Performances by Hermann Winkelmann, Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Heinrich Bötel, Rudolf Eichhorn, Bertha Foerster-Lauterer, Willli Birrenkoven, Katharina Fleischer-Edel, Max Lohfing, Max Dawison, Alois Pennarini, Ida Salden, Lotte Schloss, Aenne Hindermann, Joseph Tijssen, Allen Hinckley, Cornelius Bronsgeest, Robert Vom Scheidt, Helene Offenberg, Ottilie Metzger, Eduard Erhard, Hans Schlitzer, Edyth Walker, Eduard Lichtenstein, Bella Alten, Theodor Lattermann, Otakar Marak, Elisabeth Schumann, Lotte Lehmann, Martha Winternitz-Dorda, Wilhelm Buers, Florence Easton, Francis Maclennan, Lucille Marcel, Hedwig Francillo-Kaufmann, Carl Armster, Heinrich Hensel, Paul Schwarz, Carl Günther, Karl Ziegler, Helene Jung, Frida Singler, Alexander Kipnis, Vera Schwarz, Michael Nasta, Rose Ader, Josef Groenen, Sabine Kalter, Richard Schubert, Frida Leider, Emil Enderlein, Maria Olszewska, Doris Kent-Rothaug, Hans Heinz Bollmann, Jenny Jungbauer, Paul Stiegler, Emmy Land, Dusolina Giannini, Hans Reinmar, Gertrud Callam, Rudolf Bockelmann, Maria Hussa-Greve, Lauritz Melchior, Jan Berlik, Willy Frey, Paul Kötter, Mathieu Ahlersmeyer, Liselott Ammermann, Ilse Koegel, Wladislaw Ladis, Stefan Schwer, Martina Wulf, Ferdinand Frantz, Gusta Hammer, Hans Hotter, Aga Joesten, Theo Herrmann, Julius Katona, Carl Kronenberg, Thorkild Noval, Karl Friedrich, Joachim Sattler, Annelies Kupper, Joop De Vries, Georg Mund, Erna Schlüter, Robert Hager, Gustav Neidlinger, and Peter Markwort
PREISER 89408 (4 CDS) (F) (mono) TT: 75:39 / 75:55 / 77:17 / 78:59

This is an incredible compilation. Opera in Hamburg dates back to 1678 when the first independent opera house in Germany was opened to the public, the beginning of a memorable tradition. In 1827 a new opera house opened and attracted not only the greatest 19th century singers but famous virtuosos of the day including Paganini and Liszt. Wagner, Gounod, Saint-Saëns and Massenet are some of the composers who conducted their own works there. As recording began in the very late 19th century, there are few aural examples of singers of that time. The earliest recording in this set was made in 1901 for G&T, soprano Lotte Schloss (1871-1911) singing an excerpt from Lohengrin (she sang the premiere of Louise in 1902 before the composer, and also sang Marta in the premiere of Tiefland). The latest is Aga Joesten (1904-1996) singing Vissi d'arte in German, a radio recording made in 1950. With only a few exceptions all recordings are sung in German. Most of the excerpts are abbreviated because of limited playing time of disks of the era.

Recordings are presented in groups according to the directors of the Hamburg Opera: Bernhard Pollini (with Gustav Mahler conducting) (until 1897); Bittong-Bachur and Max Bachur (1897-1912); Hans Löwenfeld (1912-1921); Leopold Sachse (1922-1933); Heinrich Strohm (1933-1940); and Alfred Noller (1940-1945). Recordings are from various sources and labels and include some by more famous singers (Schumann-Heink, Elisabeth Schumann, Lotte Lehmann, Frida Leider, Lauritz Melchior and others) that have been issued on CD previously. But most of the singers here will be new to collectors—and they are a fascinating lot indeed and we are fortunate that the CD booklet (seventeen pages in English) contains valuable comments about each singer. Documentation includes labels and dates for each recording. Christian Zwarg and Truesound Transfers did the remastering to CD and they did their task expertly. For those interested in historic opera recordings this set is one not to miss. It's pricey—four full-priced CDs—but each is generous in playing time.

R.E.B. (July 2004) .