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Helge Rosvaenge, Danish Tenor

By June 3, 2024No Comments

Rosvaenge had a brilliant spinto voice. He was also active under the Nazi regime. These artists, those who collaborated with the Nazis, are always difficult for me to post. Rosvaenge moved to Germany in 1933. The following three paragraphs are taken from the German language version of Wikipedia.

In 1933, despite the fact that he was a foreigner, Rosvaenge joined the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (essentially the Nazi Party) in Graz,where he was used for propaganda events as early as 1934. In 1935 he was a guest at Göring’s wedding to Emmy Sonnemann. He also later appeared at Nazi cultural events, such as comradeship evenings for old fighters. Rosvaenge announced to Göring in 1938 that it would “publish an opera in the National Socialist spirit” that would be based on The Oath of Alrekstad. The opera was premiered at the Vienna State Opera in 1939 under the title Royal Ballad with music by Aachen conductor Rudolf Wille, but was only able to stay on the program for a short time. In 1944, in the final phase of the Second World War, Hitler placed him on the list of indispensable artists, which saved him from being deployed in the war.

At the end of the war he was in Berlin in his villa on Lake Wannsee; his house was occupied by members of the Soviet troops. After they discovered that they were in the house of a well-known artist, he had to sing for hours for his uninvited guests. It was the longest concert of his life. As a Dane, he was deported by the occupiers to the Krasnogorsk camp near Moscow under the pretext of being deported to Denmark. From there, after a few months, he went via Leningrad to Helsinki and then to Stockholm.

As a collaborator with Nazi Germany, he no longer found a base for his art in his homeland; he wrote his biography Lache Bajazzo. In 1946 he set off for Las Palmas, where he celebrated his 25th stage anniversary with Turiddu in the Cavalleria rusticana, he traveled on to Vigo and returned to his original job and developed ship paints that were supposed to prevent algae growth, as well as his potato flour-based paint HeRos bread. He continued his work as a chemist until 1948. He then traveled to Switzerland and returned to the opera stage.

So, I am left with the choice of whether to present him or not. In spite of the Nazi activity, I am choosing to present him. I focus on the art in this blog, and Rosvaenge, in spite of his politics, was a real artist.

This is one of those instances where I have decided to save myself hours of searching on the internet (to no avail) for the German translation of “Salut! demeure chaste et pure”. During Rosvaenge’s time, operas were not usually sung in the original language, which would have been, in this case, French. Rather, they were translated into the local language. I am giving you the original French and an English translation. In this way, you can understand the gist of what he is singing about.

Gounod, Faust, “Salut! Demeure”

Salut! demeure chaste et pure,
Quel trouble inconnu me pénètre?
Je sens l’amour s’emparer de mon être
Ô Marguerite, à tes pieds me voici!
Salut! demeure chaste et pure,
Salut! demeure chaste et pure,
Où se devine la présence
d’une âme innocent et divine!
Que de richesse en cette pauvreté
En ce réduit, que de félicité!
Que de richesse,
Que de richesse en cette pauvreté!
Ô nature, C’est là
que tu la fis si belle!
C’est là que cet enfant
A dormi sous ton aile,
A grandi sous tes yeux.
Là que de ton haleine
Enveloppant son âme
Tu fis avec l’amour épanouir la femme
En cet ange des cieux!
C’est là! Oui, c’est là!
Salut! demeure chaste et pure,
Salut! demeure chaste et pure,
Où se devine la présence
d’une âme innocente et divine!
Salut, salut, demeure chaste et pure, etc

Gounod, Faust, “Greetings, chaste and pure dwelling”

Greetings, chaste and pure dwelling
What unknown trouble penetrates me?
I sense love taking hold of my being!
O Marguerite, at your feet, here I am!
I greet you, home chaste and pure,
I greet you, home chaste and pure,
Where is manifested the presence
Of a soul, innocent and divine!
How much richness in this poverty!
In this retreat, how much happiness!
How much richness
What richness in this poverty!
O nature, it is here
That you have made her so beautiful!
It is here that this child
Slept under your wing,
Grew up under your eyes.
Here that your breath
Enveloping her soul,
You made, with love, the woman blossom
Into this angel from heaven!
It’s here! Yes, it is here!
I greet you, home chaste and pure,
I greet you, home chaste and pure,
Where is manifested the presence
Of a soul, innocent and divine!
I greet you, home chaste and pure, etc.

This link is similar to the one above. The original score is in Italian, and the sung aria is in German. I will give you the original Italian and an English translation.

Verdi, Aida, “Celeste Aida” (in German)

Se quel guerrier
Io fossi! se il mio sogno
S’avverasse!… Un esercito di prodi
Da me guidato… e la vittoria… e il plauso
Di Menfi tutta! E a te, mia dolce Aida,
Tornar di lauri cinto…
Dirti: per te ho pugnato, per to ho vinto!

Celeste Aida, forma divina.
Mistico serto di luce e fior,
Del mio pensiero tu sei regina,
Tu di mia vita sei lo splendor.

Il tuo bel cielo vorrei redarti,
Le dolci brezze del patrio suol;
Un regal serta sul crin posarti,
Ergerti un trono vicino al sol.

Celeste Aida, forma divina,
Mistico raggio di luce e fior, ecc.

Verdi, Aida, “Heavenly Aida”. (in German)

If I were
that warrior! If my dreams
were to come true! A valiant army
led by me… and victory… and the acclamations
of all Memphis! And to return to you, my sweet Aida,
crowned with laurels…
to tell you: for you I fought, for you I conquered!

Heavenly Aida, form divine,
mystical garland of light and flowers,
of my thoughts you are the queen,
you are the light of my life.

I would return to you your lovely sky,
the gentle breezes of your native land;
a royal crown on your brow I would set,
build you a throne next to the sun.

Heavenly Aida, form divine,
mystical gleam of light and flowers, etc.

Once again, this is an Italian aria sung in German.

Puccini, La Bohème, “Che gelida manina” (in German)

Che gelida manina,
se la lasci riscaldar.
Cercar che giova?

Al buio non si trova.

Ma per fortuna
é una notte di luna,
e qui la luna
l’abbiamo vicina.
Aspetti, signorina,
le dirò con due parole
chi son, e che faccio,
come vivo.
Chi son? Sono un poeta.
Che cosa faccio? Scrivo.
E come vivo? Vivo.

In povertà mia lieta
scialo da gran signore
rime ed inni damore.
Per sogni e per chimere
e per castelli in aria,
l’anima ho milionaria.
Talor dal mio forziere
ruban tutti i gioelli
due ladri, gli occhi belli.
Ventrar con voi pur ora,
ed i miei sogni usati
e i bei sogni miei,
tosto si dileguar!
Ma il furto non maccora,
poiché, poiché v’ha preso stanza
la speranza!
Or che mi conscete,
parlate voi, deh! Parlate. Chi siete?
Vi piaccia dir!

Puccini, La Bohème, “What a frozen little hand” (in German)

What a frozen little hand,
let me warm it for you.
What’s the use of looking?

We won’t find it in the dark.

But luckily
it’s a moonlit night,
and the moon
is near us here.
Wait, miss,
I will tell you in two words,
who I am, what I do,
and how I live.
May I?
Who am I? I am a poet.
What do I do? I write.
And how do I live? I live.

In my carefree poverty
I squander rhymes
and love songs like a lord.
When it comes to dreams and visions
and castles in the air,
I’ve the soul of a millionaire.
From time to time two thieves
steal all the jewels
out of my safe, two pretty eyes.
They came in with you just now,
and my customary dreams
my lovely dreams,
melted at once into thin air!
But the theft doesn’t anger me,
for their place has been
taken by hope!
Now that you know all about me,
tell me who you are.
Please do!

Wagner, Lohengrin, “In fernem Land”, Act III

In fernem Land, unnahbar euren Schritten,
liegt eine Burg, die Montsalvat 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 überird’scher 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 verbotner Frage lohne!
Vom Gral ward ich zu euch daher gesandt:
Mein Vater Parzival trägt seine Krone,
sein Ritter ich – bin Lohengrin genannt.

Wagner, Lohengrin, “In a Distant Land”, Act III

In a distant land, unapproachable to your steps,
lies a castle called Montsalvat;
within it stands a gleaming temple
whose like for splendor is unknown on earth;
therein is kept as the holiest of treasures
a vessel blessed with miraculous powers:
it was brought down by an angelic host
to be tended in purity by men.
Each year a dove descends from heaven
to renew its wondrous strength.
It is called the Grail, and blessed pure faith
is bestowed by it on its votaries.
He who is chosen to serve the Grail
it arms with supernatural might;
against him all evil deceit is vain,
before him even the darkness of death yields.
Even one sent by it into distant lands,
called upon as champion for the cause of virtue,
does not lose its holy power
if he remains there unknown as its knight.
Of so rare a nature is the Grail’s benediction
that it must be veiled from profane eyes:
you must not then harbor doubts of its knight,
and if he is recognized he must leave you.
Now hear how I answer the forbidden question!
I was sent here among you by the Grail:
my father Parzival wears its crown;
his knight am I, and Lohengrin my name.

Wagner, Die Meistersinger, Das Preislied

Morgenlich leuchtend im rosigen Schein,
Von Blüt’ und Duft
Geschwellt die Luft,
Voll aller Wonnen,
Nie ersonnen,
Ein Garten lud mich ein,
Dort unter einem Wunderbaum,
Von Früchten reich behangen,
Zu schau’n in sel’gem Liebestraum,
Was höchstem Lustverlangen.
Erfüllung kühn verhieß,
Das schönste Weib:
Eva im Paradies!

Abendlich dämmernd umschloss mich die Nacht;
Auf steilem Pfad
War ich genaht
Zu einer Quelle
Reiner Welle,
Die lockend mir gelacht:
Dort unter einem Lorbeerbaum,
Von Sternen hell durchschienen,
Ich schaut’ im wachen Dichtertraum,
Von heilig holden Mienen,
Mich netzend mit dem edlen Nass,
Das hehrste Weib,
Die Muse des Parnass!

Huldreichster Tag,
Dem ich aus Dichters Traum erwacht!
Das ich erträumt, das Paradies,
In himmlisch neu verklärter Pracht
Hell vor mir lag,
Dahin lachend nun der Quell den Pfad mir wies;
Die, dort geboren,
Mein Herz erkoren,
Der Erde lieblichstes Bild,
Als Muse mir geweiht,
So heilig hehr als mild,
Ward kühn von mir gefreit,
Am lichten Tag der Sonnen,
Durch Sanges Sieg gewonnen
Parnass und Paradies!

Wagner, Die Meistersinger, The Prize Song

Shining in the rosy light of morning,
the air heavy with blossom and scent,
swells the air
full of pleasures,
not yet devised,
a garden invited me to be its guest.
There under a miraculous tree
Rich with hanging fruit
To look in a blissful Lovedream
What the highest pleasure desires.
Fulfillment boldy promised,
The most beautiful woman:
Eva in paradise!

As evening rose, the night enveloped me;
On a steep path
I was near
To a spring
Pure waves
Which alluringly laughed at me:
There under a laurel tree
bursting with light from the stars,
I watch myself in a waking Poet’s Dream,
Of holy, lovely expressions,
Wet from the noble spring
The dearest woman
The muse of Parnassus!

Most gracious day
when I woke up from the Poet’s Dream!
The paradise of which I had dreamed,
In heavenly, newly transformed splendor
That lay shining in front of me,
To which the spring laughingly pointed the path;
She born there,
My heart chosen,
The earth’s loveliest image,
As a muse dedicated to me,
Just as trancendently heavenly as mile,
Was boldy wooed by me,
In the sun’s bright daylight,
Through victory in song, I had won
Parnassus and paradise!

Helge Rosvaenge
August 29, 1897 – June 17, 1972

Rosvaenge was born in Copenhagen. Largely self-taught, he made his debut at Neustrelitz as Don Jose in Carmen in 1921. Engagements followed at Altenburg, Basle, Cologne (1927–30) and the Berlin State Opera, where he was leading tenor from 1930 to 1944, being especially distinguished in the Italian repertory. He sang regularly, too, at the Vienna State Opera (from 1936) and in Munich. Rosvaenge also appeared at the Salzburg Festival, making his debut there in Der Rosenkavalier. Other roles which he performed at Salzburg between 1933 and 1939 were Tamino in The Magic Flute, Huon in Oberon and Florestan in Fidelio. His London debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, occurred in 1938, as Florestan.

Rosvaenge sang Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival in 1934 and 1936 but otherwise avoided the Wagnerian repertory, except on recordings.

Throughout World War II Rosvaenge remained very active in Germany, singing frequently in radio performances of opera and in concert, as well as in occupied territories (for instance appearing in 1941 as Belmonte / Die Entführung aus dem Serail at the Paris Opera). In 1945 he was deported to Russia, working after his release as a chemist in Spain with the intention of emigrating to South America. However his chief purpose in life was singing, to which he returned in 1949, initially recording for Decca in Switzerland.

Soon Rosvaenge was active once again in Vienna and Salzburg, singing regularly at the State Opera and Volksoper until 1959; and was presented with the Vienna State Opera’s Golden Ring, a signal honor, in 1951. He returned in 1955 to the Berlin State Opera, where he was made an honorary member of the company; and also appeared as a guest in Zürich and at the Bregenz Festival. As late as 1963 and 1964 he gave concerts in New York, evidently with very little loss of vocal quality; and after retiring from professional performance, he taught in Munich.