Kirsten Flagstad: The Voice of the Century
WORKS: Songs & arias
PERFORMER: KIRSTEN FLAGSTAD
CATALOGUE NO: PSC 1820 ADD mono
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.
The Met’s reigning Wagner soprano of this era was KIRSTEN FLAGSTAD, whose sovereign ease added a dimension of grandeur to the tempestuousness of Wagnerian expression. Simax’s single-disc, chronologically arranged survey of her career contains many beauties, but some of the centrepieces of Flagstad’s repertoire turn up in less than exemplary sound or performances.