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Kirsten Flagstad, sop.
Lauritz Melchior, ten.
Lohengrin, Act III: Bridal Chamber Scene
Das süsses lied verhalt
Athmest du nicht mit mir die süssen Düfte
Höchstes Vertrau'n hast du mir schon zu danken

Victor Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Edwin McArthur
Tristan und Isolde, Act II: Love Duet
O sink' hernieder, Nacht der Liebe!
Einsam wachend
So stürben wir

San Francisco Opera Orchestra, conducted by Edwin McArthur
Götterdämmerung: Prologue
Zu neuen Taten
San Francisco Opera Orchestra, conducted by Edwin McArthur
Parsifal, Act II: Duet
Dies Ales - hab' ich nun geträumt
Ich sah' das Kind an seiner Mutter Brust
Amfortas! Die Wunde!
Erlösung, Frevlerin, biet' ich auch dir
Halt da! Dich bann' ich mit der rechten Wehr

Victor Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Edwin McArthur

NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110723 [77:45]

Some years ago, a friend of mine was remembering his childhood in New York. His parents took him to the Metropolitan Opera. Being Wagner devotees, he was always seeing Flagstad and Melchior. It was only much later in his life that he realized what treasured memories these indeed were. During the period, between 1935 and 1940, they were the reigning monarchs of the Wagnerian repertory at the Met. The war intervened and they were not to sing together again. Now Wagner lovers speak of those magical years with reverent tones. Most would agree that they were the century's finest Wagner interpreters and to have them singing together on record is a unique event.

If you are not familiar with these two, this recording is a delicious and stirring documentation of their truly masterful abilities in this repertory. To cite but one example, in Tristan und Isolde the duet "So stürben wir" is one of the most exciting and passionate in all opera. Their lesser colleagues are usually heard shouting, barking, straining and scooping in this duet. These two sail through it effortlessly, punching out those high notes with accuracy and force and leaving you at the end limp with pleasure.

The Prologue from Götterdämmerung is sung with intense musical involvement and clearly shows the ability of Flagstad and Melchior to soar with the music. The sections from Act II of Parsifal are a remarkable record of Flagstad in the role of Kundry and the strong interaction between her and Melchior is clearly evident.

The Tristan and Götterdämmerung sections were recorded in the Victor Studios in Hollywood in November of 1939. The Lohengrin and Parsifal excerpts were made in Philadelphia in November 1940 using members of the Philadelphia Orchestra to comprise the Victor Symphony. In the biography, Flagstad - A Personal Memoir, the conductor for these recordings, a lifetime musical collaborator and confidant of Miss Flagstad, wrote that the soprano often mentioned that she thought that these Philadelphia recordings were the best she had ever made. Remastered by the loving hands of Ward Marston, these monaural recordings will let you hear this duo in the best possible technical light.

For those who want more, there is the complete 1936 Tristan, also recently reissued on Naxos. For those who do not own a recording of these two giants, this is an excellent start.

Frank Cadenhead


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