Great Wagnerian Scenes - Flagstad, Nilsson, et al

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A Glimpse of the Golden Age of Wagnerian Singers

Sep 6, 2006 (Updated Oct 1, 2006)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:4 of the greatest Wagnerian singers in good voice

Cons:Mono sound (tho well captured). Only 6 scenes without Bruennhilde's war cry.

The Bottom Line: If you haven't tried it, there is nothing like waking up to Rysanek's Senta! Best of Wagnerian scenes done by best Wagnerian singers


Preiser Records: GREAT WAGNERIAN SCENES

This CD features 4 of the greatest Wagnerian opera singers ever (yep, I wish a few others have been included, but one can't have everything in life, can one?).

Tracks: All from Wagner operas
Der Fliegende Hollaender (The Flying Dutchman) recorded in 1952
1. Traft ihr das Schiff im Meere an (Senta's Ballad) (Leonie Rysanek -soprano)
2. Wie aus der Ferne (love duet between Hollaender and Senta) (Leonie Rysanek / Sigurd Bjoerling)
Die Walkuere (The Valkyries) recorded in 1953
3. War es so schmaehlich was ich verbrach (Birgit Nilsson -Bruennhilde/ Sigurd Bjoerling -Wotan)
4. Du zeugtest ein edles Geschlecht (Birgit Nilsson/ Sigurd Bjoerling)
5. Leb wohl, du kuehnes, herrliches Kind (Sigurd Bjoerling)
Goetterdaemmerung (Twilight of the Gods)
recorded in 1948
6. Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort Bruennhilde's Immolation Scene (Kirsten Flagstad)


What singers these were! Leonie Rysanek's best known Wagnerian role was Senta. This beloved Austrian soprano was the first recipient of the coveted Lotte Lehmann Memorial Ring who made her Met debut replacing Maria Callas as Lady Macbeth. The fans jeered at her when she enters the first scene, but by the time the show was over this extraordinary singer had conquered them and was showered with such a thunderous ovation at the curtain call that probably was never equal except for the 20 something times the audience brought her out at her last performance there in the 90's.

She opens this cd with a thrilling Senta's ballad that captures you from the first note to the last. There is no ignoring this voice, not only is it powerful, it is also multi-layered. From the soft opening sea call 'Johohoe!' to the rousing duel with the chorus, she is a vivid story teller. Her duet with Sigurd Bjorling's Hollaender in track 2 is sheer bliss of Wagnerian proportion.

Tracks 4 and 5 pairs The Wagnerian soprano prima donna assoluta Birgit Nilsson as the Walkuere goddess Bruennhilde with S Bjorling (bass-baritone)'s Wotan (Bruennhile's one-eyed dad). Nilsson was the most exciting of all the great Walkure Bruennhildes (this is #2 in the 4 opera series called The Ring of Nieberlungen. Brunhilde is present in the last 3, and the Walkure Brunhilde is the most vocally demanding). The Wagnerian hochdramatiche soprani rarely sing higher than the high B, so there aren't a lot out there with great notes above high B. La Nilsson was known for her war cry 'Hojotoho!' high C's, which unfortunately aren't included here. But the sheer beauty of the voice is overpowering enough in these excerpts. Technically just about as perfect as can be and the voice is so strong she sounds every bit like the mightiest daughter of the god Wotan.

If you think "it can't possibly get grander than this," it does... with the anchor track 6 (Bruennhilde's Immolation Scene) sung by one Kirsten Flagstad. Flagstad was the Finn who was the premiere Bruennhilde of the era between the 2 world wars. Before her it wasn't so hard for the Wagnerian soprano to compete with the big Wagner orchestra to be heard. From Flagstad on the Wagner orchestra seem to think soprani are supposed to sound like they have amplifier built into their throat. But what a voice this was! Warm and huge... without being draggy or heavy. Not even the blaring brasses could drown her out when she turned on the volume, but she also had fine piano!


The sound is very good (mono in-studio recording) and all the singers are captured in good voice. And if you are new to the Wagner operas, this is a good intro disc to the repertoire too. Wagner operas are musical drama with the focus on the story rather than pure singing, so there aren't a lot of hummable tunes in them (Senta's ballad is one of the few). The goal is the integration of the voice and the orchestra to set the drama to music, so knowing the story (and being able to understand German) is quite essential.


The darn thing is these scenes are so long and they couldn't fit in more excerpts. It would have been nice if they could have included Astrid Varnay's Isolde's narrative and curse or Martha Modl as Kundry. I would have been willing to pay loads for it.
A great disc to buy for Wagner opera fans!


Recommend this product? Yes


Great Music to Play While: Waking up

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