Malten theresa

BY MICHAEL LETCHFORD (author and publisher) 143pps
Over 50 illustrations.
Price: £26/€30/US$42 inclusive of packaging and postage.
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CM22 6NS, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (0) 1279 870590
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Books about individual singers generally fall into two groups – the self-written or self inspired autobiographies or biographies written at the time of their triumphs and the later usually much more detailed works. The joy of the former is that the best of them, however hagiographical, will convey a sense of ‘you are there’ at the scene of the triumphs or even occasional disasters. The latter – sometimes compensating for a rather dry approach – are likely to be more scholarly and they often contain partial or full chronologies and discographies. In both cases we anticipate illustrations although these can be of variable quality.
This is the first book about Therese Malten and it falls into neither category. Some years back author Michael Letchford had what would be considered by collectors to be a ‘lucky find’ when a friend passed over to him a fascinating collection of original Malten material. Therese Malten was one of the great stars at Dresden during the late nineteenth century when its opera house had an outstanding ensemble – perhaps the finest in Germany. Only a few singers of her generation made recordings and it is because Malten was not one of them that she is all too little remembered today. I guess that for many aficionados of historic opera performance Malten’s main claim to fame is that a volume entitled The Opera Standard Glass by Charles Annesley and containing the stories of some 150 operas was dedicated to her and includes her portrait before the title page. My own copy of this work is dated 1910 and by that time more than 30,000 copies of all editions had apparently been sold. I would guess that ‘pre-Kobbe’ it was the most important book of its kind.
As well as Dresden, Malten enjoyed a great international career including Bayreuth where she was one of the first to sing the role of Kundry and was clearly a great favourite of Wagner. She sang in the most illustrious company – the de Reszke brothers, Marianne Brandt, Hermann Winkelmann etc. This new book is largely based on the documentation acquired by Michael Letchford and it comprises vignettes, letters from friends and admirers and contemporary reviews together with many excellent reproductions of portraits and programmes. Beautifully produced it gives a real flavour of Malten’s life and times and it will have enduring value even if and when there is a full biography available.

Stanley Henig