Cher Public

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be

A nice long read for your weekend perusal, cher public, on that early 20th century diva Frieda Hempel, with special emphasis on her series of “Jenny Lind” recitals, all the musical rage in the 1920s.

“The recreation of Jenny Lind’s first American concert by soprano Frieda Hempel in 1920 was a popular success, but raised a number of questions for critics. Examining its reception—and that of the concert on tour in Britain—shines light on postwar attitudes toward music history, as manifest in responses to particular repertoires, and to sound recordings. Hempel’s hybrid programs, which included operatic coloratura arias, lieder, and American popular song, ran counter to the trend elsewhere toward specialization. At the same time, they resonated with attempts to cultivate a newly minted sociocultural group, the middlebrow. And, while the Lind project on many levels strove for historical accuracy, on others it overturned ideas of authentic performance. An altogether more complex picture of vocal performance in the age of mechanical reproduction thus emerges.”

Click here to download the article. (Once the JSTOR page has loaded, click “View PDF” and follow the prompts.) La Cieca thanks the American Musicological Society for their generosity in sharing this very interesting study, as well as the Carnegie Hall Archive and New York Public Library for giving permissions for some of the images used.

Here is La Hempel in a popular selection from her Lind program, “Casta diva” from Norma.