MARIA OLSZEWSKA, contralto
Most opera collectors will know Maria Olszewska for her famous 1933 recording of excerpts from Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier in which she sang Octavian to Lotte Lehmann's Marschallin and Elisabeth Schumann's Sophie. She had made her Vienna debut as Octavian about a decade earlier to the greatest acclaim, also singing Carmen, the nurse in Die Frau ohne Schatten, Klyt”mnestra, Herodias, Fides in Le ProphËte and Orpheus.
Her original family name was Maria Berchtenbreiter, which she changed to Olszewska. Born in Bavaria August 12, 1892, she studied singing in Munich making her first stage appearance in operetta. Her operatic debut was as the page in Tannh”user in 1915 at Krefeld and soon thereafter was singing Amneris, Carmen and Ortrud. She then moved to Hamburg where she sang in the world premiere of Korngold's Die tote Stadt December 4, 1920 creating the role of Brigitte. From 1923 to 1925 she sang at the Munich Opera, making her Covent Garden debut as Brang”ne in 1924. Her international career flourished and she became a favorite at the Chicago Opera (1928-1932) and appeared at the Metropolitan Opera for the first time January 16, 1933 as Brang”ne, performing at the Met for only two years. A strikingly attractive woman with a boyish figure, she was married briefly to baritone Emil Schipper, with many affaires afterwards. Although she "retired" from the stage when only 44 to become a teacher in Vienna, from 1951 to 1955 she returned to the Vienna Volksoper to sing more than 145 performances in Johann Strauss's operetta A Night in Vienna. She spent her last years in Baden near Vienna and died June 22, 1969.
Preiser's welcome CD is particularly welcome as it is the only listing for this artist in Schwann/Opus aside from the 1933 Rosenkavalier set. Here she sings Gluck, Meyerbeer, Verdi, Bizet Wagner and Handel in German, Delila's two arias from Samson et Dalila in French, as well as four songs of Schubert and Brahms all recorded from 1922-1929. It's easy to understand her audience appeal; the voice is full, rich and controlled. Preiser's transfers are of their usual high quality. No texts; limited notes in three languages. Recommended.
R.E.B. (May 2001)