CD Die Saenger der Koelner Oper (1905-1925) 2 Cd’s TMK 004099
CD Stimmenglanz im neuen Haus, 2 CD’s  Relief/WDR3 CR 5001

Wish more opera houses would celebrate their past in the way German opera companies are doing right now. After the Deutschen oper am Rhein it’s now the Cologne opera (also am Rhein) which is paid tribute by two record companies.
The first issue restricts itself to the old house (bombed) and thus the shellack period. At bargain prices both issues not only offer rare recordings of great value but also biographies and photos of the singers involved. Thirty-eight 78 rpm recordings are presented and include fascinating material. Frieda Felser’s recording goes way back to 1909 but oh my does her recording of Cherubino’s aria impress and a year later Kammersaenger Adolf Grobke proves there were more German heldentenors around than the ones we’re used to in the Siegfried Fach. The same year Mizzi Fink recorded her impressive rendition of Urbain’s entrée aria in Die Hugenoten. Josef Kalenberg is a staunch trumpet-like Manrico and Karl Renner a wobbly but big-voiced Salomo in Die Konigin von Saba. Karl Hammes is simply excellent in  Pierrot’s dance song by Korngold and Roswaenge’s version of Adam’s Postillon comes close to Schmidt’s unsurpassed rendition. Flotow’s Letzte Rose is done fully justice by Hildegarde Ranczak in 1933 and we get equally wonderful singing –as always- by Mathieu Ahlersmeyer in Dapertutto’s aria. Hendrik Appels may now be forgotten but just listen to his Siegmund and you’ll wonder why you ever bought that Windgassen Cd for.
Gerhard Husch always appealed more in his operatic renditions to this listener than in his Lied recordings. He sings Lortzing’s Zimmermannslied to the manner born. We already had Grobke and Appels as outstanding Wagnerian tenors but there’s still a certain Willy Storring: a real discovery in Siegfried’s Schmiedelied. These are but a few of the many treasures in this compilation.
The second compilation offers unpublished and rare material –at least on the CD medium- from b’casts from German radio WDR3 the earliest going back to 1951 the latest dates from 1983. Opener Any Schlemm shows than in 1951 she was a tremendous exciting operetta singer in Saffi’s song and Heiner Horn displays his great baritone in Kodaly’s ‘Die Spinnstube’.
Hermann Prey needs no recommendation in Don Pasquale where he again shows what a fine baritone voice he had. Rudolf Schock displays excellent enunciation and his typical tenor voice as Hoffman and Liselotte Hammes is a real revelation in Maillart’s ‘Das Glockchen des Eremiten’. In 1966 Helen Donath sings Haendel’s Tamerlano and Edith Mathis sings Otto Nicolai as to the manner born; a recording which goes back to 1961. Walburga Wegner familiar to the collector from her Ballo with Fischer-Dieskau and a Forza with David Poleri gets the opportunity that she was equally excellent in the German Fach with an excerpt from Kienzl’s Evangelimann. In 1970 Wolfgang Anheisser is a clear voiced, easy natural baritone in Pique Dame and in 1963 Herbert Schachtschneider is a powerful Macduff in a German tradition now gone with the wind. A topper is Ilse Gramatzki in Gounod’s Tribut de Zamora and so is Gerlinde Lorenz in a delightful Nico Dostal dittie. Lucia Popp needs no recommendation to readers of this site but her recording of Schumann’s Genoveva is new to me and her Wiegenlied from Smetana’s Der Kuss is a recording to treasure. Hermann Winkler shows that in 1968  not all German tradition had been lost on German tenors with his rendition of  Martha’s “Ach so Fromm”. Robert Ilosfalvy’s Italianate tenor can be heard in Manon Lescaut under Alberto Erede in 1967. Felicia Weathers had a greater following and popularity in Europe than in the US and her recording of Salome’s finale under Kertesz in 1965 proves this popularity was not unjustified. David Kuebler (always excellent technique), Claudio Nicolai and Carlos Feller  in Cosi under Pritchard prove there was also Mozart before Harnoncourt and René Jacobs. Georgine Resick pleases more than Josef Protschka in Haydn’s Philemon and in 1980 Edda Moser closes the compilation with Olympia’s song.

Rudi van den Bulck, Operanostalgia