Introduction

Ljuba Welitsch has been described as a meteor which flashed across the firmament of opera.  Her major career was short, but when she was in her prime, just after WWII, there was nothing like her in the German repertory.  She was most famous for her interpretation of Strauss’s Salome.  Her rendition of the final scene of Salome is nothing short of earth shattering (I do tend to hyperbole, but in this case, I am absolutely serious).  Because the theme of that opera as well as the singing itself would probably make you fall off your chair, I will post Welitsch’s rendition at a later time.  Another thing that Welitsch was known for was on-stage and off-stage antics, of a somewhat ribald nature.  None of that will be discussed here.  Rather, as an introduction to Ljuba (she is one of those sopranos who has to be called by her first name), I am posting several Brahms lieder, the Czardas from Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss Jr., and three other songs, one each by Richard Strauss, Schumann, and Schubert.  I will post the German and the English translations where I can.  If I can’t post the English translations, I will point you to links with those translations.

What made Ljuba special?  In the production of tone, there was no drag anywhere on the voice.  What do I mean by that?  The voice was entirely free with no grab in the throat or tightening of the tongue anywhere.  The breath and the tone passed through the throat to the resonating cavities of the head.  There is no overdarkening of sound, which is an unfortunate phenomenon that we get today.  The pitch is always on the high side of the note, as if it is sliding up to the next tone, but is always in tune.  When she was in her prime, Liuba was a miracle of signing.

Background

Lyuba Welitsch was born on July 10, 1913 in Borissovo, Bulgaria and died September 2, 1996, Vienna, Austria) was a Bulgarian, later Austrian, operatic soprano.  She studied singing at Sofia Conservatory with professor Georgi Zlatev-Cherkin. She first appeared in Sofia in 1936. Engagements followed in Graz, Hamburg, Munich and finally at the Vienna State Opera.

Her most famous role was that of Salome, which she performed under the composer, Richard Strauss, himself in 1944 on his 80th birthday. She sang the same role for her London debut in 1947 and her first performance at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City on February 4, 1949.

 



		

Die Mainacht

Wann der silberne Mond durch die Gesträuche blinkt,
Und sein schlummerndes Licht über den Rasen streut,
Und die Nachtigall flötet,
Wandl’ ich traurig von Busch zu Busch.

Überhüllet vom Laub, girret ein Taubenpaar
Sein Entzücken mir vor; aber ich wende mich,
Suche dunklere Schatten,
Und die einsame Träne rinnt.

Wann, o lächelndes Bild, welches wie Morgenrot
Durch die Seele mir strahlt, find’ ich auf Erden dich?
Und die einsame Träne
Bebt mir heißer die Wang’ herab.



		

Night in May

When the silvery moon gleams through the bushes,
And sheds its slumbering light on the grass,
And the nightingale is fluting,
I wander sadly from bush to bush.

Covered by leaves, a pair of doves
Coo to me their ecstasy; but I turn away,
Seek darker shadows,
And the lonely tear flows down.

When, O smiling vision, that shines through my soul
Like the red of dawn, shall I find you here on earth?
And the lonely tear
Quivers more ardently down my cheek.

Wie Melodien zieht es mir (It moves like a melody to me)

Wie Melodien zieht es
Mir leise durch den Sinn,
Wie Frühlingsblumen blüht es,
Und schwebt wie Duft dahin.

Doch kommt das Wort und faßt es
Und führt es vor das Aug’,
Wie Nebelgrau erblaßt es
Und schwindet wie ein Hauch.

Und dennoch ruht im Reime
Verborgen wohl ein Duft,
Den mild aus stillem Keime
Ein feuchtes Auge ruft.

It moves like a melody to me

It moves like a melody,
Gently through my mind;
It blossoms like spring flowers
And wafts away like fragrance.

But when it is captured in words,
And placed before my eyes,
It turns pale like a gray mist
And disappears like a breath.

And yet, remaining in my rhymes
There hides still a fragrance,
Which mildly from the quiet bud
My moist eyes call forth.

Die Fledermous, Act II: “Czardas der Heimat”, Johnan Strauss Jr.

Klänge der Heimat,
Ihr weckt mir das Sehnen,
Rufet die Tränen
Ins Auge mir!
Wenn ich euch höre,
Ihr heimischen Lieder,
Zieht mich’s wieder,
Mein Ungarland, zu dir!
O Heimat so wunderbar,
Wie strahlt dort die Sonne so klar!
Wie grün deine Wälder,
Wie lachend die Felder,
O land, wo so glücklich ich war!
Ja, dein geliebtes Bild
Meine Seele so ganz erfüllt,
Dein geliebtes Bild!
Und bin ich auch von dir weit,ach weit
Dir bleibt in Ewigkeit
Doch mein Sinn immerdar
Ganz allein geweiht!
O Heimat so wunderbar,
Wie strahlt dort die Sonne so klar!
Wie grün deine Wälder!
Wie lachend die Felder,
O Land, wo so glücklich ich war!
Feuer, Lebenslust,
Schwellt echte Ungarbrust,
Heil! Zum Tanze schnell,
Csárdas tönt so hell!
Braunes Mägdelein
Musst meine Tänz’rin sein;
Reich den Arm geschwind,
Dunkeläugig Kind!
Durst’ge Zecher,
Greift zum Becher,
Lasst ihn kreisen
Schnell von Hand zu Hand!
Schlürft das Feuer
Im Tokayer,
Bringt ein Hoch
Aus dem Vaterland! Ha!
Feuer, Lebe
Schwellt echte Ungarbrust,
Heil! Zum Tanze schnell!
Csárdás tönt so hell!
La, la, la, la, la!

Sounds of my homeland,
You awaken my longing,
Call forth tears
To my eyes!
When I hear you
You songs of home,
You draw me back,
My Hungary, to you!
O homeland, so wonderful,
How clearly shines the sun there!
How green your forests,
How laughing the fields,
Oh land, where I was so happy!
Yes, your beloved image
Entirely fills my soul,
Your beloved image!
And though I am far from you, ah so far,
Yours remains for all eternity
My soul, ever there,
Dedicated to you alone!
Oh homeland so wondrous,
How clearly shines the sun there!
How green your forests!
How laughing your fields!
Oh land, where I was so happy!
Fire, zest for living,
Swell the true Hungarian breast,
Hurrah! On to the dance,
The Csárdás sounds so brightly!
Brown-skinned girl,
You must be my dancer;
Give me your arm quickly,
Dark-eyed child!
Thirsty tipplers,
Grasp the cup,
Pass it in a circle
Quickly from hand to hand!
Slurp the fire
In the Tokay,
Give a toast
From the fatherland! Ha!
Fire, Zest for life
Swell the true Hungarian breast,
Hurray! To the spirited dance
The csárdás sounds loud and clear!
La, la, la, la, la!

Richard Strauss – Die Nacht

Aus dem Walde tritt die Nacht,
Aus den Bäumen schleicht sie leise,
Schaut sich um im weitem Kreise,
Nun gib acht.

Alle Lichter dieser Welt,
Alle Blumen,
Löscht sie aus und stiehlt die Garben
Weg vom Feld.

Alles nimmt sie, was nur hold,
Nimmt das Silber weg des Stromes,
Nimmt vom Kupferdach des Domes
Weg das Gold.

Ausgeplündert steht der Strauch,
Rücke näher, Seel an Seele;
O die Nacht, mir bangt, sie stehle
Dich mir auch.

Night

From the woods steps the Night,
Slips gently from the trees,
Gazes about her in a wide arc,
Now beware!

All the lights of this world,
All the flowers, all the colors
She extinguishes and steals the sheaves
From the field.

She takes all that is fair,
Takes the silver from the stream,
Takes from the cathedral’s copper roof
The gold.

The bush stands plundered:
Draw closer, soul to soul,
Ah the night, I fear, will steal
You too from me.

Robert Schumann – Mondnacht

Es war, als hätt’ der Himmel
Die Erde still geküsst
Das sie im Blütenschimmer
Von ihm nur träumen müsst’.

Die Luft ging durch die Felder
Die Ähren wogten sacht.
Es rauschen leis die Wälde,
So sternklar war die Nacht.

Und meine Seele spannte
Weit ihre Flügel aus.
Flog durch die stillen Lande,
Als flö sie nach Haus.



		

Moon-lit Night

It was as if Heaven and
earth gently kissed,
in a way that the earth,
while shimmering in blossoms, might only have dreamt.

The breeze passed through the fields
the stalks swayed gently,
the woods rustled softly,
So starlit was the night.

And my soul spread its wings out widely
And flew through the quiet countryside

As if it were flying home.

Schubert – Die Jonge Nonne.

Wie braust durch die Wipfel der heulende Sturm!
Es klirren die Balken – es zittert das Haus!
Es rollet der Donner – es leuchtet der Blitz! –
Und finster die Nacht, wie das Grab! – – –

Immerhin, immerhin!So tobt’ es noch jüngst auch in mir!
Es brauste das Leben, wie jetzo der Sturm!
Es bebten die Glieder, wie jetzo das Haus!
Es flammte die Liebe, wie jetzo der Blitz! –
Und finster die Brust, wie das Grab! –

Nun tobe du wilder, gewaltiger Sturm!
Im Herzen ist Friede, im Herzen ist Ruh! –
Des Bräutigams harret die liebende Braut,
Gereinigt in prüfender Glut –
Der ewigen Liebe getraut. –

Ich harre, mein Heiland, mit sehnendem Blick;
Komm, himmlischer Bräutigam! hole die Braut!
Erlöse die Seele von irdischer Haft! –
Horch! friedlich ertönet das Glöcklein am Thurm;
Es lockt mich das süße Getön
Allmächtig zu ewigen Höhn –
»Alleluja!

The young nun

How the raging storm roars through the treetops!
The rafters rattle, the house shudders!
The thunder rolls, the lightning flashes,
And the night is as dark, as the grave
So be it!

Not long ago a storm still raged in me.
My life roared like the storm now,
My limbs trembled like the house now,
Love flashed like the lightning now,
And my heart was as dark as the grave.

Now rage, wild, mighty storm;
In my heart is peace, in my heart is calm.
The loving bride awaits the bridegroom,
Purified in the testing flames,
Betrothed to eternal love.

I wait, my Savior, with longing gaze!

Come heavenly bridegroom, take your bride.

Free the soul from earthly bonds.
Listen, the bell sounds peacefully from the tower!

Its sweet pealing invites me
All-powerfully to eternmal heights.
Allelujah!