Died: March 18, 1973
In 1913, Melchior made his debut in the baritone role of Silvio in Ruggero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci at the Royal Theatre (Det Kongelige Teater) in Copenhagen. He sang mostly secondary baritone and bass roles for the Royal Danish Opera and provincial Scandianavian opera companies for the next few years.
One night, while on tour, Melchior helped an ailing soprano performing in Il trovatore by singing a high C in the Act IV Leonora-di Luna duet. The Azucena of that performance, the American contralto Mme Charles Cahier, was impressed by the tone she had heard and gave her young colleague sound advice: he was no baritone, but a tenor "with the lid on." She even wrote to the Royal Opera pleading that Melchior be given a sabbatical and a stipend to restudy his voice.
In 1920, Melchior visited England to sing in an experimental radio broadcast to the Scandinavian capital cities from the Marconi station in Chelmsford. From 1920, Melchior was a frequent performer in London, appearing at Sir Henry Joseph Wood's Promenade Concerts in Queens Hall. While at London he met the popular novelist and passionate Wagnerite Hugh Walpole, who provided the fledgling Heldentenor with financial aid.
On May 14, 1924 Lauritz Melchior made his debut, as Siegmund, at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden in London.
Although Melchior sang at most of the theatres and concert halls of the Western world during his long career, he is perhaps best remembered as a member of the Metropolitan Opera company where he sang 519 performances of Wagnerian roles between 1926 and 1950. Melchior's breakthrough at the Metropolitan opera finally came when he performed in Tristan und Isolde on March 20, 1929. From this point on his career flourished. It was Lohengrin's Farewell which served as Melchior's "swan song" in his last stage performance, on 2 February, 1950.
Melchior appeared at Covent Garden from 1924 to 1939, also as Otello (opposite Viorica Ursuleac as Desdemona) and Florestan, besides the Wagnerian repertory. Also at Covent Garden in 1932, he sang opposite popular soprano Florence Easton in Siegfried, the only time they appeared together.
Melchior made very many recordings, first as a baritone on Danish HMV, then as a tenor for Deutsche Grammophon(Polydor) (1923-1930), English and German HMV (1927-1935), RCA Victor (1938-1941), American Columbia (1942-1950), and lastly Warner Brothers. His final appearance with Danish radio was in 1960 with a performance of the first act of Die Walküre to celebrate his 70th birthday, which was recorded and constitutes a terrific souvenir of the indestructible, indeed almost supernatural Melchior in full flight.
Some of Melchior's most notable colleagues in the opera houses of the world included the sopranos Frida Leider, Kirsten Flagstad, Lotte Lehmann, Helen Traubel, Marjorie Lawrence and Elisabeth Rethberg and conductors Felix Weingartner, Bruno Walter, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Fritz Reiner, Sir Thomas Beecham, Arturo Toscanini, Erich Leinsdorf, George Szell, and Otto Klemperer.
Between 1944 and 1952, Melchior performed in 5 Hollywood musical films for MGM and Paramount Pictures and made numerous US television appearances. In 1947, he put his hand and footprints in cement in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
Following his unofficial retirement around 1955, Melchior made sporadic singing appearances. In the late 1960s, he set up a fund through Juilliard for the training of potential heldentenors called "The Lauritz Melchior Heldentenor Foundation."
In the summer of 1972, Melchior conducted the San Francisco Opera Orchestra at Sigmund Stern Grove in the Radetzky March by Johann Strauss I as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the company; this was one of his last public appearances.
|a12-02||Melchior||Nothung ( Forging Song )||Seigfried||1930||2.58|
|a12-03||Melchior||In Fernem Land||Lohengrin||1939||7.06|
|a12-05||Melchoir||Dio Mi Potavi Scagliar||Otello||1930||4.51|
|a12-09||Melchior||Garden Music w Lieder||Tristan||1929||4.38|