This is the Presentation of the Rose from the 2nd Act of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. It is a wonderful recording with two singers in their prime. I did a fairly in depth write-up of Lemnitz just yesterday, and I feel no need to repeat it. The issues that I brought up will always be issues and as, it turns out, for Cerbotari too.

I will write something on Cebotari as she was such a wonderful singer, and unfortunately heavily involved with the Nazis. This must be a theme this month. She was taken young by liver cancer, and her children were adopted by the English pianist Clifford Curzon.

Now, I never, well almost never, do this, but I am going to give you a recording for comparison. DiDinato and Damrau, the Presentation of the Rose. I am doing this to drive home a point. These women are world famous singers, and this is just small, little blog with an opinion. If you do take the time to listen to both recordings, I would like you to notice the lack of pressure on Lemnitz’s and Cerbotari’s voice and the terrible amounts of pressure and pressured vibratos in DiDinato and Damrau. As I wrote before, I have an opinion, and that is the reason that I primarily write about dead people. Dead people who were good if not great singers. We don’t have any living ones today.

With respect to the Cerbotari and Lemnitz duet, Cerbotari is warmer than most Sophies that we have today, and yet she still manages to have a beautiful and warm production. The blend between them seems effortless, and it is a heartfelt operatic moment. I could comment on Cerbotari’s placement, but anyone who has been reading this blog knows that air is placed into the resonating cavities not by pushing through the vocal cords (which will only end by ruining your vocal chords) so that the air can flow freely and unimpeded. This is the part of singing that we have lost today.

Octavian
(etwas stockend)
Mir ist die Ehre wiederfahren
daß ich der hoch- und wohlgeborenen Jungfer Braut,
in meines Herrn meines Vetters Namen,
dessen zu Lerchernau Namen
die Rose seiner Liebe überreichen darf.

Sophie
nimmt die Rose
Ich bin Euer Liebden sehr verbunden.

– Ich bin Euer Liebden in aller Ewigkeit verbunden. –
(eine Pause der Verwirrung)

Sophie
(indem sie an der Rose riecht)
Hat einen starken Geruch. Wie Rosen, wie lebendige.

Octavian
Ja, ist ein Tropfen persischen Rosenöls darein getan.

Sophie
Wie himmlische, nicht irdische, wie Rosen vom hochheiligen Paradies. Ist Ihm nicht auch?

Octavian
(neigt sich über die Rose, die sie ihm hinhält; dann richtet er sich auf und sieht auf ihren Mund)

Sophie
Ist wie ein Gruss vom Himmel. Ist bereits zu stark,
als dass mans ertragen kann. Zieht einen nach, als lägen Stricke um das Herz.

Wo war ich schon einmal und war so selig?

Octavian
Wo war ich schon einmal und war so selig?

Sophie
Dahin muss ich zurück! und müsst’ ich völlig sterben auf dem Weg!

Allein ich sterb’ ja nicht. Das ist ja weit. Ist Zeit und Ewigkeit in einem
sel’gen Augenblick, den will ich nie vergessen bis an meinen Tod.

Octavian
Ich war ein Bub’, da hab’ ich die noch nicht gekannt.

Wer bin denn ich? Wie komm’ denn ich zu ihr?

Wie kommt denn sie zu mir? Wär’ ich kein Mann,

die Sinne möchten mir vergehn. Das ist ein seliger Augenblick,

den will ich nie vergessen bis an meinen Tod.

Octavian
(faltering a little)
To me has fallen the honor
of presenting to the highborn bride,
in the name of my cousin
of Lerchernau,
the rose of his love.

Sophie
(takes the rose)
I am most obliged to your Lordship

-I am eternally obliged to your Lordship-
(a confused pause)

Sophie
(smelling the rose)
It has a strong scent of roses: real ones!

Octavian
Yes, there’s a drop of Persian attar of roses in it.

Sophie
Like roses of heaven, not of earth – like roses of holy paradies, don’t you think so?

Octavian
(Octavian bends over the Rose, which she holds out to him; then he straightens and gazes at her lips.)

Sophie
It’s like a greeting from heaven. ‘Tis already too strong to bear.

It draws one as though there were reins around one’s heart

Where and when have I been so happy?

Octavian
Where and when have I been so happy?

Sophie
I must return there, yes, even if I should die on the way!

But I shall not die. That is far away. There’s time and eternity

In this moment of bliss, and I’ll not forget it til I die.

Octavian
I was boy, and did not know her yet.

Who am I then? How is it that I come to her?

How is it that she comes to me?

Were I not a man, then I should lose my senses.
And I’ll not forget it til I die.

Maria Cebotari

She was born Maria Cebutaru in Chisineu (then Russia-Bessarabia) where she grew up speaking Romanian and Russian. She discovered a singing voice at the age of four, singing in churches. One day, a troupe of Russian emigré actors from Moscow arrived and performed in her hometown. As it happened, they needed a young actress who could also sing in Russian, and as she was already known for her beautiful voice and because of her charming appearance, she was invited by the actor and manager Count Alexander Virubov to perform some Russian songs. Virubov fell in love with her. He planned to go to Paris and she decided to join him. Soon afterwards, the two got married. After a short stay in Paris they moved to Berlin where Virubov hoped to make a film. Maria was heard by Oscar Daniel, a professor at the Berlin Music School, who gave her a three months’ training. Fritz Busch at the Dresden Opera heard her and gave her a contract for three years! In turn Bruno Walter engaged her for the Salzburg Festival. What a start for a 21-year-old singer! In the meantime she was fluent in German after a short time. Cebotari made her outstandingly successful debut as Mimì at Dresden, but she also took part in modern operas and created roles in operas by d’Albert, Lothar, Heger and Sutermeister. The most important creation was Aminta in Richard Strauss’ Die Schweigsame Frau. The composer was a great admirer of the young singer. In 1934, barely 24, she was made “Kammersängerin.” From 1935 she appeared regularly at the Berlin State Opera and became one of the most versatile singers. A selection of her repertoire: Butterfly, Daphne, Mimì, Aminta, Antonida, Carmen , Salome, Turandot, Maddalena, the Olympia, Antonia and Giulietta in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Gabriele in Schoeck’s Das Schloss Dürande, Susanna, Zerlina, Sophie, Countess Almaviva, Konstanze, Tatyana, Violetta, Arabella, Eurydike and Donna Anna. She appeared as a guest star at various opera houses, in Zurich, Munich, Rome, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Basle, Berne and Prague. She became very popular in Italy with her appearances at la Scala, at the Teatro di Fenice and at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. In 1936 and 1947 she was invited to Covent Garden (1936 as Zerlina, Sophie and Susanna, 1947 as Countess Almaviva and Donna Anna). The artist enjoyed a tremendous success as Salome. She appeared regularly at the Salzburg Festival where she was particularly successful in Mozart operas. As an important figurehead of Nazi Deutschland, she took part in eight films in which Beniamino Gigli was frequently her partner. In 1938 the couple Virubov separated and she got married to film actor Gustav Diessl (1899 – 1948) with whom she had two children. Her house in Berlin had been destroyed in 1943, so she was glad to be contracted at the State Opera of Vienna. In 1947 she created Lucile in Gottfried von Einem’s Dantons Tod. Gustav Diessl suffered two strokes within a short time and died early in 1948. Cebotari, who had earlier told friends that life without Diessl was something she could not contemplate, had herself little more than a year to live, and in her fortieth year, she was diagnosed with “incurable liver cancer.” Her last appearance was at the Vienna State Opera, as Laura in Millöcker’s operetta Der Bettelstudent. She died in June 1949.