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Friday, March 30, 2012

A Spinto Soprano Who Blows The Doors Off The Onegin Letter Scene,

The name Beata Malkin is another name lost to the ages due to the Holocaust.  As a matter of fact, her career which was one which could be called nothing but spectacular, was completely changed because of the Holocaust. Malkin (1892-1973) was born in Odessa, the daughter of the famed violinist Joseph Malkin; her brothers also  musicians played as the Malkin Trio.  She spent most of her early adult life in Germany, studied in Berlin with Franceschina Prevosti (Verdi's favorite Violetta) and made her stage debut in Riga as a house soprano from 1918-1919.  From 1920-1922 she was a house soprano in Mannheim.  Wilhelm Furtwangler heard her and engaged her for Berlin in 1924 as Micaela in Carmen.  Her huge success led to her permanent engagement there, so from 1925-1933 she was the reigning lyrico-spinto with the Charlottenberg (Staedische) Opera, where she was a great favorite of Bruno Walter and received a large share of the available roles.  In 1927 she guested at La Scala and in 1931 at the Vienna Staatsoper.  In 1932 Serge Koussevitzky commissioned Frederick Converse to write a biblical symphony for the Boston Symphony Orchestra entitled Prophecy  just for Malkin,  The work is dedicated to her and was premiered in 1932.  She escaped Germany in 1934 and came to New York.  Malkin sung concerts throughout the North East and also with a Russian opera company which performed under the direction of violinist Efrem Zimbalist, at what is today the City Center Theatre in New York.  Then her career took a turn, her Father and Brothers had established themselves in New York and even built the Malkin Conservatory.  She was in demand as a concert singer around the Country.  However in late 1935 she decided to go back to Russia to aid in the war effort.  Malkin came back to Russia a celebrity and was hired to sing both concerts and opera to the troops, as well as throughout the Russian provinces.  She was allowed to leave and returned to New York in 1946, to be with her family.  She then picked up her concert singing for a few years,  Eventually she helped run her Father's conservatory and taught singing.

The recording you are about to hear is one of the finest Onegin letter scene's we have ever encountered.  This Harmonie Autographs and Music, Inc. proprietary transfer of a 1929 Parlophon electric recording with their studio conductor Frieder Weissmann leading a superb pick-up orchestra. Malkin completely inhabits the role of Tatiana and the orchestra just melds beautifully into her singing.    

Beata Malkin as Marina in Boris Godounov
Author's Collection

Thursday, March 29, 2012

An OMG Coloratura Soprano (and we bet you have never heard of her before!)

Melitta Heim as the Queen of the Night
photograph, author's collection

Continuing on with our series of Jewish singers of the Holocaust era, I would like to introduce you to one of the great coloratura sopranos of the German speaking World of the time; the Austrian, Melitta Heim.  Now it is a very interesting phenomena that in Vienna from the dawn of the 20th Century, to the lead up to the Second World War, the bulk of the coloratura sopranos performing at the Hofoper and then Staatsoper were Jewish, or born Jewish.  Selma Kurz, Grete Forst, Melitta Heim and Lotte Schoene were the regulars.  Add in the guest appearances of Irene Eisinger, Erna Sack, Gitta Alpar, Margit Bokor and Fritzi Jokl and these ladies covered a large percentage of the coloratura fach in schoene Wien during the period.

Probably the least known of the group was the soprano Melitta Heim (1888-1950).  Heim who came from a Viennese Jewish family learned to play the piano, organ and violin at an early age.  So prodigious was she, that she could play the violin at a concert level, as well as accompanied many of her fellow singers on the piano.  Heim also had psychological issues throughout her life that prevented her from being far from her physicians, so she never had major International exposure.  Her main teacher was Johannes Ress in Vienna; who also taught Selma Kurz and Anna Bahr-Mildenberg.   Her opera stage debut was as Gilda in Graz in 1909.  Two years later she guested as Violetta in Frankfurt and drew the admiration of the General Manager Emil Klaar, who hired her as his leading coloratura soprano.  She remained there until 1916, moving to the Vienna Hofoper the following year, to be near her Mother.  Heim continued singing at the Hofoper/Staatsoper until 1922.  Afterwards, as her nervous condition worsened, she curtailed her activities to a concert career.  Heim did appear in London for two seasons at Drury Lane, 1912 and 1914 singing the Queen of the Night and in 1938 after Kristallnacht, she fled with her Mother to London.  As was the plight of many Jews who emigrated from Western Europe, she left without money.  Coupled with the nervous condition and with no known skills and a language barrier at the time, she settled into a job as a "char-woman" to make ends meet.  She was brought in 1939 to the newly established Belsize Square Synagogue.  A synagogue established by refugees like herself mainly from Eastern Europe.  The organist one day was ill and she volunteered to accompany the service and made a huge success.  After her musical skills became known, she played and sang at many of the synagogue sponsored concerts, including a complete Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!  Char-woman, no longer, she was sponsored by members of the synagogue and opened a voice studio in London.  There she died in 1950 at the age of 62.   

Heim made just a few sides for Odeon in the teens and even made two cylinders for Edison.  While she cut some Diamond Discs for Edison, they were never released.  We offer another proprietary transfer from our collection of Jewish singers of the Holocaust Era.  This recording is an unpublished recording Heim made in 1913 at the Odeon studios.  The aria is "Der Holle Rach" from Die Zauberflote.  The recording contains a real virtuostic surprise as Heim runs through the first two sets of coloratura runs as written and then interpolates the third and fourth set blowing the doors off the high "F" as written in the score; when the score goes down, she goes up!  So fasten your seat belt and shoulder strap and enjoy!

The first coloratura passage of the aria as written, courtesy of Wikipedia

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lauritz Melchior Makes an Acoustic 78 Recording

Autographed newspaper photograph of the great Danish heldentenot
Lauritz Melchior itching his broken toe with the aid of some scissors.
Photograph not currently on our web-site but in inventory, if interested please inquire for details.

I was writing back and forth with a colleague this evening about the Ottilie Metzger-Lattermann recording of Brahms Sapphische Ode.  The colleague who is a musicologist noticed some dips in the legato line.  I wrote back to her that making an acoustic record was quite an ordeal and especially with a huge voiced singer.  Many singers did not take well to the process.  Further, some arias and lieds had to be stretched to fill out the record, or shortened by speeding up the tempo.  As a matter of illustration, I sent her this Youtube clip as an example of the singer's ordeal of making a record in the days before microphones.  Watch the producer pull Melchior backwards and forwards during the making of "Walther's Prize Song" from Die Meistersinger von Nuremburg.  This is further highlighted by the orchestra moving back and forth from the horn to fill out the moments for orchestra alone!  This clip is not far from the reality of the early days of recording!

Clip from the movie Two Sisters from Boston

As a post script, look out for Melchior's dog at the end of the clip for an ultra campy moment!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Was the greatest contralto of the 20th Century murdered at Auschwitz?

Author's collection

Perhaps the single greatest contralto of the 20th Century was a Jewish-German singer by the name of Ottilie Metzger-Lattermann.  (1878-1943)  Basically unknown today except by the most knowledgeable record collectors, her singing will still will bring a standing ovation by the cognoscenti.  I witnessed one when giving a lecture to the Vocal Record Society several years ago and playing this very same transfer of the Brahm's lied "Sapphische Ode".  Metzger-Lattermann played Carmen to Caruso's Don Jose in Hamburg, was the 1st Alto in the World Premier of Mahler's 8th Symphony in Munich and even created a part for Siegfried Wagner in his opera Bruder Lustig.  She sung Internationally to great acclain, from Berlin to Vienna, St. Petersburg to Brussels, Covent Garden to the United States, even Bayreuth from 1901-1912.  She was forced to run for her life in 1939, landed in Brussels where the Nazi's took her and put her on a train bound for Auschwitz.  The records of her existence end in February, 1943.  Kaiser Wilhelm II who was living in Holland at the time tried to intercede on her behalf, but to no avail.  After the death of Winnifred Wagner, the Wagner family with some outside cajoling erected a monument to two of their greatest Jewish singers who perished in the Holocaust, one was soprano Henriette Gottlieb, the other Ottilie Metzger-Lattermann. 

Ottilie Metzger-Lattermann sings Brahms Sapphische Ode 1910, Berlin Grammophon

From Wikipedia, the Bayreuth Plaque

Formerly in the inventory of Harmonie Autographs, now in a private collection

A program for a Brahms Evening in Dresden 3 March, 1911, with Ottilie Metzger-Lattermann singing Sapphische Ode
Author's collection 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Follow-Up & Results of the E-Bay Opera Set & Costume Sale

As a follow up to our earlier blogpost about the Companions of Opera, Amsterdam's sale of 9 lots of sets and stage finery; none of the bids met the reserve.  The Aida set pictured at top, was the top bid at $21,100.00 U.S.  That said, we do know Companions CEO Peter Kroone would like to sell these sets and stage finery to a current opera company, or a start-up opera company and will consider offers.  He can be reached via the website: or e-mailed directly at:  If you are truly serious about purchasing any, or all parts of the items he offered on E-Bay, I know he would love to hear from you.

Article in Dutch about the Sale in the Dutch Financial Times

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Conflict of Interest at the Metropolitan Opera

Prior to the Peter Gelb's administration at the Metropolitan Opera, sound restoration projects were handled by the Metropolitan Opera Guild.  Paul Gruber, a seasoned veteran in record marketing coordinated the engineering, production and sales of the effort.  A wide number of complete operas, solo discs and variety discs were produced by the Guild for sale in the gift shop, Guild periodicals and catalogs, as well as given to major donors; all sales benefited the Metropolitan Opera.  Mr. Gruber employed a team of leading experts in the field to engineer and produce these projects for two decades.  Among these leading authorities included historical sound engineer, Seth Winner; producer David Hamilton and producer/engineer Dan Hladik.  These cd issues and records were very popular, known for their attention to detail in sound quality, as well as superb notes, photographs and packaging.

When Mr. Gelb took over the job as General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, he took these projects away from the Guild as well as the gift shop. The explanation was he wanted everything under one roof for branding purposes, which was his prerogative.  The Metropolitan Opera Board approved his request and it was done; much to the detriment of the Metropolitan Opera Guild a support organization of the Opera Company, but that's another story.  One of Mr. Gelb's signature plans was to put the Metropolitan Opera on Sirius Radio.  Through the Guild's efforts of many years, the MET had a number of operas "in the can" so to speak, engineered through their historical re-issue program.  So he had ready material to broadcast.  He then hired a former Sony employee by the name of Grace Row as the "Digital Music Production Specialist" for the opera company.  Now, with a channel on Sirius Radio, there was a need for additional historical engineering on broadcasts never previously engineered.  Prior to 2007, the work was farmed out to a variety of expert engineering and producing teams in the business including Sony Sound Studios.  Now here is where it gets sticky.  In 2007 the former Senior Engineer of Sony Studios, Charles Harbutt, started up a sound engineering firm called Long Tail Audio LLC.  Mr. Gelb used to be President of Sony Classical and all of a sudden all of the historical sound engineering work was farmed to Long Tail Audio.  Now, here is the conflict of interest, Grace Row, who is specifically in charge of where these engineering jobs get directed, is married to Charles Harbutt.

The issue is this, not for profit organizations are supposed to bid these sort of projects to whomever has the capacity and ability to handle the required work.  The IRS and the State of New York have specific rules and regulations concerning the award of single source contracts to outside companies for not for profit organizations.  Where a family member is directly involved with the selection of the vendor and would be enriched by the selection, the IRS policy is very strict and included below.   If they had taken this function in-house and not resourced it out, this would not be an issue, however, they chose to hire an outside company to do the work. Moreover the employee, Grace Row, who is charged with assigning the contracts and specific projects is married to the contractor they have designated as their exclusive resource.  There are a wide variety of recognized engineers out there with at least as much experience and in many cases far more experience in the historical field as those employed by Mr. Harbutt.  When there is a family conflict of interest such as this, the organization must be able to prove that the source they are using is the only source available for the work required.  (I have been though the process years ago when I was a vendor to American Ballet Theatre and all i's were dotted and t's crossed.) If a statement has been put in the file stating Long Tail Audio LLC is such a sole operation, it is incorrect, as there are a number of historical sound engineers both locally and throughout the United States who have the desire, technology and capability to do this work and who have no familial connection to the Metropolitan Opera.

update 8:46 AM 3/20/12

It is interesting to note on the new commercial releases of Metroplitan Opera Historic Broadcast Series on the Sony label makes no mention of Long Tail Audio LLC in the booklet credits.  Instead, each employee of Long Tail Audio is mentioned as if they were individual  independent contractors and or employees of Sony/BMG.  However, a quick review of their web-site indicates the studio is handling all this work.

Click here to be directed to the Long Tail Audio LLC web-site

IRS policy regarding conflicts of interest for not for profit operations:

Click here to see IRS policy

New York City Guidelines for Not For Profit Organizations and Conflicts of Interest.  The guidelines are written by then Attorney General for the State of New York, Andrew Cuomo:

See New York City Guidelines for Conflicts of Interest in NPF's

From the Long Tail Audio LLC "Current Projects" section of their web-site:

Feb. 2009
The Metropolitan Opera has tapped Long Tail Audio to restore sources and master the Metropolitan Opera's 125th Anniversary CD. Producer Grace Row has worked closely with engineers I-Hua Tseng and Andreas Meyer of Meyer-Media on the project. The CD will be released commercially.

The Metropolitan Opera has entrusted Long Tail Audio LLC to restore and revive the legendary 75-year broadcast history of the The Metropolitan Opera. These restorations have been utilized for Sirius Satellite Radio's Met Opera channel, Rhapsody's on-demand digital music service and are being ingested into The Metropolitan Opera's in house network system.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Become a Back-Yard Opera Impresario on E-Bay! $1.00 Opening Bid!

Ever wanted to be the back yard impresario of your neighborhood?  Are you a former well known opera company who has left your home to roam the streets of New York City and need productions on the cheap?  Did you ever want to stage a flash-mob opera and not have to design sets, costumes, etc.?  Ever dream of Las Vegas on the Hudson?  Well here is your opportunity.  The Companions Opera of Amsterdam is offering  9 lots on E-Bay, all complete productions from their stadium productions; that's right, wigs, columns, cod pieces, spears, swords, fire buckets, Swarovski crystal bedazzled jackets and jeans, even a tomb and a holy island, you got it, everything but the kitchen sink, all starting at a $1.00 introductory bid!

Peter Kroone, the Dutch opera producer is retiring and putting his productions up for sale.  Operas include: Carmen, Rigoletto, Turandot, Nabucco, Trovatore, Traviata, Cav/Pag and Aida.  There are some limitations, there is a reserve and it's cash-n carry, but could be great for a serious musically inclined University as well!

The details:

Click here for the Companions Opera web-site!

Update: 10:39 EST

Norman Lebrecht just posted on this story with further details including the press release:

Norman Lebrecht's story here in the Slipped Disc blog

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lotte Lehmann the legendary Marschallin

As long as the opera Der Rosenkavalier is performed, one name, other than the composer Richard Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal will always be associated with the opera and that is Lotte Lehmann.  She was not the first Marschallin at the Dresden World Premiere, nor the first in Vienna.  As a matter of fact, in 1910 when the opera was first performed, she was in Hamburg and wanted to sing the role of Sophie in the local premier, a role which was given to Elisabeth Schumann in the first cast and she had to settle for the second cast.  She learned very quickly the role was not for her and only sang it twice. While she sung Octavian numerous times in later seasons, she was never advanced there to the role of the Marschallin.  She first sung the role at Covent Garden in 1924 under the direction and coached by Bruno Walter.  Her role debut there was a brilliant success! Clemens Krauss who was in charge of all things musical in Vienna refused to let her sing the role there until September of 1925 and then under the baton of Robert Heger.  By then she had sung the role under Walter annually at Covent Garden and even received a coveted BBC broadcast!  Her Vienna success in the role, led to her further performances at Christmas time the same year.  Regular reprisals occured in 1926, 1927 and 1928.  In Paris, Maria Jeritza was her Octavian!  In 1929, she sung all of the Leonore's in Fidelio and they mounted Der Rosenkavalier for her as well at the Salzburg Festspiele!  The rest is history!

The following 1961 video made at the Music Academy of the West when she was 73 years of age, is a Master Class on the role and stands to posterity to her ultimate artistry in the role.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Lots of New Items Up on the Harmonie Autographs Site!

We have added over 50 new items to the Harmonie Autographs and Music, Inc. website, from Clara Schuman to Edgard Varese, to Samuel Barber, to Tommy Dorsey.  From Rudolf Nureyev, to Roland Hayes, To Kathleen Ferrier, to Lotte Lehmann, George London, Max Lorenz and Helen Traubel, it is a virtual feast of musical autographs in all price ranges.  In addition, there is a special group of autographs photographed, described and priced in the following attachment.

So the treasure hunt is on! Loads of wonderful items, some listed since the announcement went out!  Our Composer, Conductor, Instrumentalist - Classical & Jazz site Our Ballet and Opera Singer A-M site Our Opera Singer N-Z site