Göta Ljungberg, High Dramatic Soprano

This was a great voice. So great that I went to the trouble of remastering all these selections. The reason that I do this is, generally speaking, I listen to a selection on youtube, in this case from th 20s and 30s, and I hear no background noise. There is only one way of getting rid of background noise from these older recording, and that is to somehow kill the high frequencies, and, in many cases, the mid-range and low frequencies. After doing this, there is no voice left. Consequently, when I become really annoyed with what I am hearing, I will download the file and remaster it.

Ljungberg was born in Sundsvall and studied with the renowned Swedish vocal coach and physician Gillis Bratt. She took further lessons in Milan and Berlin with a number of teachers, among them with Mme Charles Cahier. Göta Ljungberg made her debut as Gutrune in Wagner’s Götterdämmerung with the Stockholm Opera in 1917 where she was engaged until her early retirement in 1937 (in the later years she frequently appeared opposite the young Jussi Björling).

Original German Text
Mild und leise, wie er lächelt
Wie das Auge hold er öffnet,
seht iht, Freunde?
Seht ihr’s nicht?
Immerlichter, wie er leuchtet
Sternumstrahlet hoch sich hebt?
Seht ihrs nicht?
Wie das Herz ihm muthig schwillt
Voll und hehr im Busen ihm quillt?
Wie den Lippen, wonnig mild,
süsser Athem sanft entweht
Freunde! Seht!
Fühlt und seht ihr’s nicht?
Höre ich nur diese Wiese
Die so wundervoll und leise
Wonne klagend, Alles sagend,
mild versöhnend
Aus ihm tönend, in mich dringet,
auf sich schwinget
Hold erhallend um mich klinget
Heller schallend, mich um wallend,
sind es Wellen sanfter Lüfte?
Sind es Wolken wonniger Düfte?
Wie sie schwellen, mich umrauschen,
soll ich athmen, soll ich lauschen?
Soll ich schlüfgen, untertauchen?
Süß in Düften mich verhauchen?
In dem wogenden Schwall
in dem tönenden Schall
In des Weltathems, wehenden All
Ertrinken, versinken, unbewusst
Höchste Lust

English Translation
Softly and gently, see him smiling
How the eyes that open fondly,
see it, Friend?
Don’t you see?
Ever lighter, how he’s shining
Borne on high amongst the stars?
Don’t you see?
How his heart so bravely swells
Full and calm it throbs in his breast?
As from lips so joyfully mild,
sweet the breath that softly stirs
Friends! Look!
Don’t you feel and see it?
It is only I that hear this way
So wondrous and gentle
Joyously sounding, telling all things,
reconciling
Sounding from him, penetrating me,
rising upward swinging on itself
Echoes fondly around me ringing
Ever clearer, wafting round me,
are they waves of gentle breezes?
Are they clouds of gladdening sweet fragrance?
As they swell and murmur round me,
should I breathe them, should I listen?
Should I sip them, plunge beneath them?
Breathe my last amid their sweet smell?
In the billowy surge,
in the gush of sound
In the World’s Spirit’s, Infinite All
To drown now, sinking, unconscious, void of all thought
Highest Desire!

Ah! Du wolltest mich nicht deinen Mund
küssen lassen, Jochanaan!
Wohl, ich werde ihn jetzt küssen!
Ich will mit meinen Zähnen hineinbeissen,
wie man in eine reife Frucht beissen mag.
Ja, ich will ihn jetzt küssen, deinen Mund,
Jochanaan.
Ich hab’ es gesagt. Hab’ ich’s nicht gesagt?
Ja, ich hab’ es gesagt.
Ah! Ah! Ich will ihn jetzt küssen…
Aber warum siehst du mich nicht an,
Jochanaan?
Deine Augen, die so schrecklich waren,
so voller Wut und Verachtung,
sind jetzt geschlossen.
Warum sind sie geschlossen?
Öffne doch die Augen, erhebe deine Lider,
Jochanaan!
Warum siehst du mich nicht an?
Hast du Angst vor mir, Jochanaan, dass
du mich nicht ansehen willst?…
Und deine Zunge, sie spricht kein Wort,
Jochanaan, diese Scharlachnatter,
die ihren Geifer gegen mich spie.
Es ist seltsam, nicht?
Wie kommt es, dass diese rote Natter sich
nicht mehr rührt?
Du sprachst böse Worte gegen mich, gegen
mich, Salome, die Tochter der Herodias,
Prinzessin von Judea.
Nun wohl! Ich lebe noch, aber du bist tot,
und dein Kopf,
dein Kopf gehört mir.
Ich kann mit ihm tun, was ich will.
Ich kann ihn den Hunden vorwerfen und
den Vögeln der Luft.
Was die Hunde übrig lassen, sollen die
Vögel der Luft verzehren…
Ah! Ah! Jochanaan, Jochanaan, du
warst schön.
Dein Leib war eine Elfenbeinsäule auf silbernen
Füssen.
Er war ein Garten voller Tauben in der
Silberlilien Glanz.
Nichts in der Welt war so weiss wie
dein Leib.
Nichts in der Welt was so schwarz wie
dein Haar.
In der ganzen Welt war nichts so rot wie
dein Mund.
Deine Stimme war ein Weihrauchgefäss,
und wenn ich dich ansah, hörte ich
geheimnisvolle Musik…
Oh! Warum hast du mich nicht angesehen,
Jochanaan?
Du legtest über deine Augen die Binde
eines, der seinen Gott schauen wollte.
Wohl! Du hast deinen Gott gesehn,
Jochanaan, aber mich, mich, mich hast du
nie gesehn.
Hättest du mich gesehn, du hättest mich
geliebt!
Ich dürste nach deiner Schönheit,
Ich hungre nach deinem Leib,
Nicht Wein noch Äpfel können mein
Verlangen stillen…
Was soll ich jetzt tun, Jochanaan?
Nicht die Fluten, noch die grossen Wasser
können dieses brünstige Begehren löschen…
Oh! Warum sahst du mich nicht an?
Hättest du mich angesehn, du hättest
mich geliebt.
Ich weiss es wohl, du hättest mich geliebt.
Und das Geheimnis der Liebe ist grösser
als das Geheimnis des Todes…
Ah! Ich habe deinen Mund geküsst,
Jochanaan.
Ah! Ich habe ihn geküsst, deinen Mund,
es war ein bitterer Geschmack auf deinen
Lippen…
Hat es nach Blut geschmeckt?
Nein! Doch es schmeckte vielleicht nach
Liebe…
Sie sagen, dass die Liebe bitter schmecke…
Allein, was tut’s?
Was tut’s?
Ich habe deinen Mund geküsst, Jochanaan,
Ich habe ihn geküsst, deinen Mund.

Ah! You would not let me
kiss your mouth, Jochanaan!
Well, I will kiss it now,
I will bite it with my teeth
as one bites a ripe fruit.
Yes, I will kiss your mouth,
Jochanaan.
I said it. Did I not say it?
Yes, I said it.
Ah! Ah! I will kiss it now…
But why don’t you look at me,
Jochanaan?
Your eyes that were so terrible,
so full of rage and scorn,
are shut now.
Why are they shut?
Open your eyes, lift up your eyelids,
Jochanaan!
Why don’t you look at me?
Are you afraid of me, Jochanaan, that
you will not look at me?…
And your tongue, it says nothing now,
Jochanaan, that scarlet viper that spat
its venom upon me.
It is strange, is it not?
How is it that the red viper
stirs no more?
You spoke evil words against me, against
me, Salome, daughter of Herodias,
Princess of Judea!
Well, Jochanaan, I am still alive, but you
are dead, and your head,
your head belongs to me.
I can do with it what I will.
I can throw it to the dogs and to the
birds of the air.
That which the dogs leave, the birds of
the air shall devour…
Ah! Jochanaan, Jochanaan, you were
beautiful.
Your body was a column of ivory set on
a silver socket.
It was a garden full of doves in the
splendor of silver lilies.
There was nothing in the world so white
as your body.
There was nothing in the world so black
as your hair.
In the whole world there was nothing so
red as your mouth.
Your voice was a censer,
and when I looked you, I heard
mysterious music…
Ah! Why did you not look at me,
Jochanaan?
You put over your eyes the blindfold of
one who wanted to see his God.
Well! You have seen your God,
Jochanaan, but me, me, me, you have
never seen.
Had you seen me, you would have loved
me.
I crave your beauty,
I am hungry for your body,
Neither wine nor apples can appease my
desire…
What shall I do now, Jochanaan?
Neither the floods nor the great waters
can quench my passion.
Oh! Why did you not look at me?
Had you looked at me, you would have
loved me.
I know that you would have loved me.
And the mystery of love is greater than
the mystery of death…
Ah! I have kissed your mouth,
Jochanaan.
Ah! I have kissed your mouth.
There was a bitter taste on your
lips.
Was it the taste of blood?
No! But perhaps it was the taste of
love…
They say that love has a bitter taste…
But what does it matter?
What does it matter?
I have kissed your mouth, Jochanaan.
I have kissed your mouth.

Pannis angelicus
Fit panis hominum
Dat panis coelicus
Figuris terminum
O res mirabilis
Manducat dominum

Pauper, pauper
Servus et humilis
Pauper, pauper
Servus et humilis

Panis angelicus
Fit panis hominum
Dat panis coelicus
Figuris terminum
O res mirabilis
Manducat dominum

Pauper, pauper
Servus et humilis
Pauper, pauper
Servus, servus et humilis

Bread of Angels,
made the bread of men;
The Bread of heaven
puts an end to all symbols:
A thing wonderful!
The Lord becomes our food:

Poor, poor, a servant, and humble.
Poor, poor, a servant, and humble.

Bread of Angels,
made the bread of men;
The Bread of heaven
puts an end to all symbols:
A thing wonderful!
The Lord becomes our food:

Poor, poor, a servant, a servant and humble.

Compare with Elina Garanča. Notice the vast difference in placement and resonance. Which do you prefer?

Elina Garanča

Göta Lingberg, Swedish soprano, 1893 – 1955

After her debut as Gutrune in Wagner’s Götterdämmerung with the Stockholm Opera in 1917, she joined the Berlin State Opera. Ljungberg made her Covent Garden debut in 1924 as Sieglinde. Later she appeared there as Salome (her greatest success), Kundry, Tosca, and Elisabeth. She was under contract to the Met from 1932 to 1935 where she sang the Wagner roles as well as her thrilling Salome. She also created the role of Lady Marigold Sandys in Hanson’s Merry Mount opposite the eminent baritone Lawrence Tibbett, Gladys Swarthout and Edward Johnson, conducted by Tullio Serafin. Her most admired Met roles, however, became Isolde and Brünnhilde. She settled in America where she taught at the New York College of Music.

One of Ljungberg’s teachers was the American contralto Mme Charles Cahier (1870 – 1951) whose real name was Sarah Jane Walker. Her teachers included Jean de Reszke, Gustav Walter and Amalie Joachim.