Lauritz Melchior Web
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A Short Guide to Studio Recordings and Radio Broadcasts featuring Lauritz Melchior
There are two main sources for hearing Lauritz
Melchior's vocal ghosts: studio recordings and recordings of radio
broadcasts. The creation capable of entrapping the human voice
remains elusive. This is true today; and it was true at the time when
Melchior sang. Sometimes the antique sounds can be heard clearly and
fully enough to be enjoyed, sometimes they cannot. It takes a
courageous ear to pursue an interest in opera performance history. It
says something about the quality of the performances that these captured echoes have any audience at all.
Because the artificiality of studio recordings often overwhelms usually clearer sound, recordings of radio broadcasts tend to more representative of his art. Melchior's prime of voice spans approximately the 15 years between 1925 and 1940, the borders being debatable. The radio broadcasts from the Rooseveltian Metropolitan Opera and from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, begin around the second half of that prime. They memorialize the now-or-never late 1930s and feature most of the prominent performers of the time. The recordings from radio broadcasts are highlighted on this page. An asterisk indicates if the performance is the only known, and/or only commercially available, "live" example of Melchior's work in this role. Sole-surviving-examples tend to have poorer than average sound quality.
There are also the commercial recordings made
recording studios, dating from 1913 into the 1950s for Odeon, HMV,
(Denmark), Grammophon and Parlophon
(Germany), HMV (England and Germany), Brunswick, Victor, Columbia,
Records, Decca (USA).
principle of recording companies: to record only the most marketable
excerpts. The consequences of this understandable company policy
are unfortunate from a historical point of view. The best of
Melchior's studio recordings, from an engineering standpoint, and in
many cases from a
vocal standpoint as well, date from the late 1920s, after the
introduction of electrical recording, up to the early to mid 1930s, and
were made in England, Germany, or Austria by HMV (His Master's Voice).
These are operatic excerpts.
Many of Melchior's American-made studio recordings from the later 1930s or early 1940s seem to be less representative. Depression America record companies wanted to attract a larger, populist audience to opera recordings. The companies often attempted to mimic the more commercially viable "crooner aesthetic" in their acoustical setups and engineering. The distortions resulting from this principle, misguided as far as representing an operatic voice is concerned, range from mildly annoying to disastrously misleading. For Melchior, the widely circulated 1939 Wagner duets with Flagstad may be the most prominent example of the tragedy of the type of inappropriate acoustics endemic throughout the 1920s into the 1950s.
The photographs used on this page are examples
of CD transfers of a recording in the author's possession. The images
are used for illustrative purposes only. Often the transfers (and the
recordings themselves) have pitch or other problems. Some broadcasts
are so poor in sound quality that even "marstoning" them hasn't
Some have recently benefited from much needed fixings-up; others await
their remasterer-redeemer. Hearing something is better than hearing
nothing at all, one has to keep in mind; at least with these
Naxos, Myto, Gebhardt/Archipel/Walhall, Guild, Cantus Classics (mp3) are some European companies that have released these broadcasts on CD in recent years. The author's dialup internet connection precludes a knowledge of downloads available online at this time. Sirius/"Metropolitan Opera Radio" rebroadcast one or two late 1940s Wagner broadcasts in 2007.
This list will be
modified over time. More known surviving tapings will be added as they
are heard by this author. Those not already appearing in the list are
extremely rare it is safe to say and have not been released by the
European "pirate" labels.
The list is not intended to be a substitute for
a discography. Only a sample of studio recordings are included. Anyone
looking for a discography is directed here
Excerpts from broadcasts:
Excerpts from broadcasts:
Excerpts from broadcasts:
Otello: HMV 1930 (excerpts; Barbirolli)
Meistersinger: HMV 1931
(excerpts; Heger, Collingwood, Barbirolli; with Schorr, Schumann)
[not a stage role]
Lauritz Melchior's late 1940s and early
1950s recordings for a mixed audience were
movie tie-ins. For reasons of studio sound
conditions the author prefers seeing his
movies. Kultur also released performances from
the TV show "Voice of Firestone" on VHS tape in the 1990s. Tapes of
guest appearances on comedy TV and radio shows pop up, mainly on
"unofficial" releases, from time to time.
|Information to share? Questions? Suggestions? Please write me at email@example.com and put Melchior's name in the subject line of the email|
|Copyright © 2005-2008 Victoria Boutilier, All Rights Reserved|
Updated February 13, 2008