Faust was one of the most played operas in the years between 1900 and the First World War, together with Mignon and Carmen (a complete Carmen with Emmy Destinn was cut by Gramophone in October 1908). So it was obvious to take an opera which was very popular for making a complete recording, and after an operetta the Gramophone company, based in Berlin, choose Faust, which was featured for many years with success at the Berlin Court Opera. They also had the main singers of the Berlin Opera under contract, and so it was "easy" to start this ambitious project in Berlin. The recording is a witness for the cultural power of the young medium Schallplatte making musical culture accessible to everyone. Or, better said, for those who earned a little more than the average worker, because it was quite expensive to buy these 34 sides (six 12 inch recordings and eleven 10 inch recordings in two albums). And you had to concentrate how to exchange the records every three minutes and change between the sizes and recordings, in one case in between the side, where two different scenes which are normally interupted by an aria (track 9), were packed on one side (tracks 8 and 10).
Of course the recording is not really complete (some splinters of scenes are missing, same as most of the ballett scenes), but the arias and the main body of the opera is there. Bruno Seidler-Winkler, the house conductor of the Gramophone, does his Kapellmeister job as well as always, and the featured singers are also the best you could find in Berlin for these roles. All in all a successful recording, even if the numbers of complete sets sold were probably more in the hundreds than in the thousands. Further down I will say more about the singers. First here is the playlist:
|Emmy Destinn as Mignon, as I did not find a photo of her as Margarethe|
Emmy Destinn (1878-1930) was in the last months of her career in Berlin when these recordings were cut. Beeing there since 1898, she left late in 1908 heading for the Metropolitain Opera, where she was very successful, too, just as in Berlin. Later she retired in the status of a legend to her Czech homeland, where she was also politically active. She made many recordings from 1901 to 1921. The Sängerlexikon states that she was one of the greatest singer-actors of her time with a repertoire of more than 80 great roles.She is always pleasant to hear. The photo above shows that she was not a restrained actor.
Karl Jörn (1873-1947) was a very versatile tenor, who sang everything from Tamino and George Brown in Boieldieus La dame Blanche to Parsifal (he created this role for Berlin in 1914). He moved from lyrical tenor to Wagner and was the Kaiser's favourite singer in Berlin from 1902 to 1912 and later again in 1914. The rest of his career he mostly spent in the USA (six years at the Met from 1908-1914), where he retired in 1916 and later lost his money in speculation. 1929 he was rediscoverded by Johanna Gadski, who ran a touring opera company then and he sang with success again for a few years heavy Wagner roles as Tristan and Siegfried. He made many recordings for many companies. He was always good, but did not have much of a "face" in his voice and so to me his performance often is not very characteristic.
|Paul Knüpfer, advertisement for cough drops named "Recognize me"|
Paul Knüpfer (1865-1925) was one of the most important bassos of his generation and one of the columns of the Berlin Court Opera, where he sang from 1898 to his retirement because of illness in 1920. He was singing in Bayreuth since 1902 (Daland, Marke, Hunding, Pogner) and created Baron Ochs in Berlin in Strauss' Rosenkavalier in 1911. His agile voice was able to lyrical expression, but had also a strong basso foundation, so that he was able to sing buffo roles just as successfull as Wagnerian roles. He was also famous for his Loewe ballads and Lieder recitals.
|Desider Zador in his signature role Alberich|
Desider Zador (1873 - 1931) was a very fine bass-baritone, who recorded exclusively for Gramophone (since 1903). The center of his career were Berlin (Komische Oper, later Städtische Oper) and Dresden. He was famous for his role of Alberich, which he sang all through Europe (but not in Bayreuth). His records are all desireable and not easy to find. (see also Picture at the bottom)
Ida von Scheele-Müller (1862-1933) sang from 1895 until 1930 in Berlin (after 10 years elsewhere - a long career!). She sang many even small alto roles, and is to be heard here with the also small role of Marthe Schwertlein.
Marie Goetze (1865-1922), another alto, was also a Berlin based singer with international excursions. She was at the Court Opera from 1884-86 and again 1898-1920. The character of her voice can well be heard in her Siebel aria in track 14.
For Arthur Neudahm, here in the comprimario role of Brander, it is the same as I wrote for the Second Act Tannhäuser for Odeon in 1910: I do not know anything about him. In contrast to the Odeon recording, where his voice vanishes in the ensembles, here his solo voice can be studied in track 7.
The recording comes from a Czech CD-Edition I bought in Prague about twenty years ago.