The Complete Johanna Gadski, Vol. 2

COMPOSERS: Gluck,Mendelssohn,Mozart,Rossini,Wagner
LABELS: Marston
WORKS: Opera arias, : Victor Recordings 1910-12 & Mapleson Cylinder Recordings
PERFORMER: JOHANNA GADSKI
CATALOGUE NO: 53015-2 ADD mono

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The Metropolitan Opera in New York was a leading venue for the performance of Wagner’s works beginning in its second season (1884-5). Until 1891, performers included many with whom Wagner himself had worked. From the mid-1890s to 1917 the Met became in effect a laboratory for developing a performance style that would realise the musical potential of Wagner’s works, as singers who favoured the vivid declamation promoted by Cosima Wagner at Bayreuth alternated with those who offered different kinds of vocal opulence and mastery.

Each approach influenced the others, so that the mid-Twenties inaugurated a quarter-century during which great casts achieved an ideal synthesis of song and declamation. Several recent releases document this history. A window on to 19th-century Wagner style comes in the sole surviving recording of Luise Reuss-Belce, a Flower Maiden at the premiere of Parsifal in 1882 and later a mainstay of Cosima Wagner’s Bayreuth. As compensations for her less than stellar voice, a brief snippet from Ortrud’s Act II outburst in Lohengrin from a 1903 Mapleson cylinder reveals vividly resourceful declamation and imaginative elucidation of the dramatic potential of the music.

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This recording appears in Vol. 2 of Marston’s THE COMPLETE JOHANNA GADSKI along with Gadski’s other Mapleson cylinders and her Victor recordings from 1910-17. Gadski was one of the Met’s leading dramatic sopranos for nearly two decades and recorded more Wagner excerpts than any other soprano of the acoustic era. Her virtues include soaring intensity in big moments and beautifully floated tones in quiet passages, but her intonation, sound, and technique can be unwieldy, her specificity of diction less than ideal.