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Tristanissimo: Authorized Biography of Heroic Tenor Lauritz Melchior Hardcover – 1 Jun 1990

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Schirmer Books; First Edition edition (Jun. 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0028730607
  • ISBN-13: 978-0028730608
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 17.1 x 24.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,777,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


Throughout his 24-year tenure at the Metropolitan Opera, Lauritz Melchior reigned supreme as the heroic tenor of his time. He was acclaimed by many critics as the last great "Heldentenor" and his performances in "Tristan und Isolde", "Siegfried", "Goetterdaemmerung" "Lohengrin", "Tannhauser" and "Parsifal" remain well-known. His portrayal of Isolde's beloved inspired Toscanini's appellation "Tristanissimo". He later became a popular star, appearing on the Fred Allen show and starring in several movies. The author had access to unpublished papers and interviewed dozens of his friends and colleagues.

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By Dr R TOP 500 REVIEWER on 14 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have to admit my bias; I regard Lauritz Melchior, 1890-1973, as by far the greatest Heldentenor of all time, indeed he and Caruso head the long list of great tenors from the age of recording. The author, Shirlee Emmons, has had unrestricted access to the singer's unpublished papers and photographs, and these are deftly woven to describe his on-stage and off-stage life which itself reads like a novel.

Lauritz Lebrecht Hommel Melchior was born in Copenhagen on 20 March 1890, coincidentally the same day as Beniamino Gigli was born. From initially singing as a boy soprano in church, Melchior went on to train at the Royal Opera School in his native city, making his debut as Silvio in Pagliacci at the Royal Danish Opera in 1913. However, the American mezzo-contralto, Mme Charles Cahier (Sarah Jane Lyston Walker, 1870-1951) heard Melchior in Il Travatore and was first to realise his potential as a tenor and even wrote to the Royal Opera requesting that he be given time and opportunity to discover his true voice.

The period of 1917-18 when the singer studied with Vilhelm Herold can be seen, in retrospect, as a crucial period in his life. Even so, despite singing the title role in Tannhauser in 1918 he was subsequently given the roles as Canio and as Samson. Melchior travelled to England, was heard by Marconi who invited him to take part in the first international radio transmission. This led to a meeting with the novelist, Hugh Walpole, who encouraged and financed his studies, culminating in lessons with the dramatic soprano, Anna Bahr-Mildenburg.

Melchior was invited to sing the roles of Siegmund and Parsifal at Bayreuth in 1924 and, soon after, appeared in the former role at Covent Garden.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This a comprehensive, informative and amusing biography with many stories from behind the curtain. I shall read it many times as I like it as much as Birgit Nilsson who has written a lovely introduction.
Most strongly recommended book about perhaps the greatest Wagner tenors of all time.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.8 out of 5 stars 5 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Biography 4 April 2014
By Froggy - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Opera lovers tend to look at previous generations as golden ages. In the sixties, people lamented the the passing of singers of an earlier age, while today we bemoan the shortage of singers of the sixties. In reality, the standard of professional opera singing today is extraordinarily high and others may well considers ours a golden age. Yet in any age certain singers stand out as exceptional. Lauritz Melchior was one of these, and we are fortunate to possess recordings of this great singer. This fine biography, written by a singer and voice teacher, records the events of Melchior's life and gives some insight into his musical and artistic development. I had hoped to learn more about technical aspects of his singing--both tone production and interpretation. So I can't assign it five stars, but I am glad we have this book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They Don't Write About Heldentenors Like That Anymore 12 Mar. 2013
By Thomas N. Brogan - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ms. Emmons' biography of Lauritz Melchior is breathtaking in its scope (data retrieved from hundreds of living sources, thousands of written and recorded sources, and her own experiences with legendary singer) and impressive in that the author presented her subject as he lived and breathed instead of writing an idealized hagiography or vindictive hit piece.

It turns out that, along with having the voice of an electified deity, Lauritz Melchior was a human being. Emmons' masterful biography reveals all of his faults in a way that; while never excusing or forgiving them; manages to still love the man who was THE tenor of Wagner operas and love him for being that man and not because he was an unparalleled possessor of a superhuman voice.

Tristanissimo is masterfully written and has the reader feeling floods of emotions whether celebrating the subject's triumphs or wanting to strike him with a cast iron skillet for his failures. I recommend it to all fans of Wagner, opera, and Melchior.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite heldentenor. 26 Jun. 2014
By Leeber Cohen - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I remember the first time I heard a recording of Melchior was on a Victrola LP with Lotte Lehmann and Bruno Walter conducting the Vienna Philharmonic. I have loved his voice since that time. There have been other great Siegmunds, Siegfrieds, and Tristans but the longevity of his career and the number of times he sang these roles is amazing. The top qualities of the voice are well documented in both commercial excerpts and broadcasts from both the Metropolitan opera and Covent Garden. His Liebesnachts from Tristan with Lieder, Flagstad, and Traubel document the strength and beauty of his voice and why for many of us he is the greatest of all Tristans. His dynamic range was enormous. He was able to project a mezza voce into the reaches of the opera house and a few moments later fill the house with his enormous voice. This book tells the story of his early career and transition from baritione to heldentenor, his audition at Bayreuth, debut at the Met, leaving the Met at the start of Bing's tenure, and his roles singing in movies. He was a larger than life character. If you love Wagnerian opera or Metropolitan Opera broadcasts it is a fascinating read.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definition of a Heldentenor 15 April 2013
By Adriano Maria Maranta - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If anyone wants to know how the Wagnerian Heldentenor is defined with its transition from the high baritone, "Tristanissimo" by Shirlee Emmons is a must-read for all those who are called and have the voice-material. The only authorized biography of probably THE Heldentenor of all times quotes Lauritz Melchior with very valuable insights into the Heldentenor voice and his changing from baritone into the baritone-tenor range. It is a thorough and at times witty read of the official and private life of Melchior, with first-hand information that was at hand only to Shirlee Emmons. You can't say you know Lauritz Melchior if you haven't read this.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 17 July 2015
By Aaron J Ginn - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The definitive biography of arguably the greatest singer who ever lived.
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