pars media // films // Belcanto - The Tenors of the 78 Era // 11 Schmidt (1904-1942)

scene: New West End Synagogue in London. Cantor Alan Bilgora demonstrates the technique of florid singing that Joseph Schmidt learned as a young cantor.

music: Meyerbeer, Buzzi-Peccia, Flotow, Halévy, Tagliaferri, songs, an Aramaic prayer


analysis: Recha, als Gott dich einst (La Juive, Halévy), 1931

Quotes from the film's exposition...
From a technical point of view Schmidt's voice is very difficult to analyze, because it is by nature a voice that didn't have problems, where most tenors do. (Bilgora) It was one of these voices which bore a touch of death, and suffering. It contained an inner complaint. (Kesting) He was so kind-hearted, it made you want to put your arms round him and comfort him. Although he never cried. (Lindbergh-Salomon)

...from its development...
The synagogue tradition preserved florid singing into the 1950's and 60's. Just as Yiddish embodies - to a degree - medieval German, so orthodox cantorial practice embodies certain things that were done in the opera houses in the 18th and early 19th centuries. So, Schmidt is giving us a glimpse of the kind of florid singing that florished in Italy in Rossini's day. (Zucker) There is a wonderful quotation from Schubert: "I do not know any cheerful music". Joseph Schmidt sometimes sings happy, carefree attractive, charming songs but never any "cheerful music". (Kesting) On April 1st 1933 Hitler's regime made it impossible for Schmidt to continue because of a law banning Jews from working for the government. He returned to Berlin in connection with the opening of his film 'Ein Lied geht um die Welt'. Goebbels was in the audience. So enthusiastic was he, that he wanted to declare Schmidt an honorary Arian. Much of the rest of Schmidt's life involved flight from the Nazis. (Zucker)

...and from its resolution
One has to grow so very old with all these memories. Just imagine. It's comical, isn't it? Almost comical. (Lindbergh-Salomon)

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