Soprano Margarete Matzenauer (1881-1963) was born in Hungary of Austrian parents where her father, Ludwig, was a conductor, her mother an opera singer. As a child she learned acting, singing and dancing. Later she studied opera in Graz and Berlin making her debut in 1901 as Puck in Weber's Oberon. Quickly she assumed major roles including Azucena, Carmen, Mignon, Waltraute, Erda and Ortrud, becoming famous all over Europe as a dramatic alto and mezzo. Soon she began to sing dramatic soprano parts as well; her vocal scope extended from contralto to high-dramatic soprano with equal quality and beauty.
Matzenauer made her debut at the Met during the1911/12 season November 13, 1911 singing Amneris on opening night with a cast that also featured Emmy Destinn as Aida and Enrico Caruso as Radames, with Arturo Toscanini on the podium. A few days later she sang Brang”ne in Tristan and Isolde with Olive Fremstad as Isolde and Toscanini again conducting. Other Wagner roles were Waltraute and Flosshilde in G–tterd”mmerung, Ortrud in Lohengrin, and Erda in Siegfried. She saved the day January 1, 1912 when on a few day's notice she appeared as Kundry in Parisfal, a role she had not sung before. Other performances at the Met in that periodnot with Matzenauer but with dream casts of interest to opera aficionadosincluded La Fanciulla del West with Emmy Destinn, Enrico Caruso and Pasquale Amato, La Gioconda with Destinn and Caruso, and Tosca with Farrar and Scotti all conducted by Arturo Toscanini!
Matzenauer was at the Met for nineteen seasons in a wide variety of roles including Eboli in the first Met Don Carlo in 1920, Santuzza, Marina in Boris Godunov, Leonore in Fidelio, Brünnhilde in Die Walküre and Siegfried, and Isolde. She was so loved at the Met that the boycott against German artists at the outbreak of the First World War did not apply to her (although born in Hungary, her parents were Austrian). She sang her final Met performance February 17, 1930 as Amneris, but continued singing opera and giving concerts throughout the United States for another decade. She had many students, including Blanche Thebom.
Matzenauer's voice was extraordinary with a wide, even range and coloratura abilityand a real trilluncommon in voices of this heft. Her manifold abilities are displayed on this CD. The first ten tracks were recorded 1907-10, all sung in German including Waltraute's lengthy (8:43) "Seit er von dir geschieden" from Act I of G–tterd”mmerung. Three recordings from 1912 are from La Favorita and Carmen (sung in Italian and French respectively, with baritone Pasquale Amato), and Kundry's "Ich sahg das Kind an seiner Mutter Brust" from Act II of Parsifal, the opera she recently had sung at the Met. Remaining recordings date from 1923-26 sung in original languages including her try at the Drinking Song from Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia, a surprisingly undemonstrative account that doesn't challenge the famous recordings by Ernestine Schumann-Heink made about two decades earlier. Matzenauer's coloratura in the Meyerbeer arias is extraordinary.
Preiser's transfers are excellent. While it is remarkable how much of Matzenauer's voice was captured on these acoustic recordings it is a fact that she did not record particularly well. Still, this is an important document of one of the outstanding singers at the turn of the century and as such is highly recommended.