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Dramatic Soprano

Göta Ljunberg, Swedish Lyric-Dramatic Soprano

By July 4, 2024No Comments

I had done a posting about Göta Ljungberg several years ago, and the media attached to the post somehow became disconnected. I am reposting Gôta Ljungberg because she was an important singer and she belongs in this blog.

Ljungberg was an outstanding lyric-dramatic soprano, who performed with most of the great artists of her time and was considered one of the most interesting opera singers of her time, most comparable to Marie Jeritza, with whom she shared many roles. Ljungberg came to appear a lot as a Wagnerian singer, but was particularly prominent as an interpreter of complicated character roles of Richard Strauss and the Italian and German “Verist” composers.

Like many singers, she sang roles that were too big for her voice, and this led to pushing the voice and vocal decline.

Richard Strauss, Salome, Letzte Szene

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.

Richard Strauss, Salome, Final Scene

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.

Puccini, Madama Butterfly, “Un bel dì”

Un bel dì, vedremo
levarsi un fil di fumo
dall’estremo confin del mare.
E poi la nave appare.
Poi la nave bianca
entra nel porto,
romba il suo saluto.
Vedi? È venuto!
Io non gli scendo incontro. Io no.
Mi metto là sul ciglio del colle e aspetto,
e aspetto gran tempo e non mi pesa,
la lunga attesa.
E uscito dalla folla cittadina
un uomo, un picciol punto
s’avvia per la collina.

Chi sarà? chi sarà?
E come sarà giunto
che dirà? che dirà?
Chiamerà Butterfly dalla lontana.
Io senza dar risposta
me ne starò nascosta
un po’ per celia…
e un po’ per non morire al primo incontro,
ed egli alquanto in pena chiamerà,
chiamerà: piccina mogliettina
olezzo di verbena,
i nomi che mi dava al suo venire

Tutto questo avverrà, te lo prometto.
Tienti la tua paura,
io con sicura fede l’aspetto.

Puccini, Madame Butterfly, “One fine day”

One fine day, we’ll see
rise a filament of smoke
from the extreme confines of the sea.
And then a ship appears.
Then the white ship
enters the port,
it salutes its greeting.
You see? It came!
I do not meet it. Not I.
I stand there on the edge of the hill and wait,
and I wait a long time and it does not bother me,
the long wait.
And out of the city crowd
a man, a small point
he goes to the hill.

Who can he be? who can he be?
And how will he arrive?
what will he say? what will he say?
He will call Butterfly from far away.
I without giving an answer
I will be hidden from all of it
a little for like a joke …
and a little so as not to die during the first meeting,
and he will hardly call,
will call: little wife
oil of verbena,
the names that gave me to when he arrived.

All this will happen, I promise you.
Take your fear,
I await him with sure faith.

Wagner, Tristan und Isolde, Liebestod

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 ihr’s 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

Wagner, Tristan and Isolde, Liebestod

Softly and gently, see him smiling
How the eyes that open fondly,
see it, Friends?
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!

Göta Ljungberg
October 4, 1893 – June 28, 1955

Born in Sundsvall, Sweden, Ljungberg studied at the Stockholm Opera School with the physician and vocal coach Gillis Bratt. She undertook further studies with Mme Charles Cahier in Stockholm and also in Milan and Berlin.

She debuted as Gutrune in Wagner’s Götterdämmerung with the Stockholm Opera in 1917. She remained one of the leading singers there until 1926 when her international career began.

She went on to sing at most of the principal opera houses in Europe and America and was acclaimed not only for her singing, but also for her acting and dramatic intensity.

During the 1920s, she was a major star in Berlin with a permanent engagement from 1926–1932 at the Staatsoper Berlin. She also sang with great success at the Royal Opera House in London and was permanently employed at the Metropolitan from 1932–1935.

Her Royal Opera House London debut was in 1924 as Sieglinde (Der Ring des Nibelungen) under Bruno Walter. She later appeared there as Salome, Kundry (Parsifal), Tosca and Elisabeth (Tannhäuser).

She sang at the Metropolitan Opera from 1932 to 1935 as Isolde (Tristan und Isolde) and Brünnhilde as well as Salome.

After ten years of silence, she returned as a concert singer in New York in 1950 and from 1945 was a teacher at the New York College of Music.