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Opera Excerpts

Die Walküre, Act I, Lotte Lehmann, Lauritz Melchior, Bruno Walter (c) 1935

By October 24, 2019November 19th, 2019No Comments

This is one of the most famous recordings ever made. It has Lotte Lehmann singing Sieglinde, Lauritz Melchior singing Siegmund, and Bruno Walter conducting. A bit about Walter follows below. I will also put a link to the libretto below. This is a recording that you should definitely listen to. There are no singers or conductors like this today.

Bruno Walter

Bruno Walter Schlesinger was born in Berlin on 15 September 1876 into a middle class Jewish family. At eight years old he was admitted to a conservatory, where a teacher proclaimed that ‘every inch of this boy is music’. While he showed an early facility at the piano, when he heard Hans von Bülow conduct he decided that this was to be his musical future.

At 19. he was offered a position in Breslau as a musical theater director, where it was suggested by Theodor Loewe, the theatre’s current director, that he change his name, Schlesinger, because it was too common in Breslau — hence he became Bruno Walter. Several years later he moved to Vienna, where he worked with Gustav Mahler, and his next move was Munich. By the early 1920s, Munich was coming increasingly under the influence of the Nazi party. As the director of the Bavarian state opera, and thus a central figure in the city’s musical world, Walter was increasingly singled out in vicious and libelous attacks, and in 1922 he was finally replaced. The Party paper the Völkische Beobachter reported.

Walter simply was made up by a different sensibility. He had no sense for the German way of life; he had always promoted artists from the east; he opposed artists living in Munich who had German style and sensibility.

After a successful tour of America in 1923, the conductor was offered a position in Leipzig, where he successfully conducted for several years while also performing extensively in nearby Berlin. Ultimately, however, he was unable to avoid the Nazi grip. On March 19, a scheduled concert in Leipzig was cancelled due to threats of violence. Fearing a similar occurrence at a concert four days later in Berlin, Walter asked for police protection, but this request was rejected. After intense efforts to engage Furtwängler for the performance failed, Richard Strauss was convinced to replace the blacklisted Walter. Although Strauss was always to insist that he accepted the position in the interests of the musicians of the orchestra, who were desperately in need of money, both Walter and the Nazis themselves saw things differently. Walter never forgave Strauss, and the Völkische Beobachter declared that the concert was a ‘salute to the new Germany’. Realizing that he was in danger, Walter initially moved to Vienna, although here too he suffered increasing threats and attacks. In 1938 he finally decided to leave Europe for the United States where he already had a strong following.

Walter was a fluent English-speaker and was familiar with the American lifestyle that was to alienate so many of his fellow émigrés. Young, healthy, and at the peak of his powers, he enjoyed a relatively smooth transition to life in the US. There he built up a reputation as a respected conductor under whom musicians enjoyed working. Amongst other orchestras, he frequently conducted the New York Philharmonic, and continued to travel and conduct in Europe. He died in February 1962 in Beverly Hills, California.