Posts in Category: Det bedste fra YouTube

Anton Kontra spiller Hubay

I 1987 koncertopførte Radiosymfoniorkestret Johann Strauss’ Flagermusen – inklusiv den traditionelle festsekvens i 2. akt med gæster. Én af dem var koncertmesteren fra Sjællands Symfoniorkester, den legendariske Anton Kontra, som jeg heldigvis opnåede at spille sammen med i orkestret mange gange, da jeg assisterede som ung fløjtenist i Tivoli.

Anton Kontra kom til Danmark fra Ungarn i 1965. Han blev uddannet i Budapest på Liszt-akademiet og var 1. koncertmester for Sjællands Symfoniorkester i 1965-88 og siden koncertmester i Malmø Symfoniorkester. I 1973 dannede han sammen med Boris Samsing, Peter Fabricius og Morten Zeuthen fra Sjællands Symfoniorkester strygekvartetten Kontra Kvartetten.

Her tryller Anton Kontra i Hubays Hejre Kati sammen med Radiosymfoniorkestret og Michael Schønwandt. 

Peter Lindroos – Nessun dorma

Der er heldigvis stadig halvanden måned til december, julefrokoster og gavestress – men nu ER der jo også gode ting ved julemåneden – f.eks. julekalenderen, som her på siden plejer at handle om tenorer. Og bare rolig; der er også tenorer i årets udgave – men ikke udelukkende.
 
I år handler min julekalender om Det Kongelige Teater. Jeg har jo (som nogen har opdaget) været i gang med at grave dybt i gemmerne, og har uploaded en del guldklumper på min YouTube-kanal; det fortsætter, men først til december. Hver af de 24 låger vil byde på enten en TV-transmission af en hel akt fra en opera, en sjælden pladeindspilning med en af teatrets kunstnere, en historie om en sanger, du måske ikke kendte – alt sammen lyd- og billedklip med udgangspunkt i Det Kongelige Teaters opførelser og kunstnere gennem de sidste 125 år.

Skal vi tyvstarte Det Kongelige Teater-julekalenderen? Gu’ skal vi så! Og hvorfor ikke med supertenoren Peter Lindroos fra en koncert i Radiohuset i 1987?

 

Ib Hansen – TV-portræt fra 1968

Jeg er så heldig, at jeg nåede at opleve barytonen Ib Hansen masser gange på Det Kongelige Teater i de første 15 år af mit “operaliv” fra 1977 og frem. Her er et skønt TV-portræt fra 1968, hvor Ib Hansen fortæller om sit liv og sin karriere – med masser af fantastiske klip – bl.a. fra et værtshus, hvor han synger “Ja, ja, ja, nu kommer jeg” med Torben Petersen ved klaveret (26’55 inde i udsendelsen) …

Der er klip fra TV-operaens udgaver af Tosca, Gianni Schicchi, Maskeballet og Maskarade – og på 1´01´00 er der en optagelse fra en radiostudieindspining af Drot og Marsk med Lone Koppel  i Radiohusets Koncertsal …

God fornøjelse!

“Conductors are the most ignorant people in the musical field … after press …”

Sergiu Celibidache interviewed by Niels Oxenvad in 1978. Danish National Television, DR.

Hvis han nu bare havde bundet sine sko for 50 år siden …

FritzI dag for præcis 50 år siden døde min allerførste tenor. Ham, der var skyld i, at jeg kom til at bruge de næste 40 år på at nørde hans og kollegernes indspilninger igennem, og faktisk også ham, der i sidste ende var skyld i, at jeg kom til at arbejde med opera og klassisk musik.

Han er Tysklands helt store tenornavn i 60’erne, og i 1966 har han fået kontrakt med selveste The Met i New York. Han skal synge Mozart til sin debut derovre, men inden turen skal han lige nå at slappe af med vennerne. En jagttur – sikkert rigtig hyggeligt, med øl på bordet og god mad i jagthytten. Om aftenen vil Fritz Wunderlich lige ringe hjem til sin kone og sige godnat.

Han er egentlig på vej i seng i sit kælderværelse, men han hopper ud af den igen, tager sine sko på for lige at gå op til telefonen i stuen. Han siger godnat til sin kone – han lægger røret på – og han går ned ad trappen til sit værelse. Men i farten har han glemt at snøre sine sko ordentligt – han snubler i snørebåndene på vej ned ad trappen – og han griber instinktivt ud efter det reb, der sidder i væggen som gelænder. Men vægten af en voksen mand er for meget for den skrue, der holder rebet fast i væggen – og Wunderlich falder. Han lander med hovedet først på stengulvet i kælderen. Hans venner bli’r vækket af larmen – og finder ham i en blodpøl på gulvet. Han dør dagen efter på hospitalet, 9 dage før sin 36 års fødselsdag. I dag for præcis 50 år siden.

Hvis han nu bare havde bundet de snørebånd …

Supersopranens første 20 år på scenen

Irene ThéorinJeg hørte hende første gang ved den sangerkonkurrence, som Det Kongelige Teater og Danmarks Radio gik sammen om at etablere i kulturbyåret 1996. Copenhagen Singing Competition blev en éngangsforeteelse, men det blev starten på karrieren for svenske Iréne Theorin. Elev på OperaAkademiet i København som allerede havde kontrakt på Det Kongelige Teater, og som stadig helt fornuftigt sang både Mozart og Verdi mange år frem.

Men for ca. 10 år siden begyndte det for alvor at rykke i den internationale karriere. Stemmen var klar til de helt store udfordringer i Wagners heltindegalleri; Isolde og Brünnhilde er nu Iréne Theorins faste rejsekammerater, og den evige turné er gået til både Metropolitan i New York, Covent Garden i London, Wiener Staatsoper, Deutsche Oper i Berlin – og de helt særlige Wagnerfestspil i Bayreuth.

I år kan hun se tilbage på karrierens første 20 år, og en udvikling, der bragte hende præcis de steder hen hun drømte om, da hun begyndte. Jeg ved det, for jeg interviewede hende adskillige gange i min tid i DR i 90’erne, og senere kom jeg til at arbejde sammen med hende på Det Kongelige Teater i Kasper Holtens cheftid.

Derfor er det en særlig glæde at jeg har fået lov til at præsentere hendes Wagnerkoncert i aften i Tivolis Koncertsal med Tivoli Copenhagen Phil og dirigenten Giordano Bellincampi. Der er stadig billetter at få – læs mere her.

Koncerten i aften slutter med noget af det mest fantastiske musik, jeg kender – Isoldes Liebestod, som sopranen også i selve operaen synger som afslutning på aftenen. I dag gøres det næppe bedre og med flere nuancer i stemmen end af Iréne. Hør bare her, hvor svagt hun begynder første frase, og hvor meget kontrol hun har over både stemme og udtryk. Jeg glæder mig virkelig til i aften!

Carreras synger Verdi som 8-årig?

JoseCarrerasAge8Kan en sanger have en karriere på over 60 år? Ja, faktisk sang José Carreras hertugens arie fra Verdis Rigoletto i spansk radio i 1954 lige omkring sin 8-års fødselsdag – i korte bukser og med fint vandkæmmet hår og klaverakkompagnement.

Carreras havde to år tidligere set Mario Lanza i filmen Den store Caruso, og begyndte at efterligne sit store idol. Senere, som 11-årig, debuterede han som drengesopran på Barcelonas berømte operahus Gran Teatre del Liceu i en rolle i de Fallas opera El retablo de Maese Pedro. Nogle måneder senere sang han for sidste gang som sopran den lille rolle som drengen i Puccinis La bohéme – ham, der så gerne vil have legetøjshandlerens fine legetøjstrompet og den lille træhest.

Senere fik José Carreras sin tenordebut som 23-årig – og han sang bl.a. i Aalborg på sin 69-års fødselsdag. Pænt lang karriere.

Her er dokumentationen; den 8-årige Carreras synger La donna é mobile med sin sopranstemme – inklusive lidt fine tenoruvaner og rigtigt voksent vibrato. Han har hørt godt efter, hvad Mario Lanza gjorde i filmen.

 

Hør Verdis allerførste Otello – født i 1850!

TamagnoSelv om Verdis Otello blev uropført 5. februar 1887, så kan vi faktisk den dag i dag stadig høre den sanger, Verdi havde i tankerne, da han skrev det halsbrækkende hovedparti.

Francesco Tamagno var tidens mest fejrede italienske tenor, og hans enorme stemme og stamina fik anmelderne til at sammenligne ham med en trompet eller endda en kanon.

Allerede i 1881 havde ham sunget Gabriele i Verdis 1881-udgave af Simon Boccanegra, og senere var han den første tenor, der sang den italienske 1884-version af titelpartiet i Don Carlos. Han debuterede i 1873 i Torino, og sang omkring 55 partier i løbet af sin 32-årige karriere. Og i 1898 forudsagde han en stor karriere for en ung 25-årig kollega fra Napoli – den unge mands navn var Enrico Caruso, og Tamagno fik helt ret.

Her er et musikhistorisk dokument, indspillet i 1903, det år, Francesco Tamagno trak sig tilbage fra scenerne. Heldigvis nåede han at indspillede bl.a. Otellos entré, Esultate, på lakplade. Hans indspilninger var de dyreste i Gramophone Companys katalog, og kostede ét pund i England – svarende til mindst en ugeløn for en arbejder. Som så i dette tilfælde kun fik ca. 50 sekunders sang for pengene, da pladerne kun var indspillet på den ene side. Men så havde man også lyden af Verdis eget valg som Otello inde i sin egen stue.

Tamagno

First Danish Brünnhilde made 9 mill. German Marks a week

johanne brunIt is with deep-felt emotion I write this. Mrs. Johanne Brun has alas been forced to beg for even the most scanty help through grants. What a fate for an artist of her standing! Who doesn’t remember her wonderful years at our opera and who can hear her today without the greatest astonishment? Mrs. Brun is still an artist in full bloom, and it is incomprehensible how the management of our opera can continue to reject her after she has returned from abroad – especially if they plan to stage any of Wagner’s operas. […] Her current position in life must astound any man, and I can only give her application for help my strongest sympathy as a human being in admiration for her open mind and honest striving.

(signed) Carl Nielsen, Copenhagen January 1, 1926

A letter of recommendation from the famous Danish composer, for many years himself violinist and later conductor at the Royal Danish Opera where he had been able to follow the career of Johanne Brun from the very outset more than 40 years earlier. Now, at the age of 49, the Danish Wagnerian soprano par excellence was facing severe poverty after a career that had ended in inflation-stricken Germany. Her fate could have been different if the management at the Royal Danish Opera at the time had heard what we today can hear through her extremely rare records; a full dramatic voice, an ideal Isolde but with remarkable agility in coloratura – a voice comparable to a Lilli Lehmann in versatility.

Listen to her incredibly rare recording of the final scene of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde made in 1915 (the article continues below):

She was born Johanne Marie Emilie Prieme on August 23, 1874 in Frederiksberg near Copenhagen. At the age of seven she was enrolled at the school of the Royal Danish Ballet at the Royal Theatre that served then, as now, as home for both acting, ballet and opera. The children at the ballet were often used as extras and even as singers when a children’s chorus was needed, and Brun was thus able to make her debut as a singer in Carmen at the age of 10.

She also heard and came to admire the local stars of the opera, one of them a tenor by the name of Frederik Brun. He had made his debut in 1876 as Rossini’s Almaviva, and later turned to the more dramatic repertoire culminating with Tannhäuser, Otello, Radamès and Siegmund. He was joined at the opera in 1889 by his younger brother Johan Nordal Brun, also a tenor. Frederik Brun was 41 when he in 1893 married the 18-year old Johanne Brun.

As was the costum then the young dancer gave up her career as she entered her new standing as a married woman. Frederik Brun soon discovered, however, that his young wife was gifted with a beautiful and wide ranging soprano, and he eagerly encouraged her to take lessons from the vocal coach Miss Fanny Gætje and the conductor Frederik Rung, with whom she studied for a year and a half. But what she was taught by Gætje and Rung was sometimes contradicted immediately by her husband, a dominant and pedantic tyrant, who was fanatical about singing technique. One of his friends portraits him in his memoirs:

”He could at times be very tiring for everyone, talking at length only about himself. Especially when he was trying to teach himself a new method of singing he was taxing company. If I met him on the mail street in Copenhagen he would drag me into a gateway and begin to demonstrate a new trill or a coloratura, thus soon assembling a curious crowd.”[1]

Judging from the few examples of his singing that survives on recordings today Frederik Brun did in fact not have a very good technique – the Miserere from Il trovatore recorded in 1904 reveals the ruins of a strained voice with a bleeding goat vibrato. Frederik Brun had at this time, in one of his fits of anger, left the Royal Danish Opera for good:

Frederik Brun had made a great singer of the little ballet girl, but he himself gradually faded from the public’s mind, and at the turn of the century he had – for God knows which time and with under many oaths and harsh words to the management – left the theatre, and for the rest of his life tried to make a living as a café pianist in Sweden. Initially a really decent tenor, Brun’s habit of making inexcusable insults to his superiors and fellow singers made him unwanted at the opera – where younger tenors as Vilhelm Herold took over.[2]

Johanne Brun quickly made sufficient progress to be granted a debut at the Royal Opera. Her phenomenal ease at the very top of her voice made the choice of The Queen of the Night obvious. Despite a few prior concert appearances, it was the performance of Die Zauberflöte on May 8, 1896 she considered her real debut. Despite a few remarks on Bruns nerves not being quite under control during the first aria, all the critics agreed that here was a singer to expect more from in the future:

The voice itself is uncommonly pure and beautiful. Mrs. Brun is made of the stuff that can create a coloratura singer of the very first class, a full, flexible, wide ranged and impressive soprano. The public’s reception was indeed positive; after her first aria a storming applause broke out from the near full house.[3]

Johanne BrunDespite the overall positive reception from both critics and audience, two years should pass before Johanne Brun was given another chance at the Copenhagen opera. This “second debut” on May 14, 1898 was to prove her able to sing more dramatic pieces and not only purely coloratura roles. Frederik Brun described his wife’s voice in these terms:

”Her real force is in Wagner, but she will undoubtedly also be able to continue her development as a coloratura singer. What is still lacking is routine. She has to get used to singing in large halls. Mrs. Ellen Gulbransen has taught her how high to sing in chest voice, and I myself has taught her a few tricks I have seen Patti use abroad. My wife is an excellent pianist, by the way, and I am sure she will become a dramatic singer of the first rate.”[4]

It was as Aïda that Brun made her second appearance at the Royal Opera, and this time the newspapers were even more enthusiastic, stressing the natural production and the beauty of her tone, as well as her unmannered and tasteful acting. And this time the opera management gave her a contract as soloist with the opera for the following season, where she added Margarethe in Faust and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni to her repertory.

At the end of the season 1898-99 her contract was renewed, as it was to become each year from now on. The following seasons she sang Leonora in Il trovatore, Desdemona in Otello, Elsa in Lohengrin, Ingeborg in Heise’s Drot og Marsk, and she also sang in the premières of two Danish operas; Lamia by August Enna and Helgensværdet by Axel Grandjean.

The Norwegian composer and conductor Johan Svendsen had been house conductor of the Royal Danish Opera since 1883. He had played as a violinist in the Bayreuth orchestra and knew Wagner personally. Since the Danish première of Die Walküre in 1891 Svendsen had had a vision of a Danish performance of the complete Ring cycle, and on January 8, 1902 Brun sang her first Wagnerian part, Sieglinde. Her twin and lover Siegmund was Peter Cornelius, who had changed his voice from baritone to heldentenor, and who later was to sing in Bayreuth and at Covent Garden.

The critics agreed that Brun was ideal for Wagner, even though a few complained that her middle and lower range was slightly less focused than her brilliant height. With these two singers available Johan Svendsen knew that he could now slowly begin realise his dream of a complete Ring in Copenhagen.

Even though Brun was now considered essentially a dramatic soprano, she added Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia to her repertory that very same year. In the singing lesson Brun sang Benedict’s variations on Carneval de Venise, and the public responded with ecstatic applause. But some of the critics noted problems:

Mrs. Brun has a fine coloratura throat, but it is unkempt. A Wagnerian soprano does not easily perform this delicate music. […] The thing is that she has never studied properly, and if these things are not corrected it will soon be too late, and she will have to lead a life as an unpolished artist. Last night her performance was further marred by abrupt changes of register, especially in the Cavatina […][5]

Weather this critic was right we can actually hear for ourselves today. Johanne Brun quickly became a favourite with the Danish audience – both for her singing and her beauty! She appears as one of six actresses and singers on a postcard made at this time with the title “Copenhagen’s most ravishing women”. It was obvious that a completely new industry kept an eye out for her to help marketing the new wonders of the age. In April 1903 Brun recorded her first batch of six sides for Skandinavisk Grammophon Aktieselskab, the Danish branch of G&T.

Around the same time she also recorded twelve cylinders – including a duet with her husband – for the local rival Dansk Fonograf Magasin, associated with the Pathé company. One of the cylinders contains excerpts from the Carneval de Venise variations Brun sang as Rosina, and here one hears the combination of a full dramatic voice, but retaining the abilities of precise coloratura and trills – all done with impeccable secure intonation. It is hard to judge her singing as harshly as Mr. Rosenfeld does above.

Besides singing at the Royal Opera, she was now in general demand in the Copenhagen musical life – especially in the Wagnerian fach. She regularly sang at concerts in the Concert Palais and in the Tivoli Gardens, often joined by her husband, now trying his luck as a baritone – but with little success. His appearances caused a mixture of amusement and pity with the critics, but Johanne Brun was invariably hailed as the supreme Danish interpreter of Wagner’s heroines. And in the years to come she was to create the most demanding of them on the Danish national stage.

Johan Svendsen continued his quest for the complete Ring with Siegfried in 1903, with the star cast of Helge Nissen as Der Wanderer, Peter Cornelius as Siegfried and Johanne Brun as Brünnhilde – a great success both for the performers and for Wagner’s music in Denmark. But Brun also added more lyrical and even bel canto roles to her repertory; Bellini’s Norma and Philine in Mignon.

On February 23, 1905 the Royal Opera added Götterdämmerung to their repertory, naturally with Brun and Cornelius as Brünnhilde and Siegfried – another triumph for both. The critics were very positive, but their level of general knowledge of Wagner’s works is reflected in the fact that none of them seems to have noticed that the scene with the three nornes had been omitted. Johan Svendsen was nearer his dream of a Ring cycle, but his health forced him to retire. On May 31, 1908 he conducted a farewell gala culminating with the third act of Die Walküre, with Brun as Sieglinde. Frederik Rung had earlier that month conducted the last of the Ring operas, Das Rheingold. Brun sang Freja at the première, and later that year added both Ortrud in Lohengrin and Woglinde in Rheingold to her impressive list of roles. It was Rung, the former teacher of Brun, who took over as house conductor from Svendsen, and as assistant conductor was employed a young talented violinist and composer; Carl Nielsen.

But even though she was now recognised as one of the leading singers of the opera, Johanne Brun was still not endorsed with a permanent contract. Where most of the singers after a few seasons were normally employed on a regular basis with pension, Brun never achieved this. One can only speculate as to the reasons, but it is certain that she was a self-conscious and open-mouthed rebel who on more than one occasion stood up against the management of the opera. It is easy to imagine her life with the pompous and frustrated Frederik Brun, and their marriage was dissolved in 1906. Johanne Brun was now alone with their 12-year old daughter Gertrud.

Meanwhile she continued her career both on stage and in the recording studios. It seems that it was a must for the companies to have Johanne Brun in their catalogues, and she is invariably among the very first female singers to record for both major and minor labels active in Denmark. In this period she recorded not only for G&T but also made records for Lyrophon and cylinders for Elektra and Edison.

At the Royal Opera the next seasons saw Johanne Brun in the six performances of the Ring between 1909 and 1912 – the only complete cycles to be given at the theatre to this day – as well as appearances as Venus in Tannhaüser. But in the following seasons Brun found herself in less demand than earlier, and sometimes there were up to eight months between her singing at the Royal Opera. It seems that there were several reasons for this. Her increasing weight problem further inhibited what was apparently never a great dramatic talent on stage, and her voice was reported to be loosing its former flexibility – not surprisingly for a Brünnhilde and Isolde. This meant that she was more or less confined to the Wagnerian repertoire and a couple of dramatic Verdi roles. But soon she was not even considered more than a second choice for even these parts. During the following seasons Brun appeared more and more irregularly at the Royal Opera.

She had to fight hard to be given the opportunity to create Isolde in Danish at the long awaited première in 1914 – even threatening to never sing at the Royal Danish Opera again if her wish was not granted.

“I have waited for this role for 10 years, now. Season after season I have had only minor things to do at the opera here, and I started to work on Isolde three years ago. In the beginning I worked in German, as I have nearly always done with Wagner, and I was astounded with the difficulty I had learning the translation. A lot of what falls quite natural in German seems almost incomprehensible in Danish. We had 60 rehearsals before the première – not many considering the length and difficulty of Tristan; for Don Giovanni we had 90!”[6]

Frederik Rung was originally to have conducted Tristan, but he had been unwell for quite some time and was consequently replaced by Georg Høeberg who turned out to be a very gifted conductor. The performance was again a triumph for Brun, and in 1915 she recorded part of the Liebestod for Odeon. Here we can witness the truly international class of singing, with broad lines and no signs of weariness of tone. If this is a documentation of the general standard of Brun’s singing at this time, it is utterly incomprehensible that she was not regarded higher by the theatre management.

The atmosphere at the rehearsals for Tristan had been tense between Brun and the house stage director Julius Lehmann, and when Parsifal was premièred in 1915 it was not Johanne Brun who sang Kundry. Later she revealed in an interview[7] that Lehmann was one of her fiercest enemies; when Tannhäuser was staged for the first time in Denmark in 1910 he had simply told her straight to her face that she would perhaps be able to sing Venus but that she was too fat to portrait Elisabeth. She was nevertheless given the chance, though, on November 5, 1915.

Brun now began to seriously consider leaving Denmark. She had always been a keen traveller; apart from trips to German cities like Berlin and Dresden to hear her beloved Wagner in international performances, she had also taken a 9-week holiday in the Algerian desert with a lady friend, bringing home live souvenirs in the form of turtles and chameleons!

For a Wagnerian soprano wishing to try her luck at a career abroad Germany seemed the obvious choice. In 1916 war-time Germany was perhaps not the ideal place, and most Danish artists working there actually returned home at this time. But Johanne Brun insisted. Germany it was to be. Her last performance at the Royal Danish Opera was Aida on May 10, and the newspapers all lamented the loss:

Few people has been treated so shabby as Johanne Brun has been by our Royal Opera. While she sang one Wagner heroine after the other, it was other singers who were given titles and honour. She was not even permanently employed here. Now she is leaving at the height of her powers to go to Nuremberg. One could wish that she had done so ten years ago, so that she could now have made a name for herself abroad by now. Lets us hope that she soon will![8]  

Even though the performance was not officially a farewell gala (as Johanne Brun was not permanently employed at the opera), the King and Queen were present, and before the performance Brun was finally appointed the title of Kammersanger. But were she not sad to leave the stage where she had sung for 20 years? A Copenhagen ladies magazine interviewed the newly appointed Kammersanger:

”Absolutely not! The last couple of years at the Royal Opera has only been too painful. The conditions are much to complicated and deplorable. If I wanted a certain role I had to beg and plea everyone, and that is not my way, even though I do love my work. For several years I have been neglected – and nothing can be more devastating. I almost lost faith in myself completely. I have thought about going abroad for quite some time, but I have always resisted in the end; perhaps things here would become better. But when I had to fight to sing Isolde at the opening night – and had to threaten to resign if I was refused – I promised myself that I would go to Germany. I am sad to leave my home, but I look forward so much to getting to sing again. I have been so desperate for lack of work that I even started to sew my own clothes – something I never enjoyed. And my furniture has been repainted several times; right now it is white…”

Another reason for leaving the Royal Danish Opera was financial. Brun was not any longer receiving a fixed salary for each season, but was paid for each performance – and sometimes there would be months between her appearances. In a German house she would not only be able to sing her beloved Wagner roles, but could also easily earn much more than in Copenhagen.

Brun had a few years earlier heard the German heldentenor Alois Pennarini, and she admired his Tristan very much. He was now the artistic director at the Stadttheater in Nuremberg, and Brun wanted to try her luck at a house where Wagner was the core of the repertory. But in Copenhagen she had for years sung everything in Danish, so ahead was more hard work re-learning her roles in German. She spent eight months with a coach in Copenhagen and a further two in Berlin. Here Brun could also get a first hand impression of the conditions in Germany – and she was surprised that they were as good as they seemed, and that prices were reasonable:

“In my experience it is cheaper to dine in restaurants in Berlin than in Copenhagen. My daily dinner – consisting of soup, then fish or another side dish, then roast beef with several kinds of vegetables and finally a dessert or cheese and bread – cost, with a glass of beer and tips, only two mark.”[9]

No wonder that Brun had gained a considerable weight since her days with the ballet. After the intensive studies in Berlin she finally felt ready to go to Nuremberg to audition for Pennarini. She sang from Götterdämmerung, and did it so well, that she was offered a ”trial-evening” as Isolde at the theatre on March 3, 1916. Pennarini sang Tristan himself, and in spite of this being her first performance in a foreign language (and the fact that Brun was not granted a rehearsal!) she convinced both audience, Pennarini and the critics; she was offered a two-year contract from August that year – earning more than four times the amount she could expect in Copenhagen. But in Nuremberg Brun found quite a different picture of Germany than the one she had seen in Berlin:

“I will never forget what I saw there. The casualties of the war is brought to a large home for cripples, where they try to mend the most horribly mutilated soldiers. With endless patience they are trained to use the remains of their limbs, supported by iron splints. Imagine rows of men without arms or legs doing gymnastics to train their muscles. After lots of hard work they are given artificial limbs, and the endless training continues in their strive to master the new devices. All over Nuremberg you meet these cripples with their molested faces; deform, swollen faces where new skin has been attached to an otherwise torn cheek. I have talked to mothers and wives who, when they came from a visit to their dear one, only wished them death as the future was unbearable to think of.”[10]

Life at the Stadttheater also proved taxing compared to what Brun had been used to in Copenhagen. A working day started at 9 AM even if she had sung a performance that ended at 11 PM the night before. On Sundays there were performances both in the afternoon and evening, and even if Brun was not appearing in a performance she was still expected to attend an evening rehearsal, often lasting until midnight. She several times sang major parts such as Leonore in Fidelio at short notice and without rehearsal. In addition she was also in demand from neighbouring houses in Augsburg, Köln and Würzburg – and in 1917 she sang in a Ring cycle in Regensburg. Quite a contrast to the idle life in Denmark, but with many artistic rewards for Brun. She sang all the Wagnerian heroines as well as the dramatic parts in operas as Fidelio, Un ballo in maschera, La Juive, Aida and Il trovatore.

Johanne Brun, or Johanna as she was known in Germany, quickly became a favourite with the Nuremberg audience. In November 1917 Brun sang in the first Nuremberg-performance of Eugen d’Albert’s opera Die toten Augen, premièred only a year earlier.

When the performance came to an end the applause would never end. Large flower arrangements were brought on stage, and insisting shouts of “Die Brun, Die Brun” where heard everywhere. Outside the theatre people, mostly young girls, gathered to greet the Diva as she left the building. […] The following day the mayor of Nuremberg sent a letter of congratulation to Johanne Brun on behalf of the city.[11]

This was not the only example of operas new to Johanne Brun as well as to everyone else; two years later she took part in the first performance of Ein Fest zu Haderslev, an opera by the Nuremberg house conductor Robert Heger, and during her years in Nuremberg she also sang in Korngold’s Violanta as well as the title role in Salome – an opera composed only a decade earlier. In 1920 she was hailed as a genius, no less, by the Nordbayerischer Zeitung for her Brünnhilde in another complete Ring performance, and her time in Nuremberg seems to have been a host of successes.

It is not clear why her contract then came to an end, but in April 1922 Brun sang Kundry as guest at the Stadttheater in Aachen, and in September that year she moved from Nuremberg to this town near the Belgian border. Here she again sang the dramatic soprano she had learned in Nuremberg, adding Herodias in Salome. But again her timing was bad. On January 11, 1923 France and Belgium occupied the Ruhr district, and Johanne Brun now more than ever wanted to return to her native country. Ever since she immigrated she had often sung at concerts in Copenhagen during the summer periods, and when she later that year visited Denmark she spoke to her old colleague Vilhelm Herold, with whom she had often sung in her early years in Copenhagen, and who was now artistic director at the Royal Danish Opera. On June 13, 1923 he wrote to Brun:

At the meeting we had a few days ago I spoke your case, but the Ministry has not yet decided next seasons amount concerning guest artists, and consequently no decision was made as to you. The old dragging-things-out-style! But next time you are in town please come and see me in my office. I still hope that we shall be able to find something for you to do. Receive the heartiest greeting from

              your old friend

                          Vilh. Herold

This must have been discouraging for Johanne Brun to read. The conditions in Aachen were hopeless, as she told a Danish journalist:

The Belgians are not very nice at all; if one passes the house of a general it is not allowed to use the pavement – I was literally thrown out into street by a Belgian guard on one occasion! Everyone are of course nervous, and have only one thought – money, money, money. As soon as we get our wages we hurry to spend it all, otherwise the money could be worth only half in a day or two! One day a pound of margarine went from 40.000 Mark to 80.000 in just half an hour. I am now receiving 9 million Mark a week! Everything is more expensive in Aachen than in the rest of Germany, and food is scarce. There are no train connections, and the mail is very unreliable. Parcels are not delivered at all. The shops are open one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon. Cars and bikes can only be used by foreigners, and the curfew dictates that you can not go out after 9 PM. One Sunday afternoon we had a performance at 4 PM, and just before the curtain went up we got a message that the curfew was changed to 8 PM that particular evening. We had to cut the opera in the last moment, and we were all frightened to death with the thought of not being able to finish on time.

With the beginning of 1924 Johanne Brun finally escaped Aachen, and was to begin a new life in Danzig (now Gdansk), then a free city under the sovereignty of the League of Nations. Here she signed a contract that would again allow her to sing her best roles; Senta, Ortrud, Isolde, Ariadne, Leonora in Fidelio and Brünnhilde in Siegfried. When news of this new contract came to the Danish press, one critic managed not only to declare Johanne Brun his devotion and love – but also to insult both her and the entire population in the former Polish city:

It is nerve-wracking to think that Mrs. Johanne is going to spent weeks, maybe even months in a city like Danzig. The city is run by the English, but that might even be; they are all cleanly people who use the I.P. Muller system [of home gymnastics!]. But who are the attendants at the opera there? The majority are dirty and verminous Poles with sausage sandwiches and bananas in their pockets to eat during the intervals, oozing garlic and illicitly distilled liqueur. […] Johanne Brun still has an astonishingly fresh, youthful, rounded and soft voice. Lovely is the word! The madam is not quite young any longer; she also has her obesity to cope with. She weighs approx. 230 pounds now – she is no speck, no particle, no molecule. […] But what is obesity and age when on the other hand there is beauty, stateliness, the sweetest face and the appearance of a true queen.    

In the spring of 1924 Johanne Brun finally returned to the Royal Danish Opera if only for a single appearance as Philine in Mignon, a part that one could easily suppose would hardly show off the best qualities of a Wagnerian soprano at the age of 50. And it is indeed hard to see why the management not chose to give her an Isolde instead – Tristan was in the repertory for that season. Nevertheless the critics marvelled at the ease and beauty of the voice that seemed only firmer and more controlled than when she was last heard on the stage here. On April 2 she finally was given the chance to show once more her real powers at the Royal Danish Opera as Brünnhilde in Die Walküre. And that was it. Johanne Brun was never to appear on the opera stage of her native city again.

In 1925 she returned to live in Copenhagen. But with no regular income something had to be done. She had lost all her savings during the German inflation, and she had no pension from the Royal Opera to rely on. But she was not forgotten by the Danish public and her friends. It was arranged that she could work from home selling lottery tickets for the National Lottery, and she was also given a yearly sum from the State.

In 1936 Brun was drawn from retirement by the Danish record collector Knud Hegermann-Lindencrone, who had initiated the recording of a 7-record set to capture on record the performances of the Danish singers who created Wagner’s operas at the Royal Danish Opera. Johanne Brun sang from Das Rheingold, Götterdämmerung and Tristan und Isolde. Here her voice is well past its prime, but with a bit of imagination it is quite obvious that it is the voice of a major Wagnerian soprano.

Brun lived quietly in Copenhagen, hugely enjoying her grandchildren and great-grandchildren for the next couple of decades. She died on February 3, 1954, nearly 80 years of age, and the critic Axel Kjærulf wrote in her obituary:

Her mind was clear to the very end of her life, full of wit. She closely followed the development at the Royal Opera, and if one met her there, one was met with the sweetest of smiles, the biting sarcasm that she still possessed, and above all with the love she felt for the art she had so gloriously served.[12]

ACKNOWLEGDEMENTS:
I would like to thank the following persons for invaluable help: Jens Hansen, Copenhagen; Erik Kajstrup, Frederiksberg: Emil Marott, Højby; Niels Ravn, Gentofte; Henning Thorbjørnsen, Charlottenlund; Henning Trab, Statens Mediearkiv, Århus; Julius Wedege, Copenhagen; Lisbeth Grandjean and Ida Poulsen, Teatermuseet, Copenhagen.

This article was previously published in The Record Collector magazine.

Notes:

[1] Charles Kjerulf: Gift og Hjemfaren, 1917
[2] Politiken, February 4, 1954
[3] Dannebrog, March 9, 1896
[4] unidentified newspaper interview made ca. 1903
[5] Leopold Rosenfeld in Dannebrog, October 7, 1902
[6] this probably includes individual piano rehearsals with coaches of the house. From an interview in Masken, 1914.
[7] Berlingske Tidende, August 22, 1944
[8] Folkets Avis, May 11, 1916
[9] Interview in Berligske Tidende, summer 1916
[10] Interview in Berligske Tidende, summer 1916
[11] Ekstra Bladet, November 20, 1917
[12] Politiken, February 4, 1954

Danmarks første Brünnhilde tjente ni millioner mark om ugen

Johanne Brun”Det er med bevægelse og virkelig grebethed jeg skriver på denne ansøgning. Fru Johanne Brun er altså virkelig bleven således stillet at hun nu må anmode om selv den mest nødtørftige hjælp gennem legater og stipendier! Hvilken skæbne for en sådan kunstnerinde! Hvem husker ikke hendes pragtfulde virksomhed i vor opera og hvem kan uden den største undren høre på hendes sang den dag i dag? Fru Brun står endnu bestandig som kunstnerinde i fuld blomst, og man forstår ikke hvorledes det er muligt at vor operas ledelse kan afvise hende efter hende hjemkomst fra udlandet – ifald man overhovedet har i sinde at opføre Wagners værker og stor opera i det hele taget. Jeg vil antage, at Fru Brun selv vil oplyse den Rong’ske legatbestyrelse nærmere om hele sin stilling, som må forbavse ethvert menneske, og skal derfor kun indskrænke mig til at give hendes ansøgning, ikke blot min anbefaling, men min hele, fulde indsats som kunstner og min største sympati som menneske i beundring for hendes åbne karakter og ærlige stræben.”

Sådan skrev ingen ringere end Carl Nielsen i 1926. Han havde fulgt sopranen Johanne Bruns karriere i alle de år han først spillede violin og senere dirigerede i orkestergraven på Det Kongelige Teater. Johanne Brun havde debuteret som balletbarn på Gamle Scene mere end 40 år tidligere, hun havde sunget Brünnhilde i den første danske opførelse af Wagners Nibelungens ring, og nu var hun – i en alder af 49 år – i en både kunstnerisk og økonomisk desperat situation. Hun havde mistet hele sin opsparing under inflationen i Tyskland, og var ikke længere ønsket på sit gamle teater på Kongens Nytorv.

Hør her, hvordan Johanne Brun sang Wagner i 1915 – slutscenen fra Tristan og Isolde, sunget på dansk. Artiklen fortsætter under klippet:

Historien begynder på Frederiksberg. Her blev Johanne født i 1874, og som 7-årig blev hun elev på Det Kongelige Teaters balletskole. Dengang var det helt almindeligt, at balletbørnene også gjorde tjeneste som sangere i de operaer, der krævede børnekor, og Johanne debuterede faktisk som operasanger allerede som 10-årig i børnekoret i Bizets Carmen.

Den lille balletpige havde masser af muligheder for at opleve de lokale stjerner i Den Kongelige Opera. Især én person lagde hun mærke til – tenoren Frederik Brun. Efterhånden som Johanne blev ældre blev han også interesseret i hende, og i 1893 giftede den 41-årige tenor sig med den kun 18-årige balletdanser. Dengang var det normalt, at en danserinde opgav sin karriere i det øjeblik hun blev gift, men Frederik Brun havde allerede opdaget, at hans unge kone havde helt usædvanligt talent for en anden af teatrets kunstarter – nemlig hans egen:

”Hendes egentlige felt er som Wagnersangerinde. Men ved siden af vil hun sikkert med tiden blive en ypperlig koloratursangerinde…”

Johanne Brun fik sangundervisning hos de bedste lærere i byen, Fanny Gætje og dirigenten Frederik Rung. Men når hun kom hjem efter en sangtime blev lærernes råd tit fejet af banen med det samme; Frederik Brun var en dominerende og pedantisk tyran, og han var fanatisk med hensyn til sangteknik. En af hans venner beskriver ham malende i sine erindringer; at han ofte gjorde ”et affekteret, naragtigt indtryk”, og at det var noget af en prøvelse, hvis man stødte ind i ham på gaden:

”Navnlig i de perioder, da han ”lagde stemmen om” og evig og altid gik og eksperimenterede med nye metoder…Så trak han mig ugenert ind i en eller anden port på strøget, der var nogenlunde lukket. Og derinde begyndte han så at slå sine triller eller lade koloraturerne rulle. Men jeg sørgede naturligvis bare for snarest muligt at komme ud af porten igen…”

I årene omkring 1900 så Frederik Brun sin kone ændre sig fra en ung balletdanser til byens førende sopran. Samtidig havde han en fantastisk evne til at løbe direkte ind i alle tænkelige problemer og konflikter; hans stemme var slidt op, han sagde (endnu en gang!) op i vrede på Det Kongelige Teater, og til sidst blev han også skilt fra Johanne. Han emigrerede til Sverige, hvor han arbejdede som barpianist resten af sit liv.

Imens var Johanne Brun blevet én af publikums favoritter på Det Kongelige Teater. Hendes debut i 1896 var som Nattens Dronning i Tryllefløjten, og anmelderne var begejstrede fra begyndelsen. To år senere sang hun Verdis Aida, og hun fortsatte i sæsonerne efter med en utrolig blanding af store, dramatiske partier som Leonora i Verdis Trubaduren og Sieglinde i Wagners Valkyrien – og lyriske koloraturpartier som Rosina i Barberen i Sevilla. På papiret en ret umulig kombination, og ifølge anmelderne var det klart de dramatiske partier, der var Johanne Bruns force.

SvendsenDet var vand på dirigenten Johan Svendsens mølle. Han havde været fast tilknyttet Det Kongelige Teater siden 1883, og han havde en stor drøm; den første danske opførelse af hele Wagners Nibelungens ring. En drøm, som pludselig kom inden for rækkevidde, da teatret nu pludselig rådede over to sangere, som kunne synge Brünnhilde og Siegfried; Johanne Brun og tenoren Peter Cornelius. Siegfried havde premiere i 1903 og Ragnarok fulgte efter i 1905 – begge operaer blev store triumfer for Johanne Brun. Anmelderne var begejstrede, men deres kendskab til Ringen kunne ligge på et lille sted; ikke én af dem omtaler, at hele første scene af Ragnarok – scenen med de tre norner – var blevet strøget. Rhinguldet kom op på teatret i 1908 – med Johanne Brun som Freja – og nu kunne man opføre alle fire operaer samlet for første gang i Danmark.

I ti år var Johanne Bruns kontrakt med Det Kongelige Teater blevet fornyet efter hver sæson. Hun sang flere Wagner-partier, både Elsa i Lohengrin, og Venus i Tannhäuser. Det var ellers normalt, at en sanger efter en vis årrække blev fastansat – men noget tyder på, at Johanne Brun havde lært mere end sangteknik af sin mand; hun havde udviklet en sund selvsikkerhed, og hun holdt sig ikke tilbage for at sige sin mening om ledelsen på teatret. I årene efter den sidste samlede opførelse af Ringen i 1912 blev der længere og længere mellem hendes optrædener på teatret. Hendes stemme var ikke længere ung og frisk – hvad der vel ikke er noget at sige til efter en god portion Brünnhilde og Isolde – og hun var efterhånden nået op i en vægtklasse, som forhindrede en stor del af de fysiske udfoldelser på scenen. Da Tristan og Isolde skulle op på teatret for første gang i 1914 måtte Johanne Brun slås ihærdigt for muligheden for at få lov til at synge den sidste af de store Wagner-partier hun manglede i sit repertoire – hun truede endda med aldrig at synge på teateret igen hvis de valgte en anden sopran. Det lykkedes for hende at gennemtrumfe sin medvirken, på trods af modstand fra især instruktøren Julius Lehmann, og både publikum og anmeldere var ellevilde med hendes indsats.

I 1916 havde Johanne Brun fået nok af atmosfæren på Det Kongelige Teater. Tyskland var det åbenlyse sted at forsøge sig, også selvom krigen hærgede Europa. Hendes sidste forestilling efter 33 år på Det Kongelige Teater var Aida i maj 1916. Efter forestillingen kunne teaterchefen meddele, at Johanne Brun var blevet udnævnt til kongelig kammersangerinde.

Nu gik turen først til Berlin, hvor Johanne Brun knoklede med at lære den tyske tekst til de roller, hun altid havde sunget på dansk. Her fik hun også et indblik i fordelene ved at bo i Tyskland:

”Efter min erfaring spiser man billigere på restauranterne her i Berlin end i København. Min daglige middag med suppe, fisk eller en anden mellemret, steg med flere slags gemyse og dessert eller ost og brød, kostede mig med et lille glas øl og drikkepenge, kun to mark”

johanne brunIkke så underligt, at Johanne Brun havde svært ved at holde vægten nede. Men det skulle sig, at virkeligheden længere sydpå i Tyskland var langtfra så rosenrød som i Berlin. Johanne Brun havde fået en toårig kontrakt med operaen i Nürnberg, og her mødte der hende en ganske anden hverdag. Gaderne var fyldt med krigsinvalider:

”Aldrig vil jeg kunne glemme hvad jeg der så….overalt i Nürnberg møder man disse krøblinge med deres interimistiske hjælpeben og -arme. Med ansigter, hvis bortrevne stykker er erstattede med påsyede dele – forvrængede, opsvulmede menneskemasker, uudholdelige at se på…”

Arbejdet på teatret var også en brat opvågnen. Hendes debut i marts 1916 som Isolde var samtidig hendes første optræden overhovedet på tysk – men alligevel fik hun ikke så meget som én eneste prøve…det var jo en opera, som teatret havde fast på repertoiret, så den slags var sandelig ikke nødvendigt. Arbejdsdagen begyndte normalt med prøver kl. 9 om morgenen – også selv om en sanger havde optrådt aftenen før og måske først havde fået fri ved midnat. Man kunne sagtens komme ud for at skulle synge forestillinger flere aftener i træk, og om søndagen var der hele to forestillinger – og selv hvis man kun sang ved eftermiddagens forestilling, så kunne man alligevel nemt risikere at skulle møde op til aftenprøve senere samme dag.

I årene i Nürnberg sang Johanne Brun flere gange store, krævende hovedpartier som f.eks. Leonore i Beethovens Fidelio med ultrakort varsel og uden prøve. Alligevel havde hun kræfter til at synge som regelmæssig gæst ved operaerne i Augsburg, Köln og Würzburg – og i 1917 sang hun i en komplet opførelse af Ringen i Regensburg.

I september 1922 skrev Johanne Brun kontrakt med operaen i Aachen i Ruhr-distriktet, tæt på den belgiske grænse. Hendes timing ikke alt for heldig, for fire måneder senere invaderede Frankrig og Belgien Ruhr-distriktet. Inflationen galoperede helt ukontrolleret, og der var mangel på stort set alt. I et interview i en dansk avis fortalte Brun om situationen i Aachen:

”Man føler sig meget utryg og uhyggelig til mode. Der er overalt strenge bestemmelser om, på hvilken side af gaden man må gå, og i reglen er det helt forbudt at komme uden for huset efter kl. 8 eller 9 om aftenen. Vi må begynde forestillingen kl. 5 eller 6 om eftermiddagen…Priserne er vanvittige og stiger time for time. Margarine, for eksempel, steg en dag fra 40.000 til 80.000 mark for et pund fra kl. elleve til kl. halv tolv om formiddagen. Min gage er nu 9 millioner mark om ugen!…”

I begyndelsen af 1924 slap Johanne Brun væk fra Aachen. Nu skulle hun begynde på en frisk i Danzig (det nuværende Gdansk), som efter Versailles-freden i 1919 var blevet en fristad under tilsyn af Folkeforbundet. Hun skrev kontrakt med det lokale operahus, og nyheden kom også i de danske aviser. Det lykkes for en enkelt journalist ikke blot at erklære Johanne Brun sin uforbeholdne kærlighed og beundring, men også at fornærme ikke blot hende, men hele den samlede befolkning i den tidligere polske by, en stakkels middelmådig balletdanser fra Charlottenlund og samtlige sangere på Det Kongelige Teater i København:

”Det er til at blive idiot og teosof af at tænke på, at Fru Johanne skal henslæbe uger, måske måneder i en by som Danzig. Byen er i englændernes vold, men dette kunne endda være – englænderne er renlige mennesker…men hvem er tilhørerne i den derværende opera? Flertallet er beskidte polakker, fulde af utøj og med pølsemad og bananer i lommerne, som de æder i mellemakterne og udbreder en forfærdelig stank af hvidløg og hjemmebrændt snaps…Hvorfor, spørger man, står Fru Johanne Brun ikke i stedet for og synger i Det kgl. Teater for et elegant klædt og velopdragent publikum med Hans Majestæt Kongen i spidsen på de aftener, hvor forestillingen sluttes med et balletdivertissement med Fru Elna Jørgen Jensen i hovedrollen?…Kan tænkende mennesker med sans for musik lade være med at sammenligne Fru Johanne Brun med de pjathøns, der synger på vores opera?…”

Efter flere linjer af samme skuffe beskriver journalisten i rosende vendinger Johanne Bruns velkonserverede stemmepragt. Men han er ikke færdig med injurierne, og fortsætter i bedste stil:

”Fruen er ikke helt ung længere. Hun har tilmed sin fedme at kæmpe med. Fru Johanne Brun vejer vel nok 230 pund nu, man kan ikke kalde hende et fnug, et støvgran, et molekyle – den slags kælenavne forbyder sig af sig selv…men hvad betyder tykkelse og fedme, når der i den anden vægtskål er skønhed, statelighed, det sødeste ansigt, det elskeligste smil…Fru Johanne Brun! Lad mig sige det rent ud: Jeg tilbeder Dem!”

Den danke journalist var ikke ene om at tiljuble Johanne Brun. Gennem alle årene i Tyskland havde hun hver sommer været i Danmark for at synge for sit trofaste hjemmepublikum i Tivoli, og hver gang kom spørgsmålet om en tilbagevenden til Kongens Nytorv op. Det lykkedes først i 1924 – og kun for en enkelt opførelse af Ambroise Thomas’ Mignon. Den lyriske rolle som Philine var næppe egnet til at vise styrkerne hos en 50-årig Wagnersopran, men anmelderne og publikum var begejstrede. Det blev til endnu én optræden samme år på Det Kongelige Teater, som Sieglinde…en forestilling, som skulle blive hendes sidste optræden på teatret nogensinde.

I 1925 vendte Johanne Brun tilbage til København, naturligvis med håbet om at vende tilbage til sin gamle scene. Teatret var ikke interesseret. Situationen var alvorlig; Johanne Brun havde intet arbejde, ingen pension – hun havde jo aldrig været fastansat – og hele hendes opsparing var forsvundet i den tyske inflationsperiode. Derfor var hun nødt til at bede sine gamle venner – heriblandt Carl Nielsen – om hjælp. Det lykkedes at skaffe hende en årlig sum penge fra staten, og hun fik tildelt en lotterikollektion af kongen som en slags trøstpension. Hun døde i februar 1954, næsten 80 år gammel. De sidste 25 år af sit liv gik hun lige så meget op i det ærefulde hverv med at sælge lotterisedler som i udviklingen på Det Kongelige Teater.

Inden sin død oplevede Danmarks første Brünnhilde én gang selv at vinde i klasselotteriet; hun vandt 600 kroner, og købte et nyt gulvtæppe.

Kan man synge værre end Florence Foster Jenkins? Du kender sikkert ikke hende her …

Florence_Foster_Jenkins_(film)I denne tid er der verdenspremiere på filmen om fænomenet Florence Foster Jenkins med Meryl Streep i hoverollen som den tvivlsomt syngende, rige amerikaner – filmen kommer også til Danmark, men har først premiere her 26. august.

Og Foster Jensen er jo helt klart ikonet blandt en håndfuld sangere, som gennem tiden har gjort sig bemærket ved at synge ekstremt dårligt, men at insistere på at gøre det alligevel. Prøv f.eks. at google Mrs. Miller, norske Olga Marie Mikalsen (som betegnede sig selv som lyrisk alt) eller barytonen Thomas Burns, der kan få alle, der hører hans udgave af “Salut, demure” fra Gounods Faust, til at få spændinger i halsen i dagevis.

Med i den eksklusive klub af folk, der – mere eller mindre uden at vide det – gør det meget svært for os andre at lytte til dem i længere tid ad gangen, er endnu en amerikaner med det skønne navn Tryphosa Bates-Batcheller.

Skærmbillede 2016-05-14 kl. 08.53.41Hun blev født i 1876, som datter af en fremtrædende republikansk politiker og rigmand, og da hun i 1904 blev gift med en anden rig mand, bosatte parret sig i Paris.

Tryphosa havde fået at vide, at hun havde en fin sangstemme, og besluttede at få  sangundervisning – og når penge ikke er promblemet, kan man jo lige så godt vælge  nogle af verdens mest berømte sangpædagoger, som f.eks. Blanche og Malthilde Marchesi, der uddannede mange af verdens førende sangere i de år.

Som medlem af den eksklusive klub af byens rigeste mennesker var det også nemt for hende at få lejlighed til at optræde ved private sammenkomster og velgørenhedsarrangementer. Og hun kunne også hyre de rigtige akkompagnatører – f.eks. komponisten Jules Massenet, som man ved har optrådt med hende flere gange. Sikkert med tankerne fast rettet mos honoraret og muligheden for at blive venner med endnu flere rige mennesker, som kunne betale overpriser for lignende arrangementer.

Da Tryphosa flyttede tilbage til USA i 1941 indsang hun to plader for samme pladeselskab, som udgav Florence Foster Jenkins’ legendariske indspilninger. Den ene kan du – hvis du tør – høre nederst i dette indlæg.

I én af sine erindringsbøger skriver Tryphosa Bates-Batcheller, at hun også indsang en plade med en Schubert-lied, som åbenbart er gået tabt.

Man skal måske næsten være taknemmelig …

A Swedish opera star at the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest

440px-Eurovision_Song_Contest_1965_-_Ingvar_WixellBaritone Ingvar Wixell was born in Luleå in 1931. A member of the ensemble at Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm from 1955 to 67 he then joined the Deutsche Oper Berlin in 1967 where he was a member for more than 30 years. He sang at the Salzburg and Bayreuth festivals, as well as on stages all over the world. And he even participated in the Eurovision Song Contest!

Wixell actually performed all the songs in the local competition to select Sweden’s Eurovision Song Contest 1965 entry. The winning song was “Annorstädes Vals” (Elsewhere Waltz), which Wixell went on to perform at the international final in Naples. In a break from the then prevailing tradition, the song was sung in English (as “Absent Friend”). This led to the introduction from 1966 onwards of a rule stipulating that each country’s entry must be sung in one of the languages of that country.

The contest took place in Naples, and was Italy’s first hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest. 18 countries participated, and it created quite a stir that Wixell performed his song in English instead of the original Swedish. The native languages were used for all of the other participants, and this led to a rule being introduced for the 1966 edition onwards, when all participants had to perform their songs using one of their national language.

The song came 10th in the competition, by the way …

 

Rossini fylder 53 år i dag! Jo, det er rigtigt …

GiorcesRossini1… men kun fordi han netop blev født den 29. februar, som jo kun optræder i kalenderen hvert fjerde år. Ellers havde han kunnet fejre sin 224 års fødselsdag.

I år er det samtidig 200 år siden hans allermest berømte opera havde premiere. Her på fødselsdagen synes jeg, at det er på sin plads med en tur tilbage til 1816, hvor Rossini skrev sit kendteste værk på kun 24 dage – inklusive tilretning af libretto og en komplet prøveperiode. Kan det overhovedet lade sig gøre? Lad os skrue tiden tilbage til 1815 …

Rom er måske nok den evige stad med en fortid som verdens centrum – men det kan være svært at se i 1815. Turen ind til byen giver et fingerpeg om, hvad der venter; det øde landskab er spækket med landevejsrøvere, selv om de langs indfaldsvejene kan se de makabre beviser på byens barske justits på området – lange pæle med afhuggede arme og ben fra deres mindre heldige kolleger.

Inde i selve byen fortsætter de triste syn. De gamle romerske ruiner ligger halvt overgroet, flokke af får og grise roder rundt i jorden på Forum Romanum, og Colloseum er nu bare stedet, hvor romerne ganske gratis kan hente stenblokke til deres nye huse. Rom er ufattelig beskidt og uhumsk, og om sommeren hærger malariaen i den stegende hede i de faldefærdige fattigkvarterers smalle gader. Alligevel strømmer studerende, kunstnere og turister til fra hele Europa. Nogle af dem bliver endda boende, som den danske billedhugger Bertel Thorvaldsen, som har haft sit atelier her i byen i 19 år.

Gioachino Rossini er 23 år, da han kommer til Rom i efteråret 1815 for at arbejde på Teatro Valle. Han er allerede en garvet rotte i operafaget, og har i de sidste fem år arbejdet sig frem til en position som en af de mest efterspurgte komponister i Napoli, Venedig, Milano og Rom. For Rossini er det en særlig oplevelse at se teatret, for det var her hans første opera – skrevet da han kun var 14 år – blev uropført. Ganske vist skete det først for fire år siden, men dengang havde Rossini travlt med at sætte nye operaer op i Ferrara og Venedig. Nu står han for første gang i Teatro Valle, hvor han dels skal stå for en produktion af operaen Tyrken i Italien, som han året før har skrevet til La Scala i Milano, og dels skal skrive en helt ny opera til teatret. Han er næppe imponeret.

Standarden på scenen og i orkestergraven er ufatteligt ringe. Musikerne er amatører; de spiller i teatret om aftenen og arbejder som guldsmede, snedkere eller murere om dagen – og Rossini ved ikke om han skal være mest forarget over, at hans barber spiller klarinet i orkestret, eller over at hans klarinettist også er hans barber. Den franske komponist Hector Berlioz besøger Rom nogle år senere, hvor forholdene åbenbart ikke er blevet meget bedre:

Det er værre end nogen kan forestille sig – her er mangel på både musikere og på enhver fornemmelse for musik. De få violinister i orkestret spiller helt efter deres egne hoveder, og de begynder og slutter når de har lyst.

For mange italienske teatergæster i de fine loger er det langt hen ad vejen også ret ligegyldigt, hvad der sker på scenen. De kommer for at blive set og for at møde andre med samme sociale status, og mange har købt en loge for en hel sæson. Måske hører de efter til premieren, men efter et par forestillinger drukner meget af sangen og musikken i almindelig larm. Oppe på galleriet sidder andre grupper, som til gengæld er fanatiske tilhængere eller modstandere af en bestemt komponist eller sanger. Nogle af dem har en yderst professionel holdning til begivenhederne på scenen; de er betalt af kunstnerne selv eller af operaledelsen for enten at ytre sig positivt om de betalende eller buh’e konkurrenterne ud. Slagsmål er ikke ualmindeligt, og publikum opfører sig mange steder nærmest som om de var til en sportskamp 200 år senere. Politiet er i salen hver eneste aften. Den tyske komponist Louis Spohr besøger Italien i de år:

De populære arier er det eneste, der tiltrækker sig publikums opmærksomhed. Under ouverturen og recitativerne er larmen i huset så kraftig, at man knap kan høre musikken. Der bliver spillet kort i de fleste loger, og der bliver konverseret højlydt overalt. Men opmærksomhed er måske også for meget forlangt fra mennesker, som allerede har hørt samme opera 30 eller 40 gange, og som udelukkende er i teatret af sociale grunde.

Rossinis nye opera hedder Torvaldo e Dorliska, og den har premiere 26. december – åbningen af karnevalssæsonen. De store byer syd for alperne – dem med mange teatre – har op til tre operasæsoner om året, som varer et par måneder hver: Den vigtigste er karnevalssæsonen, som varer fra 2. juledag til fasten. Senere kommer påskesæsonen, og til sidst efterårssæsonen, som varer til advent. I hver sæson må et operahus med respekt for sig selv sætte mindst én nyskrevet opera op. Publikum kræver hele tiden nye værker, og helst skrevet af de kendte komponister. Men succesen er absolut ikke garanteret bare fordi man hedder Rossini og rygtet om en usædvanligt begavet ung maestro er løbet i forvejen. Efter premieren på Torvaldo e Dorliska sender Rossini sin mor et brev med en tegning af en flaske (på italiensk: fiasco) – hans sædvanlige tegn til hende, når han ikke orker at beskrive en dårlig premiere.

Allerede inden premieren på Torvaldo e Dorliska får Rossini en henvendelse fra et konkurrerende teater i byen, Teatro della torre Argentina. Teatret er ejet af den fornemme familie Cesarini, og det er hertugen selv, der forsøger sig som impresario. Det er en svær branche, hvor kun meget få kan få tingene til at hænge sammen. Det går da heller ikke for godt for teatret, og alt står og falder med det næste bestillingsværk. Normalt spiller Argentina-teatret mest seriøse operaer, men nu må der ske noget; hertug Cesarini satser på en komisk opera, og Rossini skriver under på kontrakten:

Signor Duca Sforza-Cesarini engagerer signor Maestro Gioachino Rossini for den kommende karnevalssæson i 1816; bemeldte Rossini lover og forpligter sig til at komponere en opera buffa, som vil blive opført i bemeldte sæson på det angivne teater, til den libretto, som vil blive ham givet af bemeldte impresario, hvad enten denne libretto er gammel eller ny. Maestro Rossini forpligter sig til at aflevere sit [klaver]partitur i midten af januar måned og lempe det til efter sangernes stemmer, yderligere forbindende sig til – såfremt fornødent gøres – at foretage alle de forandringer, der måtte ønskes enten af hensyn til musikkens gode udførelse eller sangernes bekvemmelighed og fordringer.

Ligeledes lover og forpligter Maestro Rossini sig til at være til stede i Rom ikke senere end i slutningen af december i år, og at aflevere første akt af operaen fuldstændig færdig til kopisten 20. januar 1816. Denne dato, 20. januar, fastsættes for at prøverne kunne blive afholdt i rette tid og operaen opført, når det af impresarioen ønskes, idet første forestilling er berammet til hen i mod 5. februar. Ligeledes skal Maestro Rossini aflevere anden akt til kopisten når det ønskes, for at operaen kan gå i scene til den nævnte tid. I modsat fald vil Maestro Rossini udsætte sig for at komme til at lide hele skaden, fordi det bør være således og ikke anderledes.

Maestro Rossini skal endvidere efter sædvanlig skik være forpligtet til at dirigere sin opera og personligt lede alle sang- og orkesterprøver, så ofte det udkræves, hvad enten de holdes i teatret eller andet steds, alt efter impresarioens bestemmelse. Han forpligter sig særligt til at være til stede ved de tre første opførelser, der vil følge umiddelbart efter hinanden, og lede udførelsen fra klaviaturet, fordi det bør være således og ikke anderledes.

Til vederlag for arbejdet forpligter impresarioen sig til at betale Maestro Rossini 400 romerske scudi, så snart de tre første opførelser har fundet sted.

Teatro Argentina er større end Teatro Valle, men ligeså ynkeligt og snavset. Mange ulejliger sig nemlig ikke længere end lige ud på gangen, når de skal lade vandet:

Teatrene i Rom er mørke, beskidte og usle i deres udsmykninger. Men endnu værre er det, at de er så modbydelige for alle sanser, så frastødende i deres helhed, at det er umuligt at beskrive i detaljer. Det må være nok at fremhæve, at korridorerne i Teatro Argentina viser romernes ækle manerer med større kraft end mange bøger fulde af ord.

Sådan beskriver en britisk turist toiletvanerne i det teater, hvor Rossinis nye opera skal have premiere. Året før har publikum ellers sendt en klage til bystyret over de elendige forhold i Roms teatre, men de får bare et flabet og arrogant svar; Rom er kirkernes by – ikke teatrenes! Roms kulturliv bliver styret med hård hånd af paven, som absolut ikke bryder sig om den slags verdslig underholdning – og faktisk er byens teatre slet ikke anerkendt som andet end midlertidige bygninger af de kirkelige myndigheder. Teatrene er derfor bygget af træ, og kan kun beskrives som sundhedsfarlige brandfælder.

På grund af pavestyret er censuren i Rom strengere end andre steder. På alle Europas teatre er det helt normalt, at censuren skal tjekke nye værker for opfordringer til oprør mod de stedlige magthavere, fornærmelser mod kirken og almindelig usømmelighed – men ingen steder er man så strikse som i Rom. En ny libretto skal indleveres i intet mindre end 41 eksemplarer til de tre censorkontorer (et for moralske anliggender, et for kirkelige og et for politiske). Nok til at teatrene må beskæftige en hel hær af skrivere – for der er stadig 122 år til kopimaskinens opfindelse.

Hertug Cesarini har oprindelig engageret librettisten Jacopo Ferretti til at skrive teksten til den nye opera, men Cesarini tror ikke på hans bud på en kassesucces. Han kan ikke tillade sig at gamble med sit teaters fremtid, og han tvivler også på, at censuren vil godkende historien. Kalenderen skriver nu 17. januar, og med kun lidt over to uger til den planlagte premiere kan man ikke spilde tiden. Det vil nok være bedre at vælge et emne, som censorerne allerede har godkendt.

Valget falder til sidst på Beaumarchais’ komedie Barberen i Sevilla. Den er allerede i 1782 blevet omsat til opera af komponisten Giovanni Paisiello, og i den udgave er det en af de få ældre operaer, som publikum ikke vil slippe. Librettisten til Torvaldo e Dorliska, Cesare Sterbini, bliver hyret til at skrive en ny libretto over den gamle historie. Det er slet ikke ualmindeligt at bruge de samme historier igen og igen, og foruden Paisiellos ultrapopulære udgave har mindst fem andre komponister allerede brugt Beaumarchais’ skuespil som forlæg for en opera.

Barbiere_di_Siviglia_frontespizioDen 25. januar afleverer Sterbini teksten til første akt, og kun fire dage senere følger anden akt. Rossini kan gå i gang, og allerede 6. februar afleverer han første akt af operaen til nodeskriverne, som så kan gå i gang med at fabrikere noder til sangerne. Dagen efter dør hertug Cesarini af en lungebetændelse, som han har fået ved at sidde i sit eget iskolde teater. Han bliver kun 44 år, men der er ikke tid at sørge længe; alt for mange penge står på spil. Hans enke og en agent overtager ledelsen af Teatro Argentina, og arbejdet med den nye opera går videre.

Barberen i Sevilla bliver udtænkt, komponeret, indstuderet, sat i scene og prøvet på kun 24 dage, og det er ikke usædvanligt for hverken Rossini eller hans kolleger, som ofte arbejder i døgndrift, når de først har hørt de sangere de har til rådighed. Rossini er en praktisk mand, og han ved, at hans chancer for en succes er større, hvis han skriver partier, som ligger godt for hver enkelt sanger, og som viser hans eller hendes fortrin. Derfor kunne han – og mange af hans kolleger – aldrig drømme om at skrive en opera uden først at høre de aktuelle sangere, selv om det gør ugerne op til en premiere særdeles hektiske.

Ikke underligt, at mange komponister tit genbruger en god arie, et vellykket ensemble eller en flot ouverture fra en opera, som ellers er blevet en fiasko. Det er nemt og fristende at undgå besværet med at finde på ny musik, når man nu sagtens kan slippe af sted med at bruge en god arie fra en mere eller mindre glemt opera fra forrige sæson i en fjern by. Ouverturen til Barberen i Sevilla er endda dobbelt genbrug; Rossini tager simpelthen en ouverture han allerede havde skrevet i 1813 til operaen Aureliano in Palmira, og også brugte to år senere til operaen Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra i 1815.

Rossini har gode sangere til sin rådighed, for Cesarini vidste, at uden berømte og populære stjerner på scenen ville det blive svært at sikre en succes. Men berømte sangere koster mange penge, og den spanske tenor Manuel Garcia får tre gange så meget for at synge Almavivas parti som Rossini får for at komponere hele operaen. Orkestret er også meget bedre end amatørholdet på Teatro Valle, og Rossini ved, hvordan man udnytter en gruppe dygtige musikere. Han har fået tilnavnet il tedeschino (den lille tysker), fordi han har lært en masse om orkestrering ved at studere operaer af Mozart og Haydn. Det betyder, at han bruger blæserne og slagtøjet meget mere end sine italienske forgængere – og i mange konservative italieneres ører lyder resultatet som et larmende kaos, der udelukkende har til formål at drukne sangernes indsats.

Premieren bliver fastsat til 20. februar. Men allerede på forhånd er der en del af publikum, som har besluttet, at den nye opera skal blive en fiasko. Det er den fløj, som holder på, at sådan en opkomling som den unge Rossini ikke skal bryde sig om at røre ved en historie som Barberen i Sevilla, som de mener tilhører den forgudede Paisiello. Rossini og Sterbini har ellers forsøgt at gyde olie på vandene, dels ved ikke at give operaen den gamle og kendte titel, men derimod kalde den Almaviva ossia L’inutile precauzione (Almaviva eller den nytteløse forholdsregel), og dels ved at skrive et forord i den trykte libretto, som alle har købt på forhånd:

For at imødegå enhver beskyldning om rivalisering med den udødelige mester Paisiello har Maestro Rossini bestemt, at teksten er blevet sat i nye vers, og at der er tilføjet flere nye situationer og musikalske numre. Dette er desuden påkrævet for at imødekomme den moderne smag, som har ændret sig meget siden den fejrede Paisiello skrev sin musik.

Ordene virker som en rød klud i øjnene på de konservative Paisiello-tilhængere. Som ventet går det helt galt. Rossini har iført sig en ny spraglet jakke i spansk stil, som han selv er meget stolt af – men publikum skriger af grin og gør nar ad ham, da han træder ind i orkestergraven og sætter sig ved cembaloet for at slå an til ouverturen. Den er der ingen, der hører noget af, for den drukner fuldstændig i larmen.

Bedre går det ikke, da tenoren Garcia kommer ind for at synge sin serenade foran Rosinas balkon. Han har ikke fået stemt sin guitar, og publikum råber på at få lov til at høre primadonnaen Geltrude Righetti-Giorgi i stedet for. Og uheldene fortsætter; en kat sniger sig pludseligt ind på scenen og insisterer højlydt på at deltage i operaen, Don Basilio falder pladask på scenen og får næseblod – og gruppen af Paisiello-tilhængere blandt publikum benytter i øvrigt enhver chance til at forstyrre forestillingen. Geltrude Righetti-Giorgi synger Rosina, og hun fortæller om den fatale aften:

Det er umuligt at beskrive de fornærmelser, som haglede ned over Rossini, som sad uforstyrret ved sit cembalo og så ud til at tænke: ’Tilgiv dem, Apollo, thi de ved ikke, hvad de gør’. Han forlod teatret, som var han en upåvirket tilskuer til det hele. Jeg gik senere til hans hus for at trøste ham, men han sov allerede trygt.

Rossini ved, at han har skrevet en opera, som fortjener bedre – og næste dag skriver han til sin mor:

I aftes blev min opera opført og buh’et ud. Det er de mærkværdigste ting, der sker her i byen. Jeg kan ærligt sige dig, at min opera trods alt dette er meget fin, og folk glæder sig allerede til næste opførelse, hvor man måske vil kunne høre musikken – hvilket var umuligt i går. Fra begyndelsen til slutningen druknede alt i larm.

Rossini reviderer partituret og sletter de afsnit, som ikke har virket efter hensigten. Han sygemelder sig, så han ikke selv behøver at dirigere forestillingen. Men nu har romerne raset ud, og til den anden opførelse sidder de helt stille og lytter. Ved den tredje forestilling er succesen endnu større, og Rossini fortsætter brevet til sin mor:

Nu kan jeg skrive, at min opera ved den anden opførelse og alle de følgende aftener blev tiljublet med stor entusiasme, og jeg måtte frem på scenen 5-6 gange for at modtage den voldsomme hyldest. Jeg græd af lykke.

Rossini tør nu omsider kalde operaen Barberen i Sevilla, og det varer ikke længe, før den er endnu mere populær end Paisiellos udgave. I løbet af de næste ti år når den verden rundt, med premierer så langt væk som i Dublin, New York, Baltimore, Buenos Aires, Sankt Petersborg, Riga – og også i København, hvor den kommer op på Det Kongelige Teater i 1822.

Barberen i Sevilla er en af de meget få operaer fra før midten af 1800-tallet, som har været på alverdens operahuse uafbrudt lige siden urpremieren. Men den er på flere måder undtagelsen fra reglen; den er også én af de sidste virkelig succesfulde komiske operaer. Det italienske publikums smag er langsomt, men sikkert, ved at ændre sig; de er trætte af halvdårlige forvekslingskomedier med det kendte karikerede persongalleri – de vil se dramaer på scenen; vedkommende, seriøse operaer med historier som f.eks. dem, de sluger råt i Walter Scotts ufatteligt populære bøger.

Rossini er også leveringsdygtig i den seriøse og dramatiske genre. Han er allerede på vej videre til næste premiere – denne gang i Napoli. Han arbejder i et kommercielt system, hvor han må sælge sine ydelser til højestbydende. Prisen for ikke at skulle være i tjeneste hos en fyrste eller kejser, med den sikkerhed det gav f.eks. en komponist som Haydn få årtier tidligere, er et omflakkende liv som evigt rejsende fra by til by, altid at ankomme i sidste øjeblik og være nødt til at arbejde som en sindssyg for at nå at gøre partituret færdigt inden premieren.

I 1829 trækker Rossini sig som 37-årig tilbage fra det stressede nomadeliv. Inden da har han skrevet 39 operaer, og er på det tidspunkt helt uden sammenligning den mest feterede komponist i verden – og én af verdens mest berømte personer overhovedet, måske kun overgået af Napoleon. Rossini lever helt frem til 1868, og når at opleve en ny operaverden, hvor det er navne som Verdi og Wagner der fører an … hvor komiske operaer hører til sjældenhederne, og hvor man ikke længere skriver en opera på et par uger. Nye vinde blæser både syd og nord for Alperne.

Men Barberen i Sevilla er stadig på plakaten overalt i verden – her f.eks. med min yndlings-Rossini-tenor, Lawrence Brownlee, der synger den sindssygt virtuose arie i slutningen af operaen. Tillykke med dagen, Rossini!

 

A Danish world class baritone with a tragic fate

RabinowitzA Danish world class baritone named Frantz Rabinowitz? If you have never heard his name it’s not surprising.

As a jew he had to flee to Sweden during the nazi occupation of Denmark by jumping off the ferry to Bornholm and swimming ashore – and after the war he continued his career in Hollywood and did a screen test for a film featuring Deanna Durbin. But Frantz Rabinowitz died at the outrageously early age of thirty, and what would certainly have been a major international career was cut tragically short.

Listen to his recording of Germont’s aria from Verdi’s La Traviata and judge for yourself. And below the clip you can read the dramatic and fascinating story of his short life:

On Monday 30th August, 1948 a meeting was scheduled by Dansk Discophil Forening, the Danish record collector’s society in Copenhagen[1]. One of the society’s longest standing members was to play his latest acquisitions and talk about his adventures in America. This was something that many members had been looking especially forward to, as the speaker was a very special member. Not only was he the owner of a splendid collection of early acoustic vocal records – he was also an outstanding baritone, who had just embarked on a career in the USA. But Frantz Rabinowitz never did give the talk to the society. He died nine days before the meeting – only thirty years of age.

The story of the Rabinowitz family in Denmark took its beginning in 1910, when Max Rabinowitz emigrated from Königsberg to Copenhagen to establish himself in the hide and skin trade. He married Ebba Wennerholm-Petersen and they had three children; Harry, Frantz and Mirjam. Frantz, the youngest, was born on 22nd January, 1918, and he and his brother Harry were both very musical; already before their teens they founded a mutual record collection[2]. They preferred singers of the acoustic period, and they were also fond of singing themselves.

After elementary school Frantz was sent off to the country. Here he was trained in farming, and later in his career the glossy magazines were only too happy to arrange photo sessions with Rabinowitz dressed as a farmer singing to the cows. Farming, however, was not what Frantz wanted to do for the rest of his life. He was now sixteen years old, and he told his father that he wanted to be a singer – no matter what. So, Max Rabinowitz took his son to Egisto Tango, at that time conductor at the Royal Opera in Copenhagen. Tango listened, and he liked what he heard. He recommended a teacher for the young boy; the baritone Holger Bruusgaard of the Royal Opera (who himself made quite a number of recordings), and this turned out to be an excellent choice. Frantz Rabinowitz studied with Bruusgaard for three years, developing a rich, dark voice, quite unlike the typical Nordic light baritones.

In 1937 one of Rabinowitz’ great heroes, Lawrence Tibbett, came to Copenhagen. Rabinowitz asked Tibbett for an audition, and it was settled that Rabinowitz should come to the Hotel d’Angleterre, where Tibbett was staying. After hearing his young colleague, Tibbett was obviously pleased, and he presented Rabinowitz with a photo with the inscription: “To Frantz Rabinowitz with sincere belief in a splendid career and with best wishes”. A year later Rabinowitz had reached the age of eighteen, and for two years he was now enlisted as a soldier. He still kept up his singing, though, and being himself extremely interested in records and recordings, he was eager to record his own voice. The result was two acetates recorded in in February 1938 in the home of pianist Erwin Berg, who also accompanied the two items recorded that day. Both the recordings show an inexperienced baritone, not always in pitch. The overall impression is of rather crude interpretations, but still one hears the potential qualities of his voice.

Rabinowitz was responding well to Verdi and the Italian repertoire, and it was natural that he would want to continue his studies in Italy. He had spent many evenings in front of the radio at home listening to broadcasts from Milan and Rome, and after leaving the army he could not wait to see the country for himself. In March 1938 Frantz Rabinowitz left Copenhagen to study with the soprano Giuseppina Finzi-Magrini in Turin. The first thing he did after arriving in Turin was to go to the Teatro Vittorio Emanuele; he wanted to hear Italian opera in natura. During the three-week stagione here, he heard La Bohéme with Angelo Minghetti as Rodolfo and Rosetta Pampanini as Mimi Cleopatra by Armando la Rosa Parodi with the tenor Alessandro Granda, Boris Gudonov with the bass Tancredi Pasero, and Die Walküre in Italian with Giuseppina Cobelli as Sieglinde, Fiorenzo Tasso as Siegmund and Andrea Mongelli as Wotan. But the highlight of it all was the last performance, Otello with Aureliano Pertile. Rabinowitz later wrote about this experience in Discophilen, the journal of Dansk Discophil Forening,:

That particular performance still stand out in my mind as my greatest experience during my one and a half years in Italy. I had last heard Pertile on the radio when he created Nerone by Mascagni at La Scala. It was a wonderful part, but it was said to have ruined his voice. He did not sing for two years, and then he suddenly appeared as Otello in Bergamo. It was the first time in his career he had taken on this part, and now it was time for him to present it in Turin. The excitement was enormous. I clinged to the arms of my chair during the opening scene. Then he appeared in a splendid armour, and the “Esultate” trumpeted out in the theatre like a fanfare. The voice was fantastic, quite different from what I had expected. […] The second act was an experience of the highest achievable art. The duet “Si pel ciel” was sung with a power and feeling that I do not think even Tamagno would have been able to top. In the third act Pertile reached the divine. I shall never forget how he threw Desdemona to the floor with the words “Aterra a piangi!”. One was shattered in the soul. In “Dio mi potevi” Pertile revealed the soul of Otello as if he tore the heart out of everyone in the audience. When he fell to the floor at the end, I was almost certain that he really was done for, at that we would not hear the last act. Finzi-Magrini, who was with me, knew Pertile and I asked her if we could go and see Pertile during the interval. He sat in an armchair, breathing heavily. Otello’s torments were obviously still in his mind, and it was quite a while before he collected himself and he greeted us. We only stayed a moment, but long enough to convince me that we would certainly get the final act. This was dominated by the death of Otello, and after the performance the applause would take no end. I staggered out of the theatre with the memory of a singer who is no less than a genius. […] A year later I heard him on the radio as Canio. It was pathetic. Pertile was now definitely finished, and he did not sing again. I’m happy to have experienced his Indian summer.[3]

Rabinowitz was thrilled to be in Italy, not only because of the opportunity to hear the singers of the day, but also because this was where many of the singers he knew from the Fonotipias and G&Ts in his record collection were still living. He knew that his teacher herself had made some black G&Ts:

I found some of her records at the flea market in Turin, and the next day I showed them to her. She refused ever having made the recordings, and stated that they had to be “dreadful in their antiquity”. However, I convinced her of the the records’ excellence by playing them to her. She did admit that the voice was hers, but she still could not remember the recording sessions.[4]

Rabinowitz met many others of the early Italian singers he knew from his record collection; Guerrina Fabbri, Giuseppe Borgatti, Alice Cucini – and also Rosina Storchio, the creator of Madama Butterfly, whom he met visiting Verdi’s Casa di riposo in Milan.

Rabinowitz studied with Finzi-Magrini for more than a year, and his voice developed both regarding timbre, volume and range. He was of course hoping for a chance to perform while he was in Italy, but a Jewish name did not make things easier, so he used the name Francesco Dammarchi. In the spring of 1939 it happened: He was offered to sing Amonasro with an Italian touring company. The performances were to take place in Nice, alongside no other than Francesco Merli and Gina Cigna. But nothing ever came of it because of the political problems between Italy and France. It must have been a great disappointment to Rabinowitz, but another offer soon arrived; this time regarding a complete recording of Orfeo by Monteverdi.

For three months Rabinowitz lived at the Lago di Garda and worked on the part of Orfeo in the home of Giacomo Benvenuti who was in charge of the preparations for the forthcoming recording sessions. Everything was ready for the recording scheduled for October, but again Rabinowitz was unlucky. The War broke out, and the English recording team had to return home. Nothing ever came out of the project, and again Rabinowitz was disappointed. Italy now seemed hermetically closed for a foreign, Jewish baritone looking for work, as it was impossible to obtain a working permit. It was time for Rabinowitz to return to Denmark.

He returned to Copenhagen in the autumn of 1939, to a Denmark still not occupied by Germany. In November Rabinowitz entered a recording studio for the first time. The two private recordings made for him by Scandinavian HMV are among his best recordings. Made just after his return from Italy, they are evidence of the astonishing improvements Rabinowitz made in those one and a half years. Here is a singer full of confidence, ready to conquer the operatic world. Especially his rendition of Posa’s death is outstanding, with wonderful line, and all previous difficulty with pitch has now vanished.

Here is the death of Posa from Don Carlo from this session:

He was, of course, hoping to get a contract with the Royal Opera as soon as possible, but again things did not work as well as he had hoped for. Not until March 1940 was he granted an audition, where he sang exerpts from Don Carlos and Das Rheingold. Rabinowitz was accepted for a debut performance at the Royal Opera, but nothing was mentioned as to when that could take place.

Anyway, Rabinowitz had plans of his own; his father agreed to pay for a concert debut with the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra and the conductor Emil Reesen. Two supporting singers from the Royal Opera were also engaged; the soprano Margherita Flor and her husband, the tenor Thyge Thygesen. Rabinowitz was only twenty-two, and the press wrote all about the young baritone and his unusual debut. This was all or nothing for Rabinowitz. The debut was first scheduled for 14th February, but Rabinowitz caught the flu, and the concert had to be postponed to 1st April. Every critic in Copenhagen was there.

After the Tancredi overture Rabinowitz sang “Vi ravviso” from La Sonnambula. And from then on all the music was by Verdi:. “Cortigiani” from Rigoletto, “Invano Alvaro” from La Forza del Destino (with Thyge Thygesen), “Ciel! mio padre” from Aida (with Margherita Flor), “Di provenza il mar” from La Traviata, and finally all three singers joined together in the trio from act one of Il Trovatore. This programme was a huge gamble, but the next day the critics all agreed that the programme had been selected wisely to show off the italianate dark baritone voice of Frantz Rabinowitz:

…his voice can be like black velvet, but he is more than just a lyric baritone; he is also a musical-dramatic talent. There can be no doubt that Rabinowitz will reach the highest […] he is the greatest talent to show itself in a long time, and he has a demon inside him. It is safe to bet that he will be a real star in a couple of years…[5]

Even the critic most feared by all Danish singers and musicians, Hugo Seligmann, was pleased:

…He was beautiful. The female expert on these matters who was sitting next to me declared that his hair was dark like the jungle, he had eyes that saw, a sensitive mouth and a rather weak chin, but what can be expected of one only twenty-two years of age. And he was tall too, handsome, elegant and slim […] Bellini was not very good, rather sad actually. Noted only to tease. Because after that came Rigoletto, and what a performance! Impudently brilliant. What a voice […] if one should sing Verdi, one should sing him with a voice like the one Frantz Rabinowitz possesses. His voice could love, it could hate, it could revenge and threaten…everything done very Verdian, that is in a grand and masculine way…[6]

It had obviously paid off to spend around 3000 kroner (a small fortune in those days) on a debut. But eight days later the War came to Copenhagen – Denmark was now occupied by Germany. This was of course a setback for a young, promising Jewish singer, but even so it did not take long before the next engagement came along. The tenor Stefan Islandi cancelled a concert performance on 17th May at the Tivoli Concert Hall, and Rabinowitz was called in as a replacement. Again, the press was very favourable. But there were still no sign of a debut at the Royal Opera, and while waiting for more serious engagements, Rabinowitz appeared in various variety-shows who could use a good-looking baritone singing popular arias and songs.

In 1941 Rabinowitz recorded 6 sides at two sessions for Polyphon in Copenhagen. Sadly, only two sides is of opera – the remaining four are songs. The Traviata-aria is an example of Rabinowitz’ inclination towards slow tempi. He is in wonderful voice, though, and gives a fully matured interpretation of the aria. “Nemico della patria” from Andrea Chenier is marred by an orchestra who clearly is sight-reading the score, but in spite of this Rabinowitz gives a powerful and dramatic account. The reason for Rabinowitz to record four sides of songs is perhaps the popularity of the song-recordings the tenor Aksel Schiøtz recorded for HMV. Polyphon was surely looking for a singer to compete with Schiøtz in the more popular field. A shame that Polyphon did not record Rabinowitz in arias from Faust, Rigoletto, Ernani or Un ballo in maschera – all music in the repertoire of Rabinowitz at the time. Here is the Nemico della patria from Giordano’s Andrea Chénier:

In February and March 1941 Rabinowiz and Stefan Islandi toured Denmark with a staging of La Bohéme by the Hermann Florent Touring Company – forty-two performances in all. This gave the young singer his first experiences on stage, and now the Royal Opera felt it safe to offer Rabinowitz the part of Marcello for a debut on 17th April.

That evening he sang with Stefan Islandi (who at this time was not a regular member of the ensemble but still appearing as guest), Edith Oldrup, Einar Nørby and Poul Wiedemann, with Johan Hye-Knudsen conducting. The part of Marcello was not ideal for Rabinowitz to show the audience and the critics what he could achieve on stage, and the newspapers wrote again of his wonderful voice, but wanted to hear him in parts like Wolfram, Escamillo or Germont pére before judging his talents for the stage. Sadly, they never got a chance to hear him in any of those parts. During the next year Rabinowitz sang in several broadcasts by the Danish Radio and gave recitals in various cities in Denmark. But the times were turning against Rabinowitz. In February 1941 both conductor Johan Hye-Knudsen and soloist Stefan Islandi cancelled a concert performance with The Copenhagen Concert Society, and Emil Reesen took over the conducting and Rabinowitz replaced the tenor. Two days after the performance the Danish pro-nazi newspaper National-Socialisten wrote about the “communist conductor Reesen” and his choice of a replacement for Islandi:

…Reesen had a good opportunity to engage a promising, young Danish or Nordic singer, but […] loving the Jews he chose Mr. Frantz Rabinowitz (what a Danish, what a Nordic name!) to perform at the Concert Society. Mr. Rabinowitz (his name reminds one of Jews in the former [sic] Poland) is certainly a tasteful replacement for the great Icelandic singer…[7]

Fortunately, the Danish pro-nazis were not in any way forming the public opinion – a reverse effect is more likely to have been the outcome of an article like this. Rabinowitz was still engaged for broadcasts and concerts – and in March 1942 he sang on Swedish Radio for the first time. But he had to wait until 24th November, 1942 to sing at the Royal Opera again, this time as Count Luna in Il Trovatore, opposite Niels Hansen, Else Schiøtt, Ingeborg Steffensen and Magnus Andersen. The conductor was Egisto Tango, the same who some eight years earlier had heard the possibilities in the voice of the young man. The critics were once more enthusiastic about the voice – but they were not too keen on his acting. Rabinowitz obviously still lacked experience on stage. However, the Royal Opera did not give him an opportunity to earn that experience; apart from two more last-minute performances of La Bohéme in November 1945 (where he sang instead of the indisposed Henry Skjær) he never sang at the Royal Opera again.

In October 1943 Jews all over Denmark were warned that they would soon be arrested and deported to concentration camps abroad. Most managed to escape to Sweden, including Frantz Rabinowitz. He was hidden by friends on the ferry from Copenhagen to the Danish island Bornholm, sailing close to the Swedish coast. Rabinowitz jumped overboard and swam ashore. Already on 27th October, 1943 he sang on Swedish radio, and a couple of weeks later he sang at a concert at the Konserthuset in Stockholm. The rumour of the young brilliant Danish baritone had already whetted the appetite of the Swedish press:

One did not have to listen for long to tell that the rumours about his successes in Copenhagen were true. He can chisel out a phrase with convincing power and he has an intensive fire in the renditions…[8]

In December 1943 Rabinowitz appeared in concerts both in Göteborg and in Stockholm; and it was probably during this time he took lessons from the Scottish tenor Joseph Hislop, at that time living in Sweden. In March 1944 he joined the Danish Brigade in Sweden, where he got to the rank of corporal. On 29th May, 1945 Frantz Rabinowitz returned with the Brigade to Denmark. He was overjoyed to be back in the liberated Denmark, and on 19th August he again sang on Danish Radio, a concert with the tenor Niels Hansen. Two months later he appeared on radio again, this time singing a medley of American songs with the alto Else Brems – music that had been banned during the German occupation. His popularity grew; on 12th October Rabinowitz’s picture was on the front cover of Det ny Radioblad – the Danish Radio Magazine. During the winter 1945-46 Rabinowitz was busy singing not only more concerts at the Danish Radio and the two performances of La Bohéme at the Royal Opera, but also singing in concerts all over Denmark. Together with the pianist Elvi Henriksen and two cabaret-artists he toured the province in February and March 1946, giving forty performances in forty-two days.

In March Rabinowitz was in all the Danish newspapers; he had been suggested as partner for Deanna Durbin in Hollywood, and he even made a screen test that was sent to Hollywood. The man behind this was his brother, Harry. He was now living in America, and he had played a couple of Frantz’s records for Deanna Durbin’s husband who was also her manager. It seemed that Frantz Rabinowitz was just what Hollywood needed; he was good-looking, he had a wonderful voice, and he was a bit exotic coming from an obscure country far away. On 29th March Rabinowitz embarked on M/S Uruguay from Copenhagen to New York, where he arrived two weeks later. He planned to stay in America for a while; he brought his beloved collection of about 3000 vocal records with him. Rabinowitz and his brother immediately travelled to California, and another test for Universal Pictures was made. But things did not go as fast as Rabinowitz might have thought. For months he heard nothing from Universal, and he had to take a job sweeping floors to make a living. He also met an American model, whom he soon married. On 10th September, 1946 Rabinowitz had his American debut in the Redlands Bowl in California. He had now changed his name to Frank Wennerholm – this was obviously easier to pronounce, and it also had a more Nordic ring to it. Frantz was very proud when he could write home about his American debut, and he quoted the local critics:

… He came, he sang and he conquered. He has what it takes – a rich vibrant voice, commanding musicianship, a stunning physique, and sincerity of character. The spontaneous ovation after his first group showed more enthusiasm than has been demonstrated before during the whole summer season. Frank Wennerholms future career with the Metropolitan Opera Company will be watched with interest.[9]

Well, the career with the Met was not exactly secured yet; Rabinowitz had probably tried to get an audition, but either it did not turn out well or it never actually took place. No signs of Frantz Rabinowitz or Frank Wennerholm exists in the archives of The Metropolitan Opera.

In April 1947 Rabinowitz signed a contract with the manager W. Colston Leigh. He managed a number of the not quite first-rank singers from the Met; Marjorie Lawrence, Marita Farell, Lucielle Browning, Bruno Landi, Richard Bonelli and John Brownlee. Colston Leigh knew the tricks of the trade, and he soon produced press material on the young Danish singer for the use of local newspapers who only needed to fill in the date and place of the performance:

Frank Wennerholm, famous young Danish baritone of the Copenhagen Royal Opera who will sing here on ___________________, at _______________ would have been a farmer if he hadn’t made singing his career. When he was fifteen years old he went to work on a farm 30 miles outside of Copenhagen. For the two years he stayed there, one of his duties was to tend the animals. He knew many arias learned from recordings, and it is doubtful whether any other herd in the Scandinavian countries ever heard so much of the music of Verdi and Puccini during the course of a farm day.

This and other equally relevant stories was now distributed to the press, and Rabinowitz and his wife appeared in the society magazines posing with two cups of coffee with the text: “Coffee hour for Mr. and Mrs. Frank Wennerholm.” American publicity methods were probably not easy to get accustomed to.

But concert engagements now began to materialise. On 15th May, 1947 Rabinowitz sang with The Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra at a promenade concert in Varsity Arena, and the reviews were just what Colston Leigh needed for new publicity material: Under the headline “Wennerholm singing pleases prom group” the Toronto Daily Star wrote:

Promenaders at last night’s Varsity Arena concert took favourably to tall, dark, handsome Frank Wennerholm, baritone. Giving a truly dynamic performance, the young Danish singer was recalled for several encores […] Wennerholm captured his audience first with the prologue from I Pagliacci, giving the selection the richness it deserves…followed with “A Dream” by Grieg, and the melodic Neopolitan [sic] folk song “Torna a Sorriento”. He brought the house down with “Figaro” and “Ah, sweet mystery of life”…[10]

On 12th June Rabinowitz could wire home to his parents in Denmark:

Beautiful daughter arrived this afternoon – mother extremely well after easy delivery – baby weighs 6 pounds – love from the three of us – Frank.

Frantz Rabinowitz now had both his wife, Barbara, and a daughter to support. And his career was not moving as fast as he had hoped for. He still had not sung on the stage of an American opera house, and he had now been abroad more than a year. On 26th June he sang Scarpia in a performance at Carnegie Hall given by a company named “International Opera Company”. The performance was, as was stated in the advertisements, “complete with lavish scenery and costumes”. That performance was repeated on 8th July, and a month later Rabinowitz sang Amonasro in another semi-staged performance in Indianapolis. During the winter Rabinowitz sang concerts, many of them with the soprano Marita Farell. He sang only in minor cities, at music schools, colleges, music clubs and with amateur orchestras. Rabinowitz sang more than forty concerts all over USA that season.

But Rabinowitz wanted to go to Denmark for the following summer – an idea his mother of course was very keen on. She contacted a Danish concert agent, who during the first months of 1948 tried to persuade the Royal Opera in Copenhagen to engage Rabinowitz. But the answer was negative; the Royal Opera had no time for rehearsals with a guest. But when Rabinowitz and his family arrived in Copenhagen in July he could at least look forward to a concert performance at the Tivoli Concert Hall. The press was eager to write about the home-coming son, and Rabinowitz answered all questions about his American career with modesty – he did not try to improve upon the facts of his struggles in the second league of the American music scene.

The Tivoli Concert was scheduled for 30th July. The programme consisted of material Rabinowitz had sung many times before; Verdi, Berlioz and Giordano. And the critics now expected not just a talented singer – but an international baritone.

His voice still has its strength in the middle range, where he lavishes his soft and rich sound on the audience. He loves to open up his voice to full power, and this indeed is impressive. But it can be rather tiring in the long run, and one felt the lack of serious artistic absorption – both regarding sound and dramatic expression […] and yet he showed in the serenade from La Damnation de Faust that he possesses the abilities to deliver much more refined singing based on dramatic temperament.[11]

This concert would be his last. A couple of weeks later Rabinowitz with his wife and daughter travelled to Sweden to visit friends and family there. While in Sweden he got ill and was brought to the hospital in Ljungby, where he died on 22nd August, 1948 from complications following an appendicitis operation.

Frantz Rabinowitz died at the outrageously early age of thirty. We now have to content ourselves with only three commercial records made by the only Danish baritone of the shellac era who could have made an international recording career.

© Henrik Engelbrecht 2016

Notes: 

[1] Dansk Discophil Forening was active in the forties and fifties, a society with about a hundred members devoted to both vocal and instrumental music on record.

[2] Harry Rabinowitz is mentioned as one of the fourteen collaborators of the 1937-edition of Bauer’s Historical Records.

[3] Discophilen, June 1948

[4] Discophilen, January 1946

[5] Socialdemokraten, 2nd April, 1940

[6] Politiken, 2nd April, 1940

[7] National-Socialisten, 19th February, 1942

[8] Dagens Nyheter, 9th November, 1943.

[9] quoted from a letter by Frantz Rabinowitz to his parents, dated 23rd September, 1946.

[10] Toronto Daily Star, 16th May, 1947

[11] Berlingske Tidende, 31st July, 1948

This article was originally published in The Record Collector.

En dansk verdenssopran?

hqdefaultHun sang i 25 år på Det Kongelige Teater, og hendes stemme, koloraturer og overlegne toptoner alene burde have sikret hende en plads i historien. Dén plads er godt nok svær at få øje på – for bortset fra en enkelt cd-genudgivelse af de vigtigste af hendes 78-indspilninger er Ebba Wilton stort set glemt i dag.

Hun var en sensation, da hun debuterede på Det Kongelige Teater som Nattens dronning i Tryllefløjten i december 1924, og året efter var hun fastansat i solistensemblet. Hun var 28 år gammel, og fik så stor succes på nationalscenen, at man også fik øje på hende fra udlandet; “Den danske nattergal”, som de franske anmeldere kaldte hende. Tilbudene dumpede ind fra fra dirigenten Wilhelm Furtwängler, som ville have hende til Wieneroperaen, og også fra Covent Garden, som ville ansætte hende som fast første-koloratursopran. Men hun valgte at blive i København, hvor hun sang sin sidste forestilling på Kongens Nytorv i 1949

WiltonEbba Wilton var allerede i konservatorietiden blevet gift med sin sanglærer, tenoren Einar Wilton, og da han først blev syg af tuberkulose og senere døde som kun 44-årig i 1932, mistede Ebba Wilton tilsyneladende lysten til at være andre steder end på den scene, hun kendte så godt. Heldigt for københavnerne, som i 25 år havde en verdensstjerne lige om hjørnet.

Når man lytter til hendes plader i dag er det nemt at trække på smilebåndet af glissaderne, de overdrevent lange, høje toner og en stil, der pegede direkte tilbage på verden af i går. Men prøv alligevel at høre en fuldstændig ubesværet stemme og det musikalske overskud i Rosinas arie fra Barberen i Sevilla, optaget i 1927. Hende ville jeg gerne have hørt i virkeligheden!

Svjatoslav Richter – 100 år i dag!

RichterHan sidder ved et lille træbord. Han fortæller om sit liv. Han kan ikke lide klaverer. Han kan ikke lide sig selv.

I Bruno Monsaingeons fremragende dokumentarfilm “Richter – the enigma” fra 1998 fortæller den ellers meget pressesky ukrainske pianist Svjatoslav Richter næsten deprimerende ærligt om sit liv under det sovjettiske regime, om turnéer i Sibirien, om gennembruddet i vesten – alt sammen illustreret med det ene mere utrolige koncertklip efter det andet. Én af det 20. århundredes allerstørste pianister blev født i dag for præcis 100 år siden.

Sony RichterSelvfølgelig har pladeselskaberne været på pletten og genudgivet store, flotte bokse med hans indspilninger. Sony Classical har udgivet en boks med 18 cd’er med alle Richters live- og studieindspilninger på plademærkerne RCA og Columbia – heribandt optagelser af hans fem (!) sensationelle solokoncerter i Carnegie Hall i 1960. Læs mere her.

Decca RichterOgså Decca har været i arkiverne, og har genudgivet intet mindre end alle Richters indspilninger for både Decca selv, samt for søsterfirmaerne Deutsche Grammophon og Philips. Hele 51 cd’er skal der til for at rumme det hele, og det kommer i en fiks kvadratisk boks med lytning nok til at vare til næste solformørkelse. Læs mere her.

Se dokumentarfilmen om Richter herunder – og dyk ned i hans enorme produktion til en meget billig pris i de nye opsamlingsudgivelser. God fornøjelse!

 

Carlos Kleiber dirigerer Rosenkavaleren

Richard Strauss selv var afmålt og nærmest helt udtryksløs, når han dirigerede sin og andres musik. Her er en helt anden type dirigent i musik af Strauss; mesteren Carlos Kleiber dirigerede i 1994 Rosenkavalen på Wieneroperaen, og heldigvis er der nogen, der har gemt optagelserne fra det lille dirigentkamera, der bruges til de monitorer, der giver sangerne mulighed for at se dirigenten selv om de synger f.eks. på tværs af scenen. Det er så mesterligt og enestående, at man bare måber … tjek f.eks. det trafikkaos der opstår i Ochs og Lerchenauernes musik omkring 22 minutter inde i optagelsen her af anden del af anden akt – og Kleibers reaktion på 22’09. Samtidig med at han får hele orkestret flyttet med, så alle igen er sammen. Mesterligt!

 

 

Olga Peretyatko

OlgaI slutningen af april var jeg i New York, bl.a. for at se deres (bedagede og ikke ret spændende) genopsætning af Bellinis Puritanerne. Men det var heller ikke for den sceniske oplevelse, jeg var taget afsted; tenoren Lawrence Brownlee, som synger partiet hos os i Tivoli 9. august, skulle for første gang synge det på The Met, og samtidig skulle den unge, russiske sopran Olga Peretyatko (hun fylder 34 på torsdag) synge for første gang nogensinde på The Met, i den kvindelige hovedrolle som Elvira. Allerede på forhånd havde pressen skrevet en hel del om den bel-canto-fest, som The Met serverer her i slutningen af sæsonen – foruden Puritanerne så jeg også Rossinis Askepot med Joyce DiDonato og Juan Diego Flórez i de få dage, jeg var derovre.

Olga Peretyatko er det mest ubeskrevne blad af de fire – men det varer helt sikkert ikke længe. Hun er forhenværende mezzosopran, men med en fantastisk højde. Hendes stemme er både dramatisk, mørk og samtidig uhyre fleksibel – og dermed perfekt til netop Bellinis kvinderoller. Hun har allerede udgivet flere cd’er, senest et soloalbum på Sony Classical, hvor hun bl.a. synger Elviras store scene fra netop Puritanerne.

Da jeg var på vej hjem fra New York faldt et par timers ventetid i lufthavnen i Newark sammen med radiotransmissionen af Puritanerne fra matinéforestillingen 3. maj. Heldigvis ligger den på YouTube, og jeg kan varmt anbefale alle, der har lyst til at varme op til Brownlees visit i Tivoli, at lytte til et supercast af solister (Mariusz Kwicien sang Riccardo og Michele Pertusi sang Giorgio) og og desuden det eminente orkester på The Met. Det fås ikke bedre nogen steder i verden i dag. Hør Olga Peretyatko i “Qui la voce” på 1’29’00 – og hør Lawrence Brownlee synge et højt F i fuldregister på 2’26’19.

 

Ludovic Tézier – Yijie Shi

Mens vi venter på, at pladeselskaberne kommer sig ovenpå juletravlheden og igen begynder at røre på sig for alvor om kort tid, vil jeg bruge tiden til dele et par interessante stemmer, som jeg hørte i en opførelse af Donizettis La Favorite i går.

Lige nu skriver jeg disse linjer i Toulouse, hvor jeg i går aftes overværede La Favorite på det lille, fine operahus her, der ligger i samme bygning som rådhuset. De spiller i dét, man kalder “stagione”, hvor man kun spiller én titel ad gangen, i modsætning til f.eks. i Wien eller München, hvor man spiller virkelig mange titler samtidig, og ofte kan høre en ny opera hver dag gennem en uge. Her spiller man seks-otte opførelser af én produktion – og så går der ca. tre uger med sceneprøver på næste titel, og så videre. I både København og mange andre steder har man et miks af de to måder at producere opera på, for på den måde både at kunne tilbyde sit publikum et varieret udbud af titler, og stadig undgå den nærmest sindssygt kompliecerede logistik med både prøver og forestillinger, som rent repertoireteater kræver.

På Théatre du Capitole i Toulouse satser de benhårdt på den musikalske standart. Niveauet i går aftes var også gennemgående vældig højt, især når man tænker på, at vi altså har med en fransk provinsby med ca. 400.000 indbyggere at gøre. To sangere markerede sig endda over aftenens gennemsnit; den franske baryton Ludovic Tézier, som i de sidste ti år har skabt sig en verdenskarriere især i Verdi-repertoiret. Stor, flot, fast barytonstemme, perfekt som kongen i La Favorite. Hør ham her i Posas død fra Verdis Don Carlos:

Men aftenens helt store sensation var den kinesiske tenor Yijie Shi, som jeg hørte første gang ved Rossini-festivalen i Pesaro i 2008. Dengang sang han i studenterproduktionen af Rossinis Rejsen til Reims, og det var rigtig lovende. Nu, seks år senere, er han dér, hvor de store operahuse har ham i kalenderen i de kommende år, og der er heldigvis sket alt det rigtige med hans stemme, siden jeg hørte ham live sidst; han har bevaret fleksibiliteten i stemmen til Rossini-koloraturer, men samtidig foldet den naturligt og flot ud til også kunne synge de lidt bredere ting, som f.eks. Fernand i La Favorite. Her er et klip fra en opførelse af Rossinis Dimitrio e Polibio fra Pesaro i 2010. Og hvis du ikke kendte hverken manden eller operaen, så er der jo slået to fluer med ét smæk. God fornøjelse med begge dele!