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Hertha Töpper, Contralto/Mezzosoprano
Ambroise Thomas MIGNON
Connais-tu le pays - sung in german -
Conducted by Peter Maag
My personal opinion: It is significant, that some critics wrote a vast number words of admiration about singers no one knows (19th century artists who already died before the invention of sound-recording was established), and with blinders on their eyes, they forgot some audience-favorites. Tenor René Kollo on critics of that kind: "Well, it´s always the same: If you´re alive, you are a mediocre singer. If a singer is dead, he was a good one. And if he´s long time dead, he was very good!" In the two leading books about "Great Singers" (german edition) you will not find the name of Hertha Töpper.
I would feel remiss if I didn´t include the austrian born Mezzosoprano/Contralto in Part III. Although she wasn´t a rare singer, I believe she is unknown for a wider international audience. Particularly she was noted for her performances of music by Bach, and together with Marga Höffgen (1921-1995), she was one of the leading Contralto-singers of the composer´s vocal works during the 1950s and 1960. She recorded many of them with the famous Karl Richter, who saw in Hertha Töpper "the ideal of an Oratorio-Contralto" (The famous vocal pedagog Franziska Martienssen-Lohmann in her book "Der wissende Sänger": "The so-called Contralto is a much desired voice-type especially in oratorios. Ordinarily on the operatic stage a much bigger vocal range is necessary. When a Contralto comes from oratorio to opera, she may be surprised in view of the great requirements for lightness, facility and agility in the top register." No wonder, some oratorio-singers always refused to sing opera: Aafje Heynis and Agnes Giebel are two examples.)
Hertha Töpper was quasi the deep-voice counterpart to the great Mozart soprano Maria Stader (1911-1999), also an exponent of "instrumental singing" - the ideal of pure sound-emission and technical fluency . In 1951, Hertha Töpper was engaged in Bayreuth (Fricka, Siegrune and Flosshilde) for the first great cycle of THE RING after the war (the famous "Entrümpelungs"-production of Wieland Wagner). The same year, she earned ovations at the Bavarian State Opera House in Munich as Octavian in DER ROSENKAVALIER (immortalized in a 1957 live-recording under Hans Knappertsbusch with Marianne Schech as Marschallin). One year later, Hertha Töpper was Judith in the persuasive german Fricsay-recording of Bartók´s masterpiece BLUEBEARD´S CASTLE with Fischer-Dieskau (Alongside the hungarian versions with Ludwig/Berry and Palánkay/Szekély the best you can find). Fricsay also chose her as Jocaste for his production of the Opéra-oratorio OEDIPUS REX by Stravinsky. In one of the very first stereophonic recordings at all, Töpper also sang in Bach´s ST. MATTHEW PASSION under Richter (with Seefried, Fischer-Dieskau and Haefliger). Over time Hertha Töpper was seen on the stages of Vienna, Salzburg, Milan, London (CAPRICCIO and ROSENKAVALIER. She repeated her famous Octavian in San Francisco 1960), Bruxelles, Amsterdam, Rome and Zurich. Equally versatile was her further repertory: Wagner, Mozart (Dorabella), Verdi (Amneris and Eboli), Gluck (ORPHÉE) and Nancy in MARTHA by Flotow - to name only a few. She was Larina in the 1962 TV-Broadcast of JEWGENI ONEGIN with Hermann Prey and Fritz Wunderlich, and in 1969, Hertha Töpper substituted Tatjana Troyanos as CARMEN in Munich (Böhm). She never overstepped her limits and saved her high standards until her retirement in 1980. It was a career in silence, free of all absurd concessions to a hectic Opera-business. Munich was her artistic home, the oratorio and the concert stage her domain. She was married to the late composer Franz Mixa.
It would be a great default, to have her not in this collection of proficient singers from the past. Here is Fr. Töpper with a german sung rendition of Mignon´s famous aria "Connais-tu le pays?" by Ambroise Thomas. The opera (1866) based on Goethe´s novel "Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre" (1795).
THE COMPLETE OVERVIEW: GO TO ALL SINGERS IN THE LIST with this new link: