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Lauritz Melchoir: The Golden Age of Bayreauth [Hardcover]

Ib Mechior , Ib Melchoir
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Baskerville Publishers; Har/Com edition (Jun 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1880909626
  • ISBN-13: 978-1880909621
  • Product Dimensions: 26.6 x 19.4 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,345,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
IN 1917, THE YEAR I WAS BORN, my father, Lauritz Melchior, was already an established opera singer. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a beautiful tribute to a great singer 18 Jun 2003
By Gail Cooke TOP 500 REVIEWER
Opera aficionados will relish this warm revisiting of the years spent at Bayreuth by tenor Lauritz Melchior. Rich in photographs and anecdotal material it is a revelatory look at a time, the years 1923 - 1931, a place, and a man. It is also a warm, personal recollection as is revealed in the narrative written by his son, Ib Melchior.
As many know Bayreuth, a small town in Bavaria, is the home of the Wagner Festivals. Relatively early in his career Richard Wagner had felt the need for a theater solely for the performing of his operas. Deciding that a large city was not an appropriate site, Wagner selected this relatively unknown town for his Festspielhaus. A Patron's Association underwrote the cost of building, and the cornerstone was laid on May 22, 1872, Wagner's 59th birthday.
Following the great composer's death the Festival was overseen by his widow, Cosima, and son, Siegfried Wagner. It was for them that Mr. Melchior auditioned in 1923 as the Festival was scheduled to resume after being interrupted by the war. Describing those moments in a manuscript, the tenor wrote, "I clearly remember my audition in Villa Wahnfried. I sang for Siegfried in the huge entrance hall, and sitting on a balcony which circled the entire hall one story up was Mrs. Cosima, looking like a motionless white apparition, with whom Siegfried would confer after each aria......"
It has been said that following Mr. Melchior's singing Siegfried consulted with his mother, and then simply said, "Mother likes you."
Thus began a benchmark period in the artist's career. He was to spend several hours each day under the tutelage of famed voice coach Karl Kittel, and from Cosima he gained insights into the Wagner characters.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A WARM RECOLLECTION OF A GREAT SINGER 26 Jun 2003
By Gail Cooke - Published on Amazon.com
Opera aficionados will relish this warm revisiting of the years spent at Bayreuth by tenor Lauritz Melchior. Rich in photographs and anecdotal material it is a revelatory look at a time, the years 1923 - 1931, a place, and a man. It is also a warm, personal recollection as is revealed in the narrative written by his son, Ib Melchior.
As many know Bayreuth, a small town in Bavaria, is the home of the Wagner Festivals. Relatively early in his career Richard Wagner had felt the need for a theater solely for the performing of his operas. Deciding that a large city was not an appropriate site, Wagner selected this relatively unknown town for his Festspielhaus. A Patron's Association underwrote the cost of building, and the cornerstone was laid on May 22, 1872, Wagner's 59th birthday.
Following the great composer's death the Festival was overseen by his widow, Cosima, and son, Siegfried Wagner. It was for them that Mr. Melchior auditioned in 1923 as the Festival was scheduled to resume after being interrupted by the war.
It has been said that following Mr. Melchior's singing Siegfried consulted with his mother, and then simply said, "Mother likes you."
Thus began a benchmark period in the artist's career. He was to spend several hours each day under the tutelage of famed voice coach Karl Kittel, and from Cosima he gained insights into the Wagner characters. With unparalleled thoroughness she even gave him acting instructions concerning the body, the face, and the eyes, which she called "mirrors of the soul."
Among the many friendships developed during the Bayreuth years was one with Siegfried's wife, Winifred, who had great admiration for Adolf Hitler. Nonetheless, at that time Hitler received scant attention from others at Bayreuth.
Surely the thought never occurred to Mr. Melchior that some 8 years later, following Siegfried's death, the atmosphere in Bayreuth would be dramatically altered.. Hitler moved into Siegfried's rooms, and his brown shirted troopers overran the small town. The tenor would leave Bayreuth not to return.
Nonetheless, during those "Golden Years" glorious operas were performed - Parsifal, Die Walkure, Siegfried, and more. In addition, lifelong friendships were forged as steins were hoisted.. It is a never-to-be-forgotten period in the archives of music history.
What of the man who is called one of the greatest heroic tenors of all time? He quickly took to Lederhosen, wearing them whenever possible. Music was his metier, hunting his passion. He had an irrepressible sense of humor, which is evidenced in the MGM films he later made. He was more than generous to his fellow performers, and genuinely loved mankind.
Lauritz Melchior: The Golden Years of Bayreuth is enriched by over 315 never before published photographs, and notes from Mr. Melchior's journals. A volume to be prized, it is apt tribute to the man called "...not the world's greatest Wagner tenor...the only one!"
- Gail Cooke
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy tribute to a great singer 2 Sep 2003
By W. Russell - Published on Amazon.com
The adjective "great" in unarguably invoked far too often these days and to describe mediocrity. One truly great singer was the Danish heldentenor Lauritz Melchior. It is amazing that there has been no adequate English language biography of this singer (the one that was written was amateurish at best and best left on the remainder tables). This book helps rectify the omission. Written by the singer's son, Ib Melchior (himself a noted book, film, and TV writer/producer/director), this focuses on Melchior's years (1923-31) at the Wagner Fetsival in Bayreuth where Melchior's skills as the greatest Wagnerian tenor in recording history were honed and perfected. The book is generously filled with photographs and descriptions of the times. Also included are lengthy excerpts of Melchior's own published memoirs. Melchior was serious about his art, not himself, and was never one for the tenorial "swelled head". This book mirrors that because Melchior, while the focus, is not the sole subject. Many photos and writing are about fellow artists giving a well-rounded picture of the Festival during those years. My only quibble is that this isn't a full biography of Melchior. Maybe Baskerville has one in preparation. The accompanying CD was well-planned and, like the book, includes artists besides Melchior.
Highly recommended.
6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Slipshod, halfhearted, odd waste of paper. 15 Oct 2004
By Mae East - Published on Amazon.com
Being a "Melchiorite," I wanted to order this book. However, I read the book carefully at the bookstore first and decided it was not worth buying because it stinks. What on earth was the point of publishing this horridly written volume?

The title "Lauritz Melchior: the Golden Years of Bayreuth" made me think this book would focus on Lauritz Melchior's performances at Bayreuth between 1924-1931, 8 summers. However, since there was no festival during two of these years, Lauritz Melchior was only performing at Bayreuth for 6 summers. There must not have been enough material to fill an entire book about only 6 summers in Lauritz Melchior's career. Anyway, this book doesn't even do those 6 summers at Bayreuth justice. The author translates a small number of quotes from Lauritz Melchior's unpublished memoirs about working with some fellow stage performers (but not the musicians or backstage people), and about the performance techniques he learned at Bayreuth from Cosima & Siegfried and so on. Little of this seems new. The author has almost nothing to say about Lauritz Melchior or anyone else at the Festival. Indeed, at least 50% of the meager text and photographs are not about Lauritz Melchior. The book divides itself into all these different directions and then some, and so it is both confusing and superficial. Furthermore, many of the photographs are reproduced as blurry digitalized scans (what you see is a bunch of white folks standing around). I learned nothing about Melchior or his colleagues from this book which I could not read about in other places.

It seems to me very odd to focus an entire book on Melchior at Bayreuth, when Lauritz Melchior was actually performing in opera and concert, and cutting records all over the US and Germany, London, Copenhagen, (Paris, Vienna, etc.?) during these same years. This book gives one little appreciation of just how mind-bogglingly busy Lauritz Melchior was during these critical years in his career before he was securely established at the Met (and even when Melchior was established at the Met he was also performing all over the world!). There is no attempt to give any social perspective here either-you wouldn't know from this book what kind of town Bayreuth was, or the liveliness of the arts scene of the roaring twenties in Germany and around the world or Melchior's observations on being a member of that scene.

This book does not offer insights into Melchior's off-stage life either. The sole aspect about Lauritz Melchior's life off-stage the author chooses to mention, and which receives disproportionate attention, is his hunting hobby. The author remains at all times on the outside surface of the singer's paradoxical personality. Another one of the author's concerns in this book- (its raison d'etre?)- is getting Chossewitz, Lauritz Melchior's former estate in Germany, back from the German government.

Conspicuously underrepresented, on the other hand, in the photographs and text is Melchior's girlfriend/wife during these years, Kleinchen, and her family. I want to see pictures of her and her family and in this book they are nearly non-existent.

The chapter entitled "The Years Before" gave me an unhappy feeling, which was sad.

In sum: Although I enjoyed a couple of the non-scanned photographs, that is not enough to make me buy a $50.00 book. I didn't hear the CD, but if I recall correctly, it contains less than 10 tracks, about 50% Melchior (transfers from Danacord's), 50% others. Someone interested in this book probably has them already.

This book is not reprehensible in the manner of the fuller authorized biography, which I would never purchase either. However, this volume is just as sloppily written as that book and even more ambivalent about its subject. The sad truth is that this book is sub par and that is a frustrating disappointment and a real shame.
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