Those of you who have been following my messages to opera-l will notice that
a preponderance of my postings have been about singers, rather than the music
which they performed. The reason for this is my fascination with knowing
something about the human being behind the voice heard on an ancient
recording. Of course, many of the most famous singers have been
well-documented, and even many of the lesser-known receive some mention in a
publication such as Kutsch-Riemen's Grosses Saengerlexikon. However, personal
insights are much more valuable than a snippet of information received
through such media in resolving puzzles pertaining to that artist's career.
A case in point, is the Dutch baritone, Louis van de Sande. Friends I knew in
Germany told me that he had one of the most beautiful of all baritone voices
of his period. If this was true, why don't we know more about him? Here's
what Kutsch & Riemens have to say:
"Louis van de Sande was born Nov. 18, 1887 in Tilburg (Netherlands) and
died July 7, 1954 in Berlin. He did some work with a Male Choir in
Tilburg and studied with Anton Sistermans. In 1914 he made his Berlin
Opera debut and sang there several seasons, particularly in Wagnerian
roles. He evidently had an important radio career in Berlin. In 1930 he
began teaching at the Kirchenmusikschule des Bischoeflichen Ordinariats
in Berlin. In addition to his Berlin Rundfunk work, he made over 300
recordings for a variety of labels."
I might mention that this variety of labels included such names as Sterno,
Phonycord, Adler, Hausophon, and Artiphon. Huh???
Why did such a wonderful singer get overlooked by the major recording
companies? Why didn't he have a major operatic career? The fact that he made
over 300 recordings would indicate that he must have had something.
Well, it was only through personal contact with persons who knew him well
that the truth can be told. Plain and simply, he was a drunkard, who could
not be depended upon to show up for an opera performance, and who, when he
did, often was barely able to stand, much less sing. It didn't take very long
for most theater doors to be shut to him. However, evidently in the rare
moments when he was sober enough to sing, some of those minor labels were
willing to take a chance. After all, he must have come cheap.
However, if you ever come across a recording of a singer with the obscure
name, Louis van de Sande, don't pass it up. Hal
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