pars media // films // Belcanto - The Tenors of the 78 Era // 4 Melchior (1890-1973)

scene: Lauritz Melchior's Danish-American son, Ib, in pursuit of childhood memories in Chossewitz, East Germany, where the family lived in the 1930s.

music: Meyerbeer, Wagner, Verdi, Grieg, Leoncavallo, Schlager songs

analysis: Gott warum hast du gehäuft dies Elend (Otello, Verdi), 1930

Near the end of his life, Wagner wrote in desperation to a singer: "Why on earth did I give all the demanding roles to a tenor?" He never found him. The first and maybe last singer to define Wagner's heldentenor was Lauritz Melchior. (Kesting) He could entice all the talent out of me that I had. (Varnay) In Parsifal there are long stretches where Parsifal hasn't got to be on stage. He then used to go off stage and have a drink. But who wouldn't prefer a recording with him singing Parsifal than to have to listen to the average tenor? (Scott)

This is the Tristan score my father bought in 1912. He listed every occasion on which he ever sang Tristan. He sang Tristan more than two hundred times. (Ib Melchior) Melchior started some performance tired and ended fresh. He could have sung Siegfried twice in succession, he said. (Kesting) He had a brillant voice, but remained a natural lad. He moved in the way he thought Siegfried would have moved if Siegfried's name had been Melchior. (Varnay)

There has never been a heroic tenor to equal Melchior. Which is amazing if one considers that today everyone has got orange juice and cod liver oil from the earliest days. Everybody has got the physical strength to survive an endless regime of Wagner tenor roles. The reason is quite simply just because opera singers no longer think in terms of thinking out to the back of the hall. It's the gallery's people which you have to affect. (Scott)