I owe this posting to one of my readers, who suggested Urlus to me. Otherwise, I never would have heard of him!
Urlus was one of the great helden tenors of the early part of the 20th century. He was a contemporary of Caruso.
Urlus was born in Hergenrath near Aix-la-Chapelle (German-Belgium border), to Dutch parents. Urlus spent his early years in Tilburg and Utrecht where he worked in a steel mill and sang in a local choir. When doing his military service, his voice was discovered by an Officer who offered to cover the costs for his vocal-training which, Urlus to his regret, was unable to accept since it would have left him without any regular income. 1892 was the turning point when Urlus met the director of the Dutch National Opera House. Without having received any regular vocal training he made his debut in Amsterdam, as Beppe in I Pagliacci on September 20, 1894. Afterwards he was taught interpretation by Cornelie van Zanten, Anton Averkamp and Hugo Nolthenius. As far as his vocal technique was concerned, he was largely self-taught!
Schubert, Op.79, no.2, D852
Groß ist Jehova, der Herr! denn Himmel…
Groß ist Jehova, der Herr! denn Himmel und Erde verkünden
Seine Macht! – Du hörst sie im brausenden Sturm, in des Waldstroms
Lautaufrauschendem Ruf, in des grünenden Waldes Gesäusel;
Siehst sie in wogender Saaten Gold, in lieblicher Blumen
Glühendem Schmelz, im Glanz des sternebesäeten Himmels!
Furchtbar tönt sie im Donnergeroll, und flammt in des Blitzes
Schnellhinzuckendem Flug; doch kündet das pochende Herz dir
Fühlbarer noch Jehova’s Macht, des ewigen Gottes,
Blickst du flehend empor, und hoffst auf Huld und Erbarmen!
Great is God, the Lord! For heaven
and earth proclaim His power.
You hear it in the raging storm,
In the loud, resounding roar of the forest storms.
Great is God, the Lord! Great is His Power!
You hear it in the rustling of the green forest;
You see it in the gold of the waving cornfields,
In the glowing blooms of lovely flowers,
In the glitter of the star-filled heavens.
Terrible it sounds in the rolling thunder,
And it flames in the swift flashing lightning streaks.
Yet still more perceptible, your beating heart proclaims
The power of God, of the eternal God,
When you look up in prayer in hope for grace and mercy,
Great is God the Lord! Great is God the Lord!
Massenet, Le Cid: Act III: Ah! tout est bien fini . . .
Ah! tout est bien fini…
Mon beau rêve de gloire,
Mes rêves de bonheur
S’envolent à jamais!
Tu m’as pris mon amour…
Tu me prends la victoire…
Seigneur, je me soumets!
O souverain, ô juge, ô père,
Toujours voilé, présent toujours,
Je t’adorais au temps prospère
Et te bénis aux sombres jours!
Je vais où la loi me réclame
Libre de tous regrets humains!
O souverain, ô juge, ô père,
(Les Voix du Ciel chantant avec bouche fermée.)
Ta seule image est dans mon âme
Que je remets entre tes mains!
O firmament azur, lumière
Esprits d’en haut, penchés sur moi
C’est le soldat que désespère
Mais le chrétien garde sa foi
Tu peux venir, tu peux paraître
Aurore du jour éternel
O souverain, ô juge, ô père!
Le serviteur d’un juste maître
Répond sans crainte à ton appel
O souverain, ô juge, ô père!
Massenet, Le Cid: Act III, Ah! it is truly over . . .
Ah, it it is truly over!
My beautiful dream of glory
my dreams of happiness
Fly away forever!
you took my love
You take victory away from me
Lord, I submit!
O Sovereign, O Judge, O Father
Always veiled, always present
I worshipped you in prosperous times
And bless you in the dark days
I go where Your law calls me
Free from all human regrets
O sovereign, O Judge, O Father
Your only image is in my soul
That I place again in your hands
O azure firmament, light
Spirits from above, watching over me
It is the soldier who despairs
But the Christian keeps his faith
You can come, you can appear
Dawn of the eternal day
O Sovereign, O Judge, O Father!
The servant of a just master
Respond fearlessly to your call
O Sovereign, O Judge, O Father!
Wagner, Lohengrin: In fernem Land
In fernem Land, unnahbar euren Schritten,
Liegt eine Burg, die Monsalvat genannt;
Ein lichter Tempel stehet dort inmitten,
So kostbar als auf Erden nichts bekannt;
Drin ein Gefäß von wundertät’gem Segen
Wird dort als höchstes Heiligtum bewacht.
Es ward, dass sein der Menschen reinste pflegen,
Herab von einer Engelschar gebracht.
Alljährlich naht vom Himmel eine Taube,
Um neu zu stärken seine Wunderkraft:
Es heißt der Gral, und selig reinster Glaube
Erteilt durch ihn sich seiner Ritterschaft.
Wer nun dem Gral zu dienen ist erkoren,
Den rüstet er mit überirdischer Macht;
An dem ist jedes Bösen Trug verloren,
Wenn ihn er sieht, weicht dem des Todes Nacht;
Selbst wer von ihm in ferne Land entsendet,
Zum Streiter für der Tugend Recht ernannt,
Dem wird nicht seine heil’ge Kraft entwendet,
Bleibt als sein Ritter dort er unerkannt.
So hehrer Art doch ist des Grales Segen,
Enthüllt muss er des Laien Auge fliehn;
Des Ritters drum sollt Zweifel ihr nicht hegen,
Erkennt ihr ihn – dann muss er von euch ziehn.
Nun hört, wie ich verbot’ner Frage lohne:
Vom Gral ward ich zu euch daher gesandt:
Mein Vater Parzival trägt seine Krone,
Sein Ritter ich – bin Lohengrin genannt.
In a distant Land
In a distant Land, unapproachable to your steps
There is a castle called Montsalvat;
In the middle there stands a luminous temple,
As precious as nothing else on earth is known.
A vessel of miraculous blessing
Is guarded inside as the supreme sanctuary.
It has been brought down by a host of angels,
To be cared for by the purest human beings.
Annually a dove from above approaches
To reinforce its miraculous power;
Its name is Sangrail, and it grants blissfully purest belief
To its knighthood.
He who is predestined to serve the Sangrail
It prepares with supernatural powers;
Every evil’s deception is lost to him,
If he sees it, death’s power vanishes;
Even to him who is sent by it to far off lands,
Appointed as fighter for virtue’s justice,
His holy power will not be taken away,
If he goes unrecognized there as its knight.
May the Sangrail’s blessing be ever of so noble cast,
It must flee the layman’s eyes when it is unveiled.
Therefore you shall not doubt the knight,
If you recognize him – then he must leave you.
Now listen, how I reward the forbidden question:
By the Sangrail I was sent to you:
My father Parzival wears its crown,
His knight, I – am called Lohengrin.
January 6, 1867 in Hergenrath, Rhine Province – June 6, 1935 in Noordwijk, Netherlands
Urlus had an enormous voice. In 1898 Jacques Urlus was invited to Bayreuth to restudy his repertory of Wagner operas in German (he had previously sung all his roles in Dutch), but he left Bayreuth prematurely and Siegfried Wagner did not re-engage him until 1914. Nevertheless, by the turn of the century he had become the leading heroic tenor at the Leipzig Opera House, where he was on contract until 1914. During this period, his fame started to spread. He appeared in He was tremendously successful and also appeared as Adolar (Weber, Euryanthe), Samson and Tamino.
He sang all his roles in at least three languages; Dutch, German and the actual original language. He was among those few Wagner singers who were able to preserve their international fame throughout the War years. At the age of 63, he appeared for the first time at the Teatro Liceo in Barcelona, as Tristan. His performances at the Amsterdam Opera House were celebrated gala-events. He was one of the first singers at the Zoppot Wagner Festival where he was heard as Tristan opposite an outstanding cast including Helene Wildbrunn, Margarethe Arndt-Ober and Otto Helgers. In Berlin he was not only celebrated as an opera singer but also as an accomplished concert singer. He appeared in concerts conducted by Willem Mengelberg, Arthur Nikisch and Erich Kleiber among others. When Jacques Urlus died in Noordwijk the Dutch Nation mourned for him like for a national hero.
The most versatile tenor in vocal history
A selection of his opera repertory: Lohengrin, Parsifal, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Rienzi, Der fliegende Holländer, Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, Götterdämmerung, Tristan und Isolde, Iphigenie auf Tauris, Der Freischütz, Die Rose vom Liebesgarten, Der arme Heinrich, Fidelio, Der Barbier von Bagdad, Oberon, Euryanthe, Salome, Tiefland, Carmen, Joseph (Méhul), La Juive, La Navarraise, Le Cid, Samson, Les Huguenots, L’Africaine, Le Prophète, La Muette de Portici, Faust, Aida, Otello, I Pagliacci (Canio and Beppe), Il Trovatore, Cavalleria rusticana, Mme Butterfly, Louise…
A small selection of his concert repertory: Das Lied on der Erde, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Das klagende Lied, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, St. Matthew Passion (Evangelist), Die vier Jahreszeiten, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9…
“The new tenor, Jacques Urlus, scored a triumph as Siegfried, and his splendid reception was fully justified. Not since the vanished days of Jean de Reszke has any artist at the Metropolitan conveyed the illusion of the hero so successfully. When he demanded of its full power, as in the song of the forge in the first act, it was brillant and vibrant…there were passages that were sung with greatest beauty of tone and justness of declamation.”
Musical Courier – New York American – The New York Times (after a performance of Siegfried in February, 1913)
Jacques Urlus was a contemporary of Enrico Caruso, a personal friend and colleague with whom he shared a dressing room at the New York Metropolitan for five years.