For the second part of its preview of Caramoor’s upcoming Fidelio, “Trove Thursday” presents Beethoven’s initial 1805 version, now called Leonore, in an Italian Radio broadcast done for the composer’s bicentennial conducted by Erich Leinsdorf and featuring Claire Watson and Ernst Kozub.
Like a number of American singers of her generation, New York City-born Watson made her career almost entirely in Europe where she was one of the most important Mozart-Wagner-R. Strauss sopranos of the 50s and 60s.
She never sang at the Met and appeared in just one role in San Francisco—in 1966 as Elisabetta in Don Carlo (opposite Marilyn Horne and Jon Vickers)—and a single engagement—as Donna Anna in 1969—at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. However, JJ saw her several times with the New Orleans Opera late in her career.
Probably her best known American performance is her radiant Ariadne with Leinsdorf conducting the Boston Symphony in the original 1912 version in which she shared the stage with Beverly Sills as Zerbinetta. Happily that 1969 concert performance was captured by television cameras and is available on DVD.
Watson likely remains remembered for her numerous recordings—a favorite of Georg Solti, she’s Freia and Gutrune in his historic Ring, as well as Eva in the live Meistersinger conducted by Joseph Keilberth that reopened the Bavarian State Opera in 1963 and which was issued on LP.
She’s also Ellen Orford on the Peter Grimes recorded by Decca conducted by the composer and starring Peter Pears. More recently a number of live broadcasts have been issued on CD making available her Sieglinde (Solti), Elsa (Karl Böhm) and Marschallin (Carlos Kleiber).
German tenor Kozub is perhaps best known for what he didn’t sing. John Culshaw in Ring Resounding, his book about the recording of the Decca-Solti Ring, talks about a relatively unknown tenor he wanted to record Siegfried but who was unable to proceed causing him to have to beg Wolfgang Windgassen at the last minute to take over the role.
Although Kozub seems never to have taken on Siegfried, he does appear in a number of broadcasts during the late 60s in prominent Wagner and Strauss roles and as Erik on Otto Klemperer’s EMI recording Der Fliegende Holländer. Unfortunately, he died the year after this Beethoven broadcast at the age of 47. Watson, too, died young—at just 59 in 1986.
In addition to this performance Leinsdorf conducted Leonore with the Boston Symphony at the Tanglewood Festival in 1967 with Hanne-Lore Kuhse and George Shirley as the heroic couple.
6 February 1970
Leonore: Claire Watson
Marzelline: Liselotte Rebmann
Florestan: Ernst Kozub
Pizarro: Rolf Kühne
Rocco: Arne Tyrén
Jacquino: Gerhard Unger
Fernando: Ernst Gerold Schramm
Conductor: Erich Leinsdorf
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