Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Firsthand account

From the diaries of Dawn Powell, a true New Yorker though born in the midwest:

March 8: [1936] Flagstad in Fidelio. What difference is there between a good voice and a magic voice? Sometimes no difference in tone, placing, or quality, but Flagstad's simple great voice flowers, soars, fills the ascending tiers--one voice enough to charm and fill with joy 10,000 hearts. It rose and grew (the great hall was not big enough), flowed through the orderly rows of light-struck EXIT signs, roamed the halls, consorted with old echoes in shadowed corners, visited the old caged attendat in the Ladies Check Room, floated kindly over her proud book of autographs--Sembrich, Schuman-Heink, Tetrazzini, Caruso, Jeritza, Adelina Patti--and was reined in again by silence, a splendid echno left warm and unforgotten on the air.

This would have been a performance the afternoon before with Rene Maison, Ludwig Hofman, and Emanuel List, conducted by Bodanzky. It was broadcast, in fact, though I have no idea if it's extant/hard to find or simply lost to history. Not something I'd move mountains to find, but I was a little enchanted by the mention of it anyway. It's like the glimpse of Christine Nilsson in Faust at the beginning of House of Mirth: a trusted voice reviving an otherwise irretrievable moment in music.

Interestingly B.H. Haggin in the Brooklyn Eagle wrote:

There were one or two minor accidents in stage business, there was a major accident in Kirsten Flagstad's lapse of memory in the Allegro portion of her first act aria-only a momentary lapse, but one that left her insecure and tentative in the climax that called for the utmost assurance and intensity. Until then, however, she had sung with characteristic loveliness of tone and richness of feeling; and once she had recovered from the accident her singing rose to breathtaking heights of tonal splendor.
Of course perfection isn't always the hallmark of a great performance.

p.s. Sorry, I have no idea what's going on with the font.

3 comments:

JSU said...

I believe the broadcast survives, though not in any commercial version. If the '41 iteration with Kipnis (yay) and Walter is any indication, though, Maison's idea of German was, um, rather odd. The Good Old Days had their drawbacks.

So, does this mean you're attending the Mattila event?

Nick said...

I am downloading this right now. If you help me decide what to mp3-ize, I will do a cross-post on Trrill!

Maury D'annato said...

jsu: What, a Mattila Fidelio? This is joke, yes? Dawn Powell or no, I'd rather drink lead paint than sit through that opera. I was just enjoying Powell's enjoyment of it.