Freund [2:26]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY
16. Act 1 Letter Scene [3:34]
[all sung in German]
Lotte Lehmann (soprano)
rec. 1916- 1921
NIMBUS PRIMA VOCE NI7873 [75:76]
Lotte Lehmann was the premier lyric-dramatic soprano of her
age. She did not sing the heaviest Wagnerian roles, making only
one recording of the Liebestod and leaving Brünnhilde
and Isolde to the foremost dramatic soprano Frida Leider, her
compatriot and exact coeval. Both were born in 1888, enjoying
long careers and long lives, Lehamnn dying in 1975 and Leider
a year later. Lehmann excelled rather as Sieglinde, Eva, Elsa
and Elisabeth, all of which roles are represented on this disc.
Although she sang until 1951, these recordings are from her
earlier years and find her in freshest, most youthful and flexible
voice. Probably her most famous recordings are of Acts One and
Two of ”Die Walküre” made mostly in Vienna in 1935 and completed
in Berlin in 1938 with Lauritz Melchior as Siegmund and Bruno
Walter conducting; I urge any Wagnerian unfamiliar with those
most thrilling of accounts to acquire them forthwith. They are
in considerably better, electronic sound than the primitive
acoustic recordings here and give an even better idea of the
splendour of Lehmann’s voice.
For it must be said that wonderful though these early recordings
are, you have to be a voice-fancier who is tolerant of the poor
sound quality here, typical of its era. The sources have been
well cleaned up by Nimbus and presented in their customary fashion
with some space around the voice and with the orchestra remaining
fairly distant. The latter is par for the course and not a criticism;
there is only so much which can be done by playing the originals
on the equipment for which they were designed and providing
some extra warmth deriving from the acoustic of the room. The
accompaniments are as clear as one could reasonably hope.
But that voice! From the depth of the lower register to the
ringing top C, it is a beautifully smooth and integrated instrument.
Variety of tone and differentiation of character are sometimes
wanting, but the security of Lehmann’s vocalisation is a marvel.
She is remarkably versatile, retaining the delicacy necessary
for Mozart in which she is ably partnered by the elegant Schlusnus.
No matter what she is singing, she maintains exceptional steadiness
and purity of line, her voice often taking on the almost disembodied,
instrumental quality so common to singers of her era and rather
at odds with more modern ideas of vocal production.
Everything here is sung in German as was the custom then, so
the items from Mignon and the Mozart operas take a bit of getting
used to, whereas listening to the Wagner arias is like coming
home to the ideal realisation. Some fleeting and rare intonation
lapses at the start of ”Connais-tu le pays?” prove that Lehmann
is mortal. The longest track here is the result of combining
two Polydor matrices to give us an extended duet between Eva
and a Sachs sung by Michael Bohnen who gives us a relaxed, genial,
smoothly vocalised portrayal of the cobbler, complete with avuncular
chuckles. One especially regrets the remoteness of the orchestra
here, but the voices emerge cleanly.
While vivid characterisation might not always be Lehmann’s strength,
she creates a touching and youthful Tatyana in the concluding
track, making telling use of portamento and that trenchant lower
register in contrast to the bell-like top notes.