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The Bayreuth Heroine Box set

Price: £12.70 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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The Bayreuth Heroine + The Wotan of the Century at His Best + The Worldstar Live on Stage
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Product details

  • Conductor: Herbert von Karajan, Leopold Ludwig, Eugen Jochum, Hans Knappertsbusch
  • Composer: Richard Wagner, Giuseppe Verdi, Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Audio CD (30 Sep 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 10
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Documents
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 94,166 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Product Description

One of the most famous dramatic sopranos of her day, Astrid Varnay was highly regarded and championed by all the great conductors of the time. The recordings on this 10-CD collection all come from the 1950s and present her at the peak of her powers. They include some of her greatest performances in the operas of Wagner, Verdi, Richard Strauss, and Beethoven.

Astrid Varnay began her European career at Bayreuth in 1951. Although still only 30, there had already been ten successful years in the USA. Her triumphant debut took place on the stage of the New York Metropolitan Opera. The young singer was preparing her first stage role, Elsa in 'Lohengrin' when Erich Leinsdorf engaged her to take the place of Lotte Lehmann, who through illness had cancelled her appearance as Sieglinde in a 'Walküre' performance on 6 December 1941. A few days later, for the second performance, Helen Traubel (Brünnhilde) was indisposed and Astrid Varnay took on this formidable role at short notice. This double debut is still today a unique chapter in the history of the 'Met'.

This comprehensive anthology features excerpts from Die Walküre, Siegfried, Götterdämmerung, Der Fliegende Holländer, Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, Parsifal, Tristan und Isolde, Electra, Salome, Der Rosenkavalier, Fidelio, Macbeth, Aida, Il Trovatore, Don Carlos, A Masked Ball, The Force of Destiny, La Gioconda, Thaïs, Cavalleria Rusticana and other operas.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dr R TOP 500 REVIEWER on 11 Sep 2014
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The Swedish-American singer, Astrid Varnay, 1918-2006, was the quintessential dramatic soprano who, in the mid-20th century, was the favoured Wagnerian soprano alongside Martha Mödl, 1912-2001, and her almost exact contemporary, Birgit Nilsson, 1918-2005. Varnay’s voice had a remarkable range of expressiveness that she wedded to the text and music with great subtlety and dramatic understanding. She was ideally suited to Wagner’s flawed heroines with their moving dignity and recklessness.

In this 10 CD set the singer is heard in her familiar Wagnerian roles of Sieglinde, Brünnhilde [in Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdammerung], Elsa, Ortrud [perhaps her greatest role alongside Brünnhilde}, Elisabeth, Isolde, Senta and Kundry, as well as in Strauss’ Electra, Salome and Der Rosenkavalier, Beethoven’s Fidelio, Verdi’s Macbeth, Aida, Il Travatore, Don Carlo, A Masked Ball and The Force of Destiny, Ponchielli’s La Giaconda, Massenet’s Thaïs, Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana and Halévy’s La Juive. She are also performances of Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder and Beethoven’s Ah perfido, op. 65.

In many recordings, Varnay is heard with her mentor, coach and, latterly, husband, the conductor, Hermann Weigert, 1890-1955, whom she met in 1937 through Flagstad, who was also a mentor to the younger singer. Many of the Wagnerian excerpts are taken from live performances at Bayreuth [under Knappertsbusch (1951 and 1955), Karajan (1951), Jochum (1953), Keilberth (1955 and 1956), von Matačić (1959) and Maazel (1960)] and the Met [under Leinsdorf (1941 and 1943), Fritz Tiedry (1954) and Kempe (1955)]. She is also heard as the Marschallin in Reiner’s live 1953 Met performance of Der Rosenkavelier.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By PETRONIUS on 8 Jan 2014
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A glorious tribute to a Bayreuth heldensoprano.
This is one of the top quality box sets of 10 CDs,of which I already have (1)Franco Corelli and (2) Jussi Bjorling.All cost in the region of £11,including postage,and are well worth the low cost.
ou will not regret it !
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By K. Mackay on 21 Oct 2013
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Wonderful to hear the recordings of her singing with Melchior during the early 1940s in Walkure and Lohengrin, when her voice was really fresh. Other recordings also enjoyable.
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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mr. B. E. Casey on 23 Jan 2014
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Acceptable quality of recording for it's age, but I was expecting a few good tunes amongst this programme! Maybe that says more about my musical knowledge.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Quite the wild one! 3 Mar 2014
By Lohengrin - Published on Amazon.com
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This is a must have for anyone interested in great opera singing, especially Wagnerian opera.

In a sentence I'd describe Varnay's voice as: dark and highly emotive. Flagstad's voice likewise a dark, wonderful instrument leaves me a bit cold. Nilsson has been my Wagnerian goddess for stamina, power, and plenty of heart. All things being equal, I'm not sure if I'd prefer a performance of Nilsson's or Varnay's. Varnay is quite the wild one!

The box set includes no text or booklet. The photo on the box cover is the same on each CD's sleevelet.

The CD's dedicated each to "Tristan und Isolde" and her role as Brunnhilde in "Die Walkuere" because almost "Greatest Hits" collections of those operas. They are highlights of the set and I enjoyed them immensely. CD #2 is a live recording of her Met debut as Sieglinde standing in for Lotte Lehmann with Lauritz Melchoir as Siegmund. The set is worth the purchase for the historical value of this CD alone! What a triumph!

Only 25% or so of the recordings are actually from Bayreuth. In general, she's records with other great singers. Her Senta in "Der Fliegende Hollaender" is haunting and exciting. Great role for her.

She's not afraid to venture forth: Saintly Elizabeth in "Tannhaeuser" may not be Varnay, but I enjoyed the excerpts (Nilsson felt the role was not right for her either). Who would have thought of Varnay as the Marschallin in Strauss "Der Rosenkavalier" or "Thais"? Good efforts regardless!

Her and the great Hans Hotter communicate a rivetting Recognition scene in "Elektra." Excellent diction with sparks flying. In general, some of Varnay's high notes come with effort, but she nails many of them too.

There are two CD's of Italian opera. One is sung in German, which was more common during that point in time. I never really got used to this. "Pace, Pace" --> "Frieden, Frieden" doesn't work. I really enjoyed her Italian singing in Aida and Il Travatore. While she doesn't have the float and tonal quality of Leontyne Price, the sound of her voice stayed with me the whole day after listening.

Her recording of Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder made me wish she had a recording of Strauss' 4 last songs: fully oxygenated, highly emotive.

I have a good tolerance for historical recordings. I was mostly very fine with the sound quality of the set. This isn't Solti's Ring however. CD#2 (Sieglinde) and some Beethoven excerts sounded a bit overloaded and boxy.

Check out the bargain for priceless singing from a soprano with a big heart and incredible career. Above all else, I conclude that Astrid Varnay really loved singing! That counts!
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