Notes and Editorial Reviews
Annelies Kupper, Anny Schlemm (sop); Wolfgang Windgassen, Lorenz Fehenberger (ten); Hans Reinmar, Kurt Böhme (bs); various conductors, orchestras
PREISER 93476, mono (73:10)
Arias and duets by
MOZART, VERDI, WAGNER, D’ALBERT, KORNGOLD, STRAUSS
Some very fine singers have little desire to seek international careers. They’re typically highly appreciated at home, gifted with the security of long contracts and the affection of loyal
audiences. Abroad they remain little known, not only because they are seldom heard, but because they typically end up singing a great deal of opera in the local language. Numerous opera houses in both France and Germany have been home to many of these performers over the years, and the loss of their voices to the world at large has sometimes proven regrettable. Records must take up the slack, as they do here.
Annelies Kupper (1906–87) was born in Silesia, and trained in music education while pursuing private voice studies. She became a teacher in 1927, then began appearing in 1933 as a concert singer before launching her operatic career in 1935—as the Second Boy in Mozart’s
. (Putting genuine boy sopranos on stage wasn’t standard at the time in this opera, not yet.) She didn’t truly catch on with the public until 1946, after signing a contract with the Munich State Opera. There she remained, despite occasional external engagements (Stockholm, Salzburg, Sofia, London, Paris, Berlin), for the next 20 years. Her repertoire was extensive, including such roles as Aida, Leonore, Desdemona, Sieglinde, Elsa, Micaëla, several by Mozart, and a host of those by Strauss. In 1956 she also returned to teaching, as a professor at the Munich Academy of Music, and in 1966 she gave her farewell performance.
Kupper’s voice was a high one, not in its pitch but in its sound. While it didn’t begin to approach the so-called
of such singers as Erna Berger, it was still brighter, more in the head, than is the case with most sopranos we hear today. It was evenly produced throughout its range, save for a sharp change in quality in the lowest notes, and suitable for full lyric and light dramatic parts, as well as the few, careful forays into dramatic roles she made. At moderate to loud volumes on record the core possesses little resonance and takes on a hard edge, but the discs Preiser reproduces were also made in her mid 40s to 50 years of age, when some loss of bloom and hardening of the sound can reasonably be expected. In softer passages, the tone still sounds quite beautiful. By all accounts Kupper was a great favorite on stage, and not just for her interpretations. She almost certainly belonged to that group of singers whose voices were ideal for the reverberant opera house and concert stage, rather than the close microphone placement favored in studio recordings of her era.
I would suggest cueing up the three Mozart cuts to play last on this CD, though placed early in the lineup. They are the least impressive, and Anny Schlemm, who could stand toe-to-toe with the best when on form, is decidedly off form as Susanna. Elsewhere, there is a great deal to enjoy. The scene between Aida and Amonasro finds her bright and exciting, capable of holding her own against the formidable acting of Hans Reinmar. Ariadne’s “Es gibt ein Reich” lacks the creamy texture of numerous other versions, but this is an Ariadne who thinks and feels with a raptness “In den schönen Feierkleider,” and opens up gloriously at “Du wirst mich befreien.” The intelligence, artistry, and characterization again make up for a lack of the right sound in an incandescent excerpt from
Die tote Stadt
, performed alongside Lorenz Fehenberger.
Best of all is the extended act II duet from
. Wolfgang Windgassen had a deserved reputation as a tenor who could breathe life into any character, largely by paying close attention to moment-by-moment emotional shifts. With Kupper, who trained under Hilde Schmitz-Schweitzer, the Wolf Lieder specialist, he meets his match in a performer of equal intelligence and dramatic perceptiveness. Elisabeth’s emotions are conveyed by a range of vocal colors, a constant shading of timbre and volume, along with phrasing and enunciation—none of which, of course, sound anything less than spontaneous until it is carefully analyzed.
Preiser’s pressings are first-rate, being well equalized, de-ticked, and possessing no apparent constriction. The usual filtering in the upper treble applies, though it doesn’t interfere with the upper partials in the voices. In short, this is a distinguished disc, and a good way to become familiar with a formidable talent whose live recordings still circulate through various secondary labels.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Recordings from 1949 to 1953.
Works on This Recording
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