Saint-Saëns / Berlioz - Samson Et Dalila (Excerpts) / Troyens, Les (Excerpts)

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The Swedish Heldentenor Set Svanholm was one of the great opera artists of the twentieth century, today perhaps best-known internationally from numerous live recordings of famous Wagner performances in New York, Bayreuth, Vienna, Stockholm and Buenos Aires over three decades. The Wagner singer Svanholm is perhaps considered even greater today than he was during his lifetime. But it was a sensation to, on this third volume in the series "Royal Swedish Opera Archives", be able to present unissued recordings of Svanholm as a "Frensh Heldentenor" in a repertoire not having been heard on record previously.

Set Svanholm's international career had been launched at the Salzburg Festival toward the end of the 1930s. During the 1940s he was permanently attached not only to the Stockholm Opera but also to the State Operas in Vienna and Berlin. Even though this might have been seen as a political encumbrance, immediately after the end of the war Svanholm became a leading Wagner tenor at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, as well as in Chicago and San Francisco, and later also at Covent Garden in London. But his repertoire comprised also a number of roles from operas by composers other than the Bayreuth master. Verdi's Otello, Radames and Manrico were among his most celebrated roles. And as a pupil of the virtuoso baritone singer John Forsell, Svanholm also had a close relationship to the French repertoire, in which, for instance, Don José in "Carmen" was one of his brilliant roles. However, Svanholm did not rest on his laurels. As late as 1957 he made a crossover debut in the role of Mozart's Idomeneo. As luck would have it, there happened to be a tape recorder close at hand on 4 September 1956, the only occasion on which Svanholm met the Swedish-American Metropolitan star Blanche Thebom on the Stockholm stage in Camille Saint-Saëns' oriental opera "Samson et Dalila". In the cast of the same production there was also the great Swedish hero baritone Sigurd Björling as the high priest, Dagon. Everyone except for Thebom actually sang in Swedish, but since both men had sung their roles abroad - at the Met and on other stages - in French, they changed over to French in the second act where no other singers participated. This issue presents thus the second act of Saint-Saëns' famous Biblical opera with three, then international, stars in the original version from the stage on the Stockholm Royal Opera.

Svanholm never recorded Samson in any form, even though it was a role that he had in his repertoire for many years. Blance Thebom was in the time considered one of the foremost dramatic mezzo-sopranos and Dalila was one of her celebrated roles. Sigurd Björling was of course for many people the great Wotan in "The Ring of the Nibelung", but he demonstrates here another part of his extensive repertoire. Herbert Sandberg conducts with an ardour one would perhaps not thought him capable of, cappellmeiester to the core that he was, who was also best known for his Wagner interpretations. Sandberg was also, together with the senior master-producer Harald Andrée, behind the forceful arrangement of Hector Berlioz's monumental "Les Troyens", in which the then opera director and tenor Set Svanholm as Aeneas sang his last new stage role in March 1958. Not only did the arrangers make substantial cuts in the score but also rearranged scenes and music, all in an attempt to salvage Berlioz's complicated masterpiece for "a modern audience". But the Stockholm Opera was one of the very few opera houses that dared at all to take on this challenge in those days, and they had at their disposal an outstanding ensemble. In addition to Svanholm we hear, among others, Kerstin Meyer as Dido - a role in which she would one year later make her debut with at Covent Garden - and as Cassandra a young Kjerstin Dellert, who at this time was both a mellifluous and glamorous dramatic soprano. Other artists participating under the direction of Herbert Sandberg include Barbro Ericson, Erik Saedén and Busk-Margit Jonsson. If this is not authentic Berlioz as we see and hear him today, it is spectacular grand opera - even in the form of fragments that have been skilfully salvaged from overplayed and worn-out tapes by our engineers Bertil Gripe and Alexander Häggström.

In the enclosed illustrated text Stefan Johansson not only describes Set Svanholm as a "French Heldentenor" but also discussed the circumstances of the last revival of "Samson et Dalila", with Isaac Grünewald's famous décor from 1921, and the first - and so far the last - production of "Les Troyens" on a Scandinavian stage.

Artikelnummer CAP22054
Streckkod 7391782220544
Utgivningsdatum 2004-03-25
Kategori Opera
Skivbolag Caprice
Enhet CD
Antal enheter 2
Kompositörer Saint-Saëns / Berlioz
Disk: 1
Les Troyens, excerpts
1 Les Troyens, excerpts
Disk: 2
Samson et Dalila, exerpts
1 Samson et Dalila, exerpts
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