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Collection: Lauritz Melchior - The MGM Recordings (1946-47): Film Music CD Reviews- January 2001

January 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Collection: Lauritz Melchior
The MGM Recordings (1946-47)  
  ROMphone 82019-2   [78 mins]
 Amazon US

Der lenz. Without a song. For you alone. Dein ist mein ganzes Herz (Lehár). I det frie (Danish Children's Song. Agnus Dei (Bizet). Easy to love (Porter). Stille nacht. Cantique de Noël (Adams). The rosary (Nevin). Ave Maria (Bach-Gounod). The kiss in your eyes (Heuberger). Spring came back to Vienna (Rotter). Kaiserwalzer (J. Strauss II). Torna a Surriento. The song is you (Kern). Summer moon (Stravinsky. arr. Klenner). Mattinata. Who is Sylvia? (Schubert). O promise me (from Robin Hood). I love you truly (Bond). All mein Gedanken. Recondita armonia. E lucevan le stelle (Puccini) Vesti la giubba. No.Pagliaccio non son! (Leoncavallo). Helan går (Swedish Drinking Song).  

Lauritz Melchior (1890-1973) the Danish singer was one of the most famous Wagnerian Heldentenors, singing Tristan over 200 times and appearing often as Siegfried, Lohengrin, Siegmund and Parsifal. He sang with a model legato and a feel for the shape and direction of a phrase and an equalised scale that was the envy of many a bel canto singer. His energy and projection were formidable.

At the same time he had a great sense of humour and while he was in America he began to mimic Frank Sinatra which led to some good humoured banter between the two singers -- and to both radio stations and film studios taking an interest in the lighter side of the Melchior talent.

In the 1930s and 1940s the Hollywood studios, particularly MGM, took a rather inverted snobbish interest in the world of opera and would include stars of the opera and operatic arias in otherwise light-hearted musicals (or in films with a specific operatic orientation such as The Great Caruso) with varying degrees of success. Thus it was that the MGM recording company recorded, over five sessions in 1946-7, the two dozen or so numbers on this album as an extension of Melchior's appearances in five MGM movies.

Now there is always negative comment about operatic singers taking on show numbers. I remember Kiri Te Kanawa being criticised as too powerful and too old for her role in the DG recording of West Side Story. I was one of the dissenting voices. I feel the same applies here in respect of some of the numbers - especially, Melchior's renderings of Cole Porter's 'Easy to love' and Jerome Kern's 'The Song is You'. Melchior's voice tends to overwhelm. This may be acceptable, on one level, in the opera house where a certain bombast is expected in romantic arias, but it does not fit comfortably in the context of musical comedy where a sense of intimacy is demanded for songs like the two I have mentioned. That intimacy, in this smaller context, is, in a sense, synonymous with sincerity -- and that seems to be drained by the power of Melchior's voice (and his thick foreign accent). On the other hand Melchior is much more at home in his arias from Tosca and Pagliacci and songs from the operettas like 'The Kiss in Your Eyes' (Im chambre séparée) from Heuberger's Der Opernball and Leoncavallo's exuberant 'Mattinata'.

The 12-page booklet has some interesting notes about Melchior's career, and there are many photographs taken during his Hollywood years. He is shown with Frank Sinatra, Esther Williams, Jimmy Durante and Helen Traubel.

Something of a mixed bag - probably for dedicated Melchior fans only

Ian Lace


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