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HERBERT JANSSEN, Baritone * 22 September 1892, Cologne, Germany + 3 June 1965, New York City, New York, United States;

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Herbert Janssen was born into a wealthy, music-loving family of Swedish origin and received his first singing lessons when young. Having studied law at Berlin University and served as an officer in World War I, he subsequently studied singing in Berlin with Oscar Daniel. He was immediately accepted by Max von Schillings for the Berlin State Opera, where he made his debut in 1922 as Herod in Schreker’s Der Schatzgräber. Initially he was assigned smaller parts, but gradually his repertoire expanded: he sang Wolfram / Tannhäuser, the role for which he was to become most renowned, during the 1923–1924 season in Berlin. Other roles included the Count / Le nozze di Figaro, di Luna / Il trovatore, Faninal / Der Rosenkavalier, Gérard / Andrea Chénier, Albert / Werther, Valentin / Faust (Gounod), Don Pizarro / Fidelio, Lothario / Mignon, Renato / Un ballo in maschera, Iago / Otello, Don Carlo / Ernani, Escamillo / Carmen and the title role in Rigoletto..

While remaining with the Berlin State Opera until 1937, Janssen soon started to sing elsewhere. From 1925 he took part regularly in the summer Wagner festival at Zoppot: as Wolfram (1925, 1932), Gunther / Götterdämmerung (1927), Amfortas / Parsifal (1928, 1936), Kothner / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1929) and Telramund / Lohengrin (1932). He sang annually in the summer international opera season at the Royal Opera House, London from 1926, undertaking Kurwenal / Tristan und Isolde and Gunther in his first season. He later appeared in important productions of Der fliegende Holländer and Tristan und Isolde at Covent Garden conducted by Reiner and Beecham, also singing Orest / Elektra and in 1935 taking the title role in Borodin’s Prince Igor, for which he was highly praised. During this period he was a guest with the opera companies of Dresden, Munich and Vienna, as well as at Barcelona (1928, 1929), The Hague (1929), the Paris Opera (1931–1934) and La Monnaie, Brussels (1934, 1935).

At the Bayrueth Festival Janssen first appeared in 1930 as Wolfram, with Toscanini conducting. At later festivals he sang Amfortas, Donner / Das Rheingold, Gunther, Kothner and the Herald / Lohengrin. However, having turned down a dinner invitation from Hitler at Bayreuth, Janssen left Germany in 1937 and with Toscanini’s assistance travelled immediately to Buenos Aires. Although he sang with the Vienna State Opera during 1937 and 1938, he then emigrated to the USA, eventually acquiring American citizenship in 1946.

Janssen first appeared in America at the beginning of 1939 in Philadelphia, as the Wanderer / Siegfried with the Metropolitan Opera on tour. He stayed with this company until 1952, predominantly performing his established Wagnerian repertoire. Other occasional roles included Don Fernando / Fidelio, Jochanaan / Salome and The Speaker / Die Zauberflöte. As a result of a shortage of suitable singers, Janssen also took on heavier Wagner parts, to which his voice was less well suited: for example Hans Sachs / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Wotan / Der Ring des Nibelungen.

From 1940 onwards Janssen sang regularly at Buenos Aires and with the San Francisco Opera between 1945 and 1951. Following his retirement in 1952, he taught singing in New York.

Janssen’s performances were notable for the warm and sympathetic timbre of his voice, his excellent command of legato and clear enunciation, as well as his convincing acting. Also a highly accomplished lieder singer, he had in addition starred in the musical Drei Musketiere at the Metropol Theatre in Berlin during 1928 opposite Göta Ljungberg.

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As Gunther

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Posted by on September 22, 2017 in Baritones

 

ÉVA GAUTHIER, Mezzo-Soprano * 20 September 1885, Ottawa, Canada + 20 December 1958, New York City, New York, United States

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(Ida Joséphine Phoebe) Eva Gauthier. Mezzo-soprano, teacher, b Ottawa 20 Sep 1885, d New York 26 Dec 1958. She studied piano and harmony with J. Edgar Birch before taking voice lessons with Frank Buels at the age of 13. She was soloist at St Patrick Church in Ottawa and in 1902 made her professional debut as a contralto at the Ottawa Basilica when she participated in a service commemorating the death of Queen Victoria and sang in the first Canadian performance of Charles A.E. Harriss’Festival Mass. With the assistance of Sir Wilfrid and Lady Laurier she left for Europe in July 1902. In London she heard Faust with Nellie Melba and Plançon and soon went to Paris with the intention of studying with Melba’s teacher, Mathilde Marchesi. At the audition she was accompanied at the piano by Lady Laurier but Marchesi warned her of impending voice trouble and the lessons did not materialize. Gauthier studied singing privately with Auguste-Jean Dubulle, Joseph Saucier’s teacher at the Paris Conservatoire. Her lessons were interrupted by an operation for nodules on the vocal cords but she gradually resumed her studies, this time with Jacques Bouhy, creator of the role of Escamillo in Carmen. She later said that Bouhy had been her only teacher.
Career and Studies 1905-1914
In 1905, in London, her compatriot Emma Albani engaged her for a tour of the British Isles and for the 50 concerts of her farewell tour of Canada in 1906. Gauthier studied with William Shakespeare in London, as a protegee of Lord Strathcona, and in 1907 sang the soprano part in C.A.E. Harriss’ Coronation Mass for Edward VII with the Sheffield Choir and the London Symphony Orchestra at Queen’s Hall. That year she left for Milan to study 1907-8 with the tenor Giuseppe Oxilia who guided her towards light soprano repertoire, and she later worked with Carlo Carignani. In Milan, Rina Giachetti, Caruso’s sister-in-law, prepared her for her stage debut, at Pavia in 1909, in the role of Micaëla in Carmen. The critics were favourable, but the four performances left her feeling that perhaps the stage was not for her. She performed with orchestras in Holland and Belgium, including a concert with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in Scheveningen (Holland) where she sang Rossini’s ‘Bel raggio’ (Semiramide), and went back to Paris.
In 1910 she performed with an orchestra at the Royal Palace in Copenhagen. That spring she was invited by Covent Garden to sing the role of Yniold in the English premiere of Pelléas et Mélisande and asked to meet Debussy. After hearing her the composer recommended her for the role of Geneviève, but it had already been assigned. Pelléas was postponed, and she was cast instead as Mallika in Lakmé (18 Jun 1910) with Luisa Tetrazzini and John McCormack. However, she was replaced by another singer just at curtain time because Tetrazzini found her voice too powerful. In spite of being offered attractive compensating roles, she thereupon gave up the stage to devote herself to the more intimate art of recital and concert. Before she left she again sang with the Berlin Philharmonic in Scheveningen.
Gauthier undertook an extensive trip to the Orient, to join her future husband, Franz Knoote (whom she married in 1911 and divorced in 1917), a former student of Oxilia, now working as a plantation manager in Java. She studied the music of the Orient and may have been the first Western classically trained female singer to study with a Javanese gamelan ensemble. She gave solo recitals throughout Southeast Asia 1910-14, and toured in Australia and New Zealand with Mischa Elman (1914). When World War I broke out, she obtained a passage on the last ship leaving Sydney, Australia, together with Elman, the tenor Paul Dufault, and Harold Bauer. She gave a recital with the latter in Hawaii on her way to America.
Premieres of New Works
New occidental music also continued to interest her, and when she made her New York recital debut in May 1915 she showed herself to be something other than a conventional recitalist. A large portion of her programs was dedicated to Ravel, Bartók, Hindemith, Schoenberg, and Stravinsky. She gave the North American premieres of Stravinsky’s Trois Poésies de la lyrique japonaise in 1917 and of Pribaoutki the following year. Her programs showed a rare eclecticism, offering music of lesser-known early masters, songs that she brought from the Orient, and new music such as that by members of France’s Les Six, whom she met in 1920. Established in New York, she presented (1 Nov 1923 at the Aeolian Hall) a recital now considered historical. In the second part she sang music of Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and George Gershwin with Gershwin at the piano. The press protested against the inclusion of light music in a concert, but it is said that the orchestra conductor Paul Whiteman heard the recital, was impressed by the talent of Gershwin, and commissioned him to write a work for piano and orchestra. The result was to be the famous Rhapsody in Blue. She was instrumental in bringing Gershwin and Ravel together during the latter’s visit to New York in 1928. Each Gauthier recital contained premieres, and it is estimated that she gave no fewer than 184 during her career.
Activities and Honors 1927-1949
Gauthier sang in Ottawa in 1927 for the 60th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation. In 1936 she gave three retrospective recitals at Gotham Hotel, including highlights from the programs of some 50 New York recitals. The same year she spoke the title role in the New York and Boston premieres of Stravinsky’s Persephone. Later she devoted herself mainly to teaching (at the American Theater Wing, a professional training school), giving master classes, and serving on juries for important competitions. The American composer Ned Rorem was her accompanist for a short period and he has referred to her in his diaries and articles as an invaluable pedagogue. She also was a founding member of the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA). Honoured by the governments of Denmark and Canada she also, in 1949, received a citation from the Campion Society of San Francisco for her contribution as an interpreter and teacher ‘to the study, performance and teaching of the best in song literature in all its phases.’ After her death her library and her personal documents were acquired by the New York Public Library. Subsequently other Gauthier documents and photographs were deposited in the National Library of Canada.
To celebrate the centenary of her birth in 1985, Joan Patenaude-Yarnell performed a program of Gauthier’s repertoire at the University of Montreal for the fourth symposium of ARMuQ, and at the Maison française of New York University following another symposium that included a panel consisting of Ned Rorem, Philip Miller, Will Crutchfield, and Nadia Turbide. In 1987 RCI issued a cassette (RCI 642) featuring the mezzo-soprano Linda Bennett (Maguire), with Michael McMahon at the piano, in a recital recreating part of Gauthier’s 1923 recital at Aeolian Hall.
Assessment
Eva Gauthier was the sister of Juliette Gaultier (sic) de la Vérendrye, the violinist and folksinger. Eva Gauthier’s voice, whose range extended from contralto to coloratura, was celebrated not only for its technical security but also for an expressive intensity that gave to each song a particular colour. During her farewell tour of Canada in 1906 Emma Albani declared, ‘As an artistic legacy to my country, I leave you Eva Gauthier.’
Recordings
Gauthier recorded as early as 1914 for Columbia. In 1917, for Victor, she recorded several French-Canadian folksongs, sometimes assisted by a vocal quartet. She also recorded songs of Duparc (‘Chanson triste’), Debussy (‘Romance’ and ‘Fantoches’), Février (‘La Lettre’), and Dessauer (‘Le Retour des promis’). Her only incursions into opera are ‘Viens avec nous, petit’ from La Vivandière (Godard), ‘Souvenirs du jeune âge’ from Le Pré aux clercs (Hérold), ‘Les Larmes’ from Werther, and, with the tenor Orville Harrold, the duet ‘Depuis longtemps’ from Louise. In 1938 the label Musicraft undertook a retrospective of Gauthier’s art with the assistance of the pianist of her later years, Celius Dougherty, but most of the recordings never were released. However, a few songs (‘Seguidilla’ by de Falla, ‘Mein Bett ruft’ by Bartók, and ‘La Chevelure’ by Debussy) electronically recorded may be heard on Eva Gauthier (New York 1966, Town Hall TH-003), along with other titles acoustically recorded before 1920. In the USA the International Record Club revived on a 78 disc (IRCC-127) ‘Nina Boboh,’ a Malayan and Javanese lullaby, and Dessauer’s ‘Le Retour des promis.’ Gauthier is a featured artist on the first volume of Great Voices of Canada (Analekta AN 7801). Her recordings for Victor and Columbia are listed in Roll Back the Years.
Writings
‘Reminiscences of Maurice Ravel,’ New York Times, 16 Jan 1938
‘Singing lessons from the great of the past,’ Musical America, vol 59, 10 Feb 1939
‘Were my songs with wings provided,’ Repertoire, Nov 1951
‘On the edge of opera,’ Opera News, vol 19, 31 Jan 1955
‘The roaring twenties,’ interview with Henry W. Levinger, Musical Courier, vol 151, 1 Feb 1955

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Éva Gauthier wearing a Javanese headdress

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos

 

BLANCHE THEBOM, Mezzo-Soprano * 19 September 1915, Monessen, Pennsylvania, United States + 23 March 2010, San Francisco, California, United States;

The American mezzo-soprano, Blanche Thebom, born to Swedish-American parents, studied singing with Margaret Matzenauer and Edyth Walker in New York.

Blanche Thebom made her concert debut in 1941, with the Metropolitan Opera, as Fricka in December 1941. She made her Met debut in November 1944 at the Philadelphia’s Academy of Music as Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde. She was the leading dramatic mezzo-soprano of the Metropolitan Opera for 22 years, created the American premiere performances of Baba the Turk in Igor Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, the Mother in Strauss’ Arabella, and Mére Marie in Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites. In her 22 seasons with the Met (1944-1959, 1960-1967) she appeared in 356 performances, 28 roles, and 27 works.

In a field long dominated by Europeans, Blanche Thebom was part of the first, midcentury wave of American opera singers to attain international careers. She was praised by critics for her warm voice, attentive phrasing and sensitive acting. Apart from the Met, she sang in various opera houses in America and Europe, with increasing success. The first American to sing at the Bolshoi Opera in Moscow, she is also remembered for her Dorabella in the historic production directed by Alfred Lunt of Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte, and for her Brangäne on Kirsten Flagstad/Wilhelm Furtwängler recording of Tristan und Isolde. She was also a superb Dido(n) in Rafael Kubelík’s English language 1957 and 1958 Covent Garden revival of Berlioz’s Les Troyens.

In 1967 Blanche Thebom was appointed head of the Southern Regional Opera Company in Atlanta. It folded in 1968. She also directed the opera program at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, and afterward moved to San Francisco. In 1968 she was appointed director of the opera workshop of San Francisco State University. She founded the Opera Arts Training Program, a three-week workshop in conjunction with San Francisco Girls Chorus in 1988. She lived and taught privately and helped create a training program for young singers in San Francisco. In later years, Blance Thebom appeared often in duo recitals with the soprano Eleanor Steber. She died of heart failure at her home in San Francisco on March 23, 2010. She was 91.

Blanche Thebom combs her beautiful hair out on this striking photograph from the year 1950, when her locks reached a length of more than 5 feet (152 cm). Miss Thebom was 5 feet 7 inches tall (169 cm)

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos

 

JÓZSEF SIMÁNDY, Tenor * 18 September 1916, Kistarcsa, Hungary + 4 March 1997, Budapest, Hungary;

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József Simándy (Kistarcsa, 18 September 1916 – Budapest, 4 March 1997) was a Hungarian tenor with German origins. His name in Hungarian form is Simándy József, his original family name is Schulder. A student of Emilia Posszert, he joined the chorus of the Hungarian State Opera in 1940; in 1946, he made his debut as Don José in Carmen in Szeged. In 1947, he returned to the Budapest Opera, where he was the leading heroic tenor until 1984. He performed regularly in Munich as well, from 1956 until 1960. Besides heroic tenor roles, Simándy took on lyric and spinto parts as well; he was best known for his Radames, Lohengrin, and Otello. Recordings include two operas by Ferenc Erkel, Bánk bán and Hunyadi László, in both of which he sang the title role.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2017 in Tenors

 

MAUREEN LEHANE, Mezzo-Soprano * 18 September 1932, London, United Kingdom + 27 December 2010, Somerset, United Kingdom;

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The English mezzo-soprano, Maureen Lehane, studied at the Guildhall School of Music London and continued her training with Hermann Weissenborn in Berlin and with the English teachers John and Aida Dickens.

Maureen Lehane made her debut in 1967 at the Festival of Glyndebourne in the Baroque opera L’Ormindo by Cavalli and made a great career in England and abroad. In 1966 she married with the composer Peter Wishart (1921-1984), for whose work she had special affinity. She sang numerous opera roles, among them for the Handel Opera Society works like Arianna and Faramondo by George Frideric Handel in England as in the USA. She appeared with great success in concerts at the Carnegie Hall New York, in England, Poland, Sweden and Germany. She sang also at the Festival of Aldeburgh, at the Stravinsky Festival, at the Three Choirs Festival, in Cologne and at the Göttingen Händel Festival. She undertook an Australia tour, a two-month USA tour and a three-month concert tour in the Middle and the Far East. In 1971 she made a guest appearance in the Dutch as on the Belgian television, visited in 1979-1980 in Berlin, Lisbon and Rome, in 1981 in Warsaw. In 1974 she performed at the Sadler’s Wells Opera London the title role in Ariodante by G.F. Handel, in 1976 at the Netherlands Opera Amsterdam Dido in Dido and Aeneas by H. Purcell. In 1974 she sang in London the title role in the opera Clytemnestra, a work of her husband Peter Wishart, in 1982 in the opera Adriano in Siria by Johann Christoph Bach, in 1984 at Reading University in Peter Wishart’s The Lady of the Inn. In 1986 she launched an annual Festival, dedicated to the memory of her deceased husband Peter Wishart and his work.

Maureen Lehane continued her career, particularly in radio and television broadcasts, and worked also within the music-educational area. Already during 1972-1973 she gave in Holland courses for introduction to the Händel interpretation, and operated in similar form in England.

Recordings: Numerous recordings on various labels, on Decca (Belshazzar by G.F. Handel, Elektra), HMV (Theresien-Messe by J. Haydn), BASF (Bach Cantatas, sacred vocal works of J. Haydn, Mozart, Magnificat by Johann Christian Bach), Westminster (Arsamene in Serse by G.F. Handel), Songs of H. Purcell in arrangements by her husband Peter Wishart.

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Maureen Lehane Wishart (left) and Dame Joan Sutherland judging the 2003 Great Elm Vocal Awards (Photo: Sarah Foster)

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos

 

HERTA GLAZ, Mezzo-Soprano * 16 September 1910, Vienna, Austria + 28 January 2006, Hamden, Connecticut, USA;

The Austrian-born American contralto, Herta [or Hertha] Glaz [actually Glatz], attended the Music Academy at Breslau beginning at the age of fourteen. There she studied singing and piano. She was a pupil of Rosa Papier-Paumgartner in Vienna.

Herta Glaz made her operatic debut in 1931 at the Opera House of Breslau as Erda in Der Ring des Nibelungen, presaging a successful career. However, as a Jewish she was forced to leave Germany in 1933. She then toured Austria and Scandinavia as a concert singer. In 1935-1936 she sang at the German Theater in Prague. In 1936 she made North America tour with the Salzburg Opera Guild. While there the national socialists marched into Austria and she could no longer return home, and remained in the USA.

In the USA Herta Glaz unfolded an extensive concert activity. So in 1937 she sang in Los Angeles Lied von der Erde by Gustav Mahler, had a great success in Matthäus-Passion (BWV 244) under Otto Klemperer, and gave concerts in Paris. In 1939 and from 1944 to 1951 she could be heard at the Opera of San Francisco in numerous roles. From 1940 to 1942 she sang at the Opera of Chicago. In December 1942 she made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, as Amneris in Aida, and remained on its roster until 1956 [14 seasons, 333 performances, 27 roles, 25 works]. Here she appeared also as Annina in the Rosenkavalier, as Nicklausse in Hoffmanns Erzählungen by Offenbach, as Marcellina in Nozze di Figaro, as Magdalene in Meistersingern, in addition, in smaller roles. She undertook also a concert tour to Russia. She was no less estimated as a Lieder singer.

Herta Glaz taught voice at the Manhattan School of Music in New York since 1956, and at the University of Southern California, retiring in 1977. She was temporarily married with the Polish-born American conductor Josef Rosenstock (1895-1985). In 1955, she got married with Fritz Redlich, a Viennese psychiatrist, who taught at Yale. Herta Glaz is living now in Hamden, CT, USA.

Recordings: Victor (Two Schubert Lieder), Columbia (Meistersinger – Quartet, Love duet from Tristan as Brangäne, with Helen Traubel and Torsten Ralf) and MGM-Records. She sang on Cetra Opera-Live as Berta in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, on Raritas as Mary in Fliegenden Holländer, both live recordings from the Metropolitan Opera of 1950, on Melodram as Annina in Rosenkavalier (Metropolitan Opera, 1953), Renaissance (Schubert Lieder).

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2017 in Mezzo-Sopranos

 

PAUL SCHÖFFLER, Baritone * 15 September 1897, Dresden, Germany + 21 November 1977, Amersham, United Kingdom;

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Paul Schöffler (15 September 1897 – 21 November 1977) was a German operatic baritone, particularly associated with Mozart, Wagner, and Strauss roles.

Born in Dresden, he studied at the Music Conservatory there with Rudolf Schmalmauer and Waldemar Staegemann, and later in Milan with the great Italian baritone Mario Sammarco. He was a member of the Semperoper in Dresden from 1925 to 1937, and then joined the Vienna State Opera. He was also a regular at the Bayreuth Festival and the Salzburg Festival, establishing himself in roles such as Figaro, Don Giovanni, Alfonso, The Speaker of the Temple, Pizarro, Holländer, Wolfram, Kurwenal, Hans Sachs, Wotan, Amfortas and Orest. He took part in the creation of Gottfried von Einem’s Dantons Tod in 1947, and Richard Strauss’s Die Liebe der Danae in 1952, both in Salzburg.

He made guest appearances at the Royal Opera House in London, the Paris Opéra, the Aix-en-Provence Festival, La Scala in Milan, the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, also appearing in San Francisco and Chicago.

He also enjoyed considerable success in a few Italian roles notably Iago and Scarpia, and eventually moved to character roles (Music Teacher, Antonio), singing well into his 70s.

Paul Schöffler died in Amersham, England, aged 80.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2017 in Baritones

 
 
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