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LAURITZ MELCHIOR

Melchior was born in Copenhagen on 20 March 1890.  The Melchior family had been Lutheran ministers, doctors and teachers since the seventeenth century. Father Jorgen owned a private school, and both parents were avid amateur singers. After Lauritz’s mother died, the baby was looked after by housekeeper Kristine Jensen, who devoted herself to the boy for the rest of her life. When the family fortunes fell upon hard times, proceeds from her famous cookbook served as a source of money for Lauritz’s studies beginning with his first voice lessons with Poul Bang and including four years of twice-weekly drama study. This work prepared him for the Royal Opera School, where he studied singing, drama and ballet.

On 2 April 1913 the Royal Opera assigned him the début rôle of Silvio in Pagliacci and thereafter formally engaged him as a tenor/baritone. Thus gainfully employed, he married Inger Holst-Rismussen whom he had met while singing the elder Germont with a touring company of Traviata. In the spring of 1916 he toured again, this time as Count di Luna in II trovatore. A former Metropolitan contralto, Sarah Cahier, sang Azucena. One evening the company soprano was loath to sing her high C in the duet with Di Luna. Melchior took the C, which he sang effortlessly. Mme Cahier, now convinced that Melchior was “a tenor with the lid on”, charged the directors of the Royal Opera with the responsibility of his artistic development. They arranged for him to study with the great Kammersänger Vilhelm Herold, who, as Melchior said, “did for me the transition, the work that has to be done to change a baritone into a tenor”. About that process Melchior was rather vague and noncommital: “The heldentenor voice is one that goes up with age. If you start as a real tenor and try to do heroic rôles, you bring the voice down instead of up. The high notes begin to disappear. It’s different if you begin as a high baritone. That way you have only to make the middle high of the voice a little lighter. Then you put the top notes on it.”

On 8 October 1918, 28-year-old Melchior made his Wagnerian début as Tannhäuser at the Royal Opera. It was greeted by a “let’s wait and see how it develops” attitude, although it was clear that the voice was special and his acting ability was superior. Discouraged by the comprimario rôles given to him thereafter, Melchior went to England to try his luck, which turned out to be good. Sir Henry Wood, conductor of the Promenade Concerts and a Wagner lover, engaged him for a concert attended by the British author Hugh Walpole. From that time on, Walpole, socially prominent and lionised by the upper crust of London, became Melchior’s champion. He found management for the tenor; he sponsored a sold-out, very successful London début concert; he introduced Lauritz to the royal family who accepted him wholeheartedly; he found for Lauritz a fashionable and socially prominent voice teacher, Victor Beigel, who arranged an audition with Franz Schalk, co-director of the Vienna Staatsoper. Schalk recommended that Melchior study with Anna  Bahr-Mildenburg in Munich. After some study and anxious to move on, Melchior persuaded Bahr-Mildenburg to let him do a concert in Munich. This highly successful concert prompted a telegram from Siegfried Wagner: Melchior had been summoned to Bayreuth.


Albums featuring this artist are available for download from ClassicsOnline.com
Role: Classical Artist 
Album Title
Catalogue No  Work Category 
BELCANTO - THE TENORS OF THE 78 ERA, PART 2 (NTSC) EuroArts
2050218
Classical Documentary
FLAGSTAD, Kirsten / MELCHIOR, Lauritz: Great Wagner Duets (1939-1940) Naxos Historical
8.110723
Opera
GREAT SINGERS (1904-1952) Naxos Historical
8.110781-82
Opera
JENKINS, Florence Foster: Murder on the High Cs (1937-1951) Naxos Nostalgia
8.120711
Nostalgia
LEHMANN, Lotte: Lieder Recordings, Vol. 2 (1937-1940) Naxos Historical
8.111094
Vocal
LEIDER, Frida: A Vocal Portrait (1921-1943) Naxos Historical
8.110744-45
Vocal, Opera
MELCHIOR, Lauritz: American Recordings (1946-47) Naxos Historical
8.111239
Vocal, Operetta, Opera, Operetta, Opera, Vocal, Film and TV Music, Vocal, Musicals, Vocal, Film and TV Music, Vocal, Operetta, Vocal
Opera Arias / Songs (Baritone): Tibbett, Lawrence - BIZET, G. / LEONCAVALLO, R. / ROSSINI, G. / SPEAKS, O. / WOLFE, J. (1928-1940) Delos
DE5500
Vocal
WAGNER, R.: Gotterdammerung (Ring Cycle 4) (Metropolitan Opera) (1936) Naxos Historical
8.110228-30
Opera
WAGNER, R.: Lohengrin (Melchior, Varnay, Leinsdorf) (1942) Naxos Historical
8.110235-37
Opera
WAGNER, R.: Operatic Scenes and Arias (Flagstad) Newton Classics
NC8802090
Opera
WAGNER, R.: Siegfried (Metropolitan Opera) (1937) Naxos Historical
8.110211-13
Opera
WAGNER, R.: Siegfried (Ring Cycle 3) (Excerpts) (Melchior, Tessmer) (1929-1932) Naxos Historical
8.110091-92
Opera
WAGNER, R.: Walkure (Die) (Traubel, Melchior) (1941) Naxos Historical
8.110058-60
Opera
WAGNER, R.: Walkure (Die), Acts I and II (Ring Cycle 2) (Bruno Walter) (1938) Naxos Historical
8.110250-51
Opera





 
 
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