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Kirsten Flagstad (soprano), Lauritz Melchior (tenor) & Gordon Dilworth (baritone)
San Francisco Opera Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra & Victor Symphony Orchestra, Edwin McArthur & Eugene Ormandy
These recordings were made when the great Norwegian soprano was in her vocal prime, between 1935 and 1940. Although her voice remained astonishingly well preserved till late in her career, later recordings of the same music are no less resplendent but perhaps lack the last degree of dramatic tension she could bring when regularly singing these roles on stage.
Included is the Act 2 duet from Parsifal, which became a calling-card not only for her but for her partner in this recording, and times without number on stage, Lauritz Melchior.
Desmond Shawe-Taylor remarked in the New Grove Dictionary of Opera that ‘No one within living memory surpassed her in sheer beauty and consistency of line and tone’. She quickly became a legend in Norway, where her portrait adorned both the 100 Kroner note and the tail of Norwegian Air Shuttle planes, but her fame spread throughout the musical world (she is one of the few opera singers to have her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame). Rudolf Bing called her ‘the greatest soprano of the century’, and many would agree.