Bayreuth Singers - Series 5 - Page 2

Historic Opera
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Lauritz Melchior was born in Copenhagen on 20 March 1890 (a birthday he shares with Beniamino Gigli). He began his vocal studies as a baritone under Paul Bang at the Royal Opera School, Copenhagen. He made his debut (1913) as a baritone at the Royal Danish Opera as Silvio in Pagliacci. American contralto Mme. Charles Cahier advised Melchior that he was better suited as a tenor and encouraged him to retrain his voice for the higher repertory. So Melchior began lessons with Danish tenor Vilhelm Herold. His second debut was on 8 October 1918 in the title rôle of Tannhäuser, also at the Royal Danish Opera. His first great successes were at Covent Garden in 1924. Word of his talents spread to Cosima and Siegfried Wagner, and from 1924 to 1931 he was a principal attraction at the annual Bayreuth Festivals. His career took him to the Berlin State Opera (1935-39), Vienna, Munich, Brussels, Milan, London, Paris, Buenos Aires, Stockholm, Chicago, and San Francisco. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut (17 Feb 1926) as Tannhäuser. According to Olin Downes, then reviewing for the New York Times, the role of Tannhäuser seemed a bit too high for Melchior. “The tone was forced and rough in quality and the melodic line suffered.” Downes thought it would have been better had his debut been in a role he was more vocally comfortable with. He remained at the Met for 24 seasons, performing only in Wagnerian roles and gala performances. His roles included Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Parsifal, Tristan, Siegmund and the two Siegfrieds. Melchior died in Santa Monica, California on 19 Mar 1973. Seen here as Siegfried. Austrian tenor Fritz Wolff (Munich: 28 Oct 1894 - Munich: 18 Jan 1957) as Parsifal and Loge. After World War I he studied with Heinrich König in Würzburg and made his debut at the Bayreuth Festival of 1925 in this role (Ring cycle). He was considered that best Loge of his era, and sang this role at every Bayreuth Festival up until 1941. Wolff sang in the world premiere of Der Singende Teufel at the Berlin State Opera (1928). His opera travels took him to Hagen, Chemnitz, Berlin, Vienna, London, Paris, Prague, Budapest, and at the Chicago and Cleveland Operas. He gave up his career after becoming almost blind.
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