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Subject: Re: Helen Traubel
From: Kenneth Bleeth <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Kenneth Bleeth <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 30 Mar 2012 21:36:57 -0400
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If you decide to dismiss this discussion ("who cares about . . .?" "the
hell with . . .") you should at least get your information right. 1) The
C's in *Tristan* occur not "before the lovers meet," but during their
meeting; 2) it's *Siegfried*, not "Seigfried"; 3) the EMI Narrative and
Curse is 1948, not 1947; 4) there's no high C at the end of the Narrative
and Curse; 45) if you believe that "the note didn't exist in [Traubel's]
voice," you might want to listen to the end of her "Zu neuen Taten"
(Melchior/Toscanini) or her recording of the *Walkuere* Act 2 Battle Cry.
It's not Nilsson's C, but it's there.

On Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 7:49 PM, <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> At this point, it's all dust in the wind.  Who cares about those Tristan
> high C's before the lovers meet?  The notes are so fleeting and so quick
> that they're over before they begin.  They could have been left out
> altogether.  Traubel never took them, though Nilsson, of course, did in
> spades with aces to spare.
>      The 1951 "Seigfried Duet" with Svanholm is a case in point.  The hell
> with who's singing the high C's.  The way Flagstad sings the opening "Heil
> Der Sonne" ALONE is enough to secure her place in vocal history.  Never
> have I heard ANY Brunnhilde sing this phrase and those which immediately
> follow so magnificently.  The voice was without peer in this regard.  Also,
> her EMI 1947 Isolde's Narrative and Curse ends with the most powerful and
> furious-sounding singing I've ever heard from Flagstad.  She SLAMS on to
> those long sustained G's and A flats like a wildcat and the result is out
> of this world.  I've yet to hear Traubel's account of this music,
> unfortunately.  I'm sure she doesn't take the high C at the end because the
> note didn't exist in her voice.
>     Thanks so much for your valuable information.  I like to read about
> this kind of stuff.
>
> Les in ChicagoONNCOLL.EDU <[log in to unmask]>>
> *To: *[log in to unmask]
> *Sent: *Friday, March 30, 2012 5:16:41 PM
> *Subject: *Re: Helen Traubel
>
> Flagstad would also seem to have been "helped" on the two C's in the *
> Siegfried* duet she recorded with Svanholm in June 1951. Since Legge was
>
> the producer (the recording was made in the Abbey Road studios), I'm
> assuming the help came from Schwarzkopf. One can, I think, hear
> Schwarzkopf's timbre in the two notes (in the second, of course, you have
> to disentangle the female voice from Svanholm's).
>
> On Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 4:58 PM, Max Paley <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> > I agree with you about Traubel's greatness.  I'm a big Flagstad fan, but
> I
> > also can't help but agree with Toscanini's comment when listening to a
> > playback of the recording he made with Traubel of the Immolation Scene:
> > "Che bella voce!"
> >
> > I think there's a degree that a certain placidity about career, similar
> to
> > Eileen Farrell, may have played into it.   Flagstad may have talked the
> > story of being a simple housewife who just sang because they asked her,
> but
> > it's clear she was also extremely driven in this regard.  Traubel seemed
> to
> > have no patience with the pretentiousness and hype the went along with
> > opera life.
> >
> > Both Traubel and Flagstad were relatively late to arrive into
> > international prominence.  Nilsson, actually, also although more people
> are
> > likely to have had a good idea who Nilsson was prior to her Met debut.
> >  Flagstad was 40 when she made her Met debut in 1935, Traubel was 41 when
> > she made her Met debut (both of them as Sieglinde) in 1939 and Nilsson
> was
> > 41 when she Met her Met debut as Isolde.
> >
> > I don't quite go along with the comparison between Flagstad and Traubel
> > with regard to high Cs, but neither slammed them out the way Nilsson did,
> > most likely to the very end.  Flagstad's high Cs, during her first years
> at
> > the Met, were electrifying, not least because they were produced with
> such
> > ease that they could have been an octave lower.  You can hear them in the
> > 1935 Bodanzky Tristan and, even more spectacularly, in the Beecham
> > performance from London in 1937.  Traubel never seemed to be on good
> > speaking terms with that note and, to my knowledge, the only one bit of
> > recorded evidence live or studio of Traubel singing a high C is the
> > Götterdämmerung Prologue Duet with Melchior with the NBCSO and Toscanini.
> >
> > In the Act 2 Tristan scene in which the lovers finally reconnect,
> Flagstad
> > always sang the first C, even in her last performances of the role, both
> at
> > the Met and in London.  As early as 1940, she started dropping the second
> > one, but even in her last stage performances she would have days where
> she
> > felt like it and she'd sing the second one and really let rip on it.
> >  George Topinges, if he's reading, can chime in with his memories of
> seeing
> > her concert Isolde in Chicago in 1947 in which he's commented that, when
> > she sang that first C "opened her mouth wider than I've ever seen a human
> > mouth open."  Listen very carefully with as good equipment as you can to
> > the Furtwängler studio Tristan in which Schwarzkopf famously (or
> > notoriously) "helped" with those notes.  On the first one, you'll still
> > hear Flagstad sing the note, but as a unison duet with Schwarzkopf.  On
> the
> > second one, Schwarzkopf is on her own.
> >
> > But high C's and even high B's clearly weren't what made or broke a
> > reputation.  Leider continued to be a major interpreter of Isolde and
> > Brünnhilde for at least a half dozen years after those notes were no
> longer
> > her friends, and her reputation still sits securely on the pinnacle.
> >
> > But back to the base question and I really don't' have a good answer.
> >  Anyone who would question Traubel as a serious artistry and didn't want
> to
> > just count Wagner needed only listen to her Brahms and Strauss songs or
> her
> > rendition of Alceste's "Divinites du Styx" to know he is hearing one of
> the
> > all-time greats.
> >
> > Maybe the fact that Traubel had no significant European career?
> >
> > Max Paley
> >
> > On Mar 30, 2012, at 10:21 AM, Les Mitnick wrote:
> >
> > > Got into a discussion with a fellow-Opera L poster, and we were
> > discussing
> > > Helen Traubel, a singer whom I admire greatly, but one whom I regret is
> > not
> > > really remembered as being the great dramatic soprano she was.  It
> seems
> > to
> > > me that she's been relegated to "also ran" status in the giant lights
> > cast by
> > > Kirsten Flagstad and Birgit Nilsson, two great dramatic sopranos whom I
> > also
> > > hold in lofty regard.
> > >
> > >     Why the reason for Traubel's being so eclipsed?  Is it because
> opera
> > snobs
> > > didn't consider her a "serious" artist because she went into popular
> > > entertainment (shows with Jimmy Durante, movies with Jerry Lewis, guest
> > > shots on "Peter Gunn" on TV??  Or possibly because she was a "one
> > composer
> > > singer" who kept Wagner going during Flagstad's absence?   Or possibly
> > > because of that rather self-depreciating biography she penned in 1959?
> > >
> > >      Just listened to her Wagner Scenes with Toscanini (Walkure Act I
> > and the
> > > Prologue Duet and Immolation from Gotterdammerung) and was actually
> > > thinking to myself, "Can it get better than this?"  Of course, both she
> > AND
> > > Flagstad experienced serious difficulties with high C's early on (which
> > Nilsson
> > > most emphatically did NOT!), and both Traubel and Flagstad had no
> choice
> > but
> > > to omit them (Flagstad sang them early on, but already as early as
> 1940,
> > was
> > > already taking lower alternatives in the Prologue Duet from
> > Gotterdammerung
> > > as well as leaving out the top C's in the Tristan/Isolde meeting in Act
> > II.
> > >
> > >      Still, Flagstad and Traubel had such beauty, power, and amplitude
> > that
> > > their respective deficiencies of high C's made little difference in the
> > totality of
> > > their performances.  Of course, Nilsson took these top notes with the
> > freedom
> > > of a wildcat in a tree, and of course, had her own special abilities.
> > >
> > >      Still after hearing Traubel in these two Toscanini performances
> > from the
> > > NBC symphony, I can't help thinking that she's been rather "dissed" by
> > > subsequent operatic history.
> > >
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