Karl Millöcker – Der Bettelstudent (abridged) – Soloists, chorus and Orchestra of the Berlin State Opera – Hermann Weigert, cond – Recorded in 1930 – Polydor (export) – Deutsche Grammophon (domestic) – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Living up to the name Weekend Gramophone this week. Somewhat festive, though not Christmas-y by any stretch, a set of 78s issued by Polydor (overseas) and in Germany by Deutsche Grammophon as part of the Home Performance Opera series masterminded by conductor Hermann Weigert and Hans Maeder and issued in 1930.
Probably the most notable of this series is their recording of the abridged Der Fledermaus which wound its way on to CD reissue as part of DG’s massive celebration boxset.
A stars-on-the-horizon cast of singers are part of this set, including Julius Patzak, Elsa Ruziczka, Ida Perry and the chorus and orchestra of the Berlin State Opera. It fits neatly on 8 sides, with dialogue between music and crafted for home listening, where 78s had 3 minutes of playing time on each side, no side split in the middle of a piece of music – although it gets dangerously close, the listener is never prompted to jump up and turn a side over to get the rest of a movement (clever; them).
Aside from Fledermaus, I’m not sure how many from this series wound up seeing the reissue light of day in the lp or even CD era. The sound on these discs is extraordinary – aside from quiet surfaces, the recording engineers really outdid themselves in capturing the spaciousness of a live performance and the dialogue makes for enthusiastic listening (well . .for me, anyway).
A little bit about Hermann Weigert via Wikipedia:
Weigert was trained at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, and began his career working as a vocal coach at the Magdeburg Opera and at Theater Lübeck. He left those posts to join the conducting staff at the Berlin State Opera in 1920 where he worked with Dimitri Mitropoulos, Otto Klemperer, George Szell, and Heinz Tietjen. While conducting in Berlin, he simultaneously worked as a professor at the Royal Berlin Academy of Music.
Due to his Jewish ancestry and the rise of the Nazi party in Berlin, Weigert resigned from his post at the Berlin State Opera in 1934. After working for a brief period in South Africa, he joined the staff of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City where he worked as the chief vocal coach and accompanist for the German repertoire. At the Met he became known as an expert on the works of Richard Wagner, and became the primary vocal coach to sopranos Kirsten Flagstad and Astrid Varnay; the latter of whom he married in 1944.
In 1948 Weigert left his post at the Met and returned to Europe with Flagstad and Varnay where he helped orchestrate a successful international launch to his wife’s career, beginning with the Royal Opera House in London. In 1951 Varnay made an acclaimed debut at the Bayreuth Festival where she appeared annually for the next seventeen years. Weigert served on the musical staff of the Bayreuth Festival from 1951-1955.
In addition to managing his wife’s career, Weigert worked as a guest conductor at numerous German opera houses from 1948-1955; including conducting several performances with his wife in the cast. He notably conducted recordings of his wife portraying the roles of Isolde in Tristan and Isolde, the title role in Salome, and Brünnhilde in Götterdämmerung; the latter of which won the Grand Prix du Disque.
Weigert died of a heart attack at the age of 65 in Manhattan.
Enjoy and relax. You don’t have to flip 78’s every four minutes.