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Hochdramatische Sopran (High Dramatic Soprano)

Rose Pauly – Zweite Brautnacht from Die Ägyptische Helena

By March 10, 2018September 19th, 2019No Comments

Rose Pauly was one of the great high dramatic sopranos.  The file below is from Richard Strauss’s Die Ägyptische Helena, which never entered the standard repertoire.  Part of the reason for that is that no one in the past 40 years, though they may have tried, could sing this aria (“Zweite Brautnacht”).  I keep repeating myself, but the freeness of the voice is what is so amazing.  There is no grabbing in the throat, there is no over darkening of vowels, there is no scooping, the singing is in tune, there is no squeezing the throat muscles to produce a sound, etc.  I am somewhat opinionated.  The translation is mine.  It is very hard to find the lyrics for this aria even in German.  For this aria to make any sense at all, you must know something about the story of the opera.  You can read that here.  Die Ägyptische Helena plot.  It is not the most realistic of operas.  This is the most famous aria from this opera.

Zweite Brautnacht!

Dort begonnen
hier beendet:
hielten das Frühlicht
nieder in Klüften
spät erst jäh
aufflog die Sonne
dort überm Berg!

Perlen des Meeres,
Sterne der Nacht
salbten mit Licht
diesen Leib.
von der Gewalt
wie eines Kindes
bebte das schlachterzogene Herz!

aus Heldenaugen
zauberten mich
zum Mädchen um:
zum Wunder ward ich mir selbst,
zum Wunder, der mich umschlang.

Aber im Nahkampf
Der liebenden Schwäne
Des göttlichen Schwanen Kind
Siegte über den sterblichen Mann!
Unter dem Fittich
Schlief er mir ein
Als meinen Schatz
Hüte ich ihn
Funkelnd im goldnen Gezelt
Über der leuchtenden Welt.

Second wedding night
extended magic night!

There it began,
here ended:
godly hands
held the dawn
down in the crevices;
only late
the sun flew up
over the mountain!

Sea Pearls,
Stars of the night
anointed this body with light.

Too strongly blinded
by violence,
as if from a child,
whose battle-raised heart trembled!

Boyish glances
from a hero’s eyes
transformed me
into a maiden,
A miracle I became to myself
the one who embraced me became a miracle.

But in the hand-to-hand fighting
of loving swans
the child of the divine swan
Vanquished the mortal man!
Under the wing,
He fell asleep in my presence
As I guarded him
like a treasure
twinkling in the golden tent
Under the shining world.

Rose Pauly

She was born Rose Pollak in Eperjes, Hungary.  Rose Pauly was the embodiment of Strauss’s Elektra, and won from critics and audiences alike, the recognition that she was one of the century’s greatest singing actresses. Providing a large voice, incisive musicianship, and an appropriately tragic appearance as Elektra, she was unmatched during the period in which she sang the role. Her close identification with Elektra somewhat obscured the fact that she excelled in other dramatic roles as well. Pauly studied with Rosa Papier-Paumgartner, the famous contralto, pedagogue, and wife of composer/writer Hans Paumgartner. Pauly’s debut has been variously reported as having taken place in Hamburg and Vienna.

The 1917 – 1918 season in Hamburg appears to have brought her first stage appearance as a secondary singer in Martha, but the ensuing five years found her performing ever-larger roles in Gera, Karlsruhe, and Cologne. It is reported that it was in Cologne where conductor Otto Klemperer first heard the soprano and engaged her for the Kroll Opera in Berlin to star in numerous productions from 1927 to 1931, including an opening production of Fidelio. While some sources report a debut at the Vienna Staatsoper as early as 1923, her real years of ensemble membership there were between 1929 and 1936. Alhough she first sang the Empress in Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten, she later took up the role of the Dyer’s Wife to even greater success. Likewise, she gave up Elsa (Lohengrin) in favor of Ortrud. Pauly sang and acted nearly all of the major Wagner and Strauss roles, and she demonstrated an ability to make something extraordinary of a number of roles from contemporary opera. After performing the title role in the German premiere of Janácek’s Kàta Kabanová in Cologne, she created a stir as Jenùfa at the Berlin Staatsoper. Agave in Egon Wellesz’s Die Bakchantinnen (a role she created) and Maria in Ernst Krenek’s Der Diktator provided their own special moments and further acclamation followed her performances in works by Berg, Schilling, Hindemith, Schrecker, and d’Albert (Tiefland). Despite her wide-ranging mastery of the dramatic repertory, Pauly was most celebrated for her Elektra. Both at Vienna and at the Salzburg Festival, her interpretation was regarded as overwhelming. At the former, she was appointed Kammersängerin. In Italy, Pauly became known as “La Duse tedesca,” the German (Eleonora) Duse and her portrait was hung next to Duse’s in Trieste’s Verdi Opera House. Her career in Berlin came to an abrupt halt with the arrival of the Nazis in 1933, when Jewish artists were obliged to flee. She returned to Vienna, this time as Elektra, Martha in d’Albert’s Tiefland, Aida, Marie in Wozzeck (world premiere of the work), Jenufa, Donna Anna (one of her favorite roles), Senta, Leonore, Carmen, Eboli, Kundry, Turandot, Lady Macbeth and Sulamith in Goldmark’s Die Königin von Saba. In 1933, at Salzburg, she was the Dyer’s Wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten, reappearing there in 1934 and 1937, on both occasions as Elektra.  Pauly made her first American appearance in a March 18, 1937, New York Philharmonic concert performance of Elektra. Pauly made few recordings.  Among them are excerpts from Elektra and a stunning awakening scene from Strauss’ Die Ägyptische Helena.

It is unclear to me the way in which Pauly survived after the Anschluss, but she did, and she continued to sing.  In 1946, Pauly settled in Palestine. She was active as a singing teacher until her death in 1975.