Alfred Frankenstein (1906-1990) lebte als Musikritiker bis 1933 in Berlin. Sein Archiv befindet sich heute in der Berliner Akademie der Künste.
Diesmal habe ich die Artikel mit einem Einlese-Programm (ABBYY Fine Reader) in Text übertragen, damit sie leichter lesbar sind. So ganz scheint es technisch nicht funktioniert zu haben, aber die Text sind wenigstens les- und kopierbar.
Alexander Kipnis was born in Zhitomir, in the Ukraine on February Ist, 1891. The town of more than 100,000 population had then a large Jewish community. The religious centre of this ghetto-like town was a big "Schulhof" with many small and medium sized synagogues. Most of them had only an old-style chasan (cantor) for the religious Services, but the large synagogue, "die grosse Schul" had a male choir and a very good cantor.
Most of the Jewish people lived in poverty and this applied also to the family of Kipnis. His father died when the boy was twelve, and the molher was left with five children to be supported. When it was discovered that the boy possessed an exceptional soprano voice, the mother let herself be persuaded by a cantor from Bessarabia to let him take the child to his community to participate in the choir. As compensation the cantor took it upon himself to provide the boy with food and shelter and to give the mother a little pocket money. This was the place where the boy Sascha learned to read music. When his voice broke at the age of fifteen, he returned home. Some time later he was asked to join a small theatrical group, with singing and doing odd Jobs, including helping in putting up the stage and also distributing posters and handbills, as well as collecting the tickets before the start of the performance—and finally—singing and acting.
This nomadic life did not last long, as the local Governor of the province ordered the stop of the theatre performances. During that time of compulsory vacation the young singer learnt his first song, it was "Der Leiermann" (The organ grinder) by Schubert. It happened that the mood and the fate of the song's hero was in tune with young Kipnis' own life and feelings. His next stop was a town called Rovno in the same province of Volynia. With his one and only song "Der Leiermann" he auditioned and was accepted as soloist and member of the choir of the local synagogue. There he stayed for two years and these were years pleasant enough, with sufficient food as a very important point. But then the cantor, his boss, decided to move to the Polish town of Siedlce and Kipnis went with him. Some time later however he left for Warsaw in order to start his serious studies in music and singing. To maintain himself and to pay for the lessons, he sang in a synagogue as well as in a Jewish theatre. The time approach-ed now for military service in the Russian army. The young Jewish boy did not feel any attachment to a state that gave him so little, so he took the first opportunity to leave for Berlin. Here again the same pattern of life ensued: singing in the large synagogue in the Fasanen-strasse (West Berlin, Charlottenburg) and besides in German operetta theatres, just in order to maintain himself and to pay for his lessons. When it became necessary to buy a new suit to replace the old worn-out one, he even sang at funerals.
In the beginning of his Berlin stay Kipnis studied with an Italian voice teacher, later with a German one. The voice began to develop in power and brilliance and he saw his path cut out in opera and concert. Verdi, Wagner, Mozart, Richard Strauss, Weber, Beethoven with their operatic works as well as Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Wolf with their Lieder were the young singer's constant inspiration, he lived and dreamed music.
All this was suddenly broken up by the start of the first world war in 1914. Kipnis was then just twenty-three years of age. He was forbidden to sing either in the theatre or in the synagogue and classified as an enemy alien since he had still his Russian passport. But with good luck he was recommended by a theatrical agent to the director of the Hamburg opera house where he stayed for two fruitful years building up his repertory and learning also to act. From Hamburg his way led to the then Hofoper of Wiesbaden, where he remained for three years, appearing in many parts and also building up his repertory of Lieder.
In 1919 Kipnis joined the Deutsche Opernhaus in Berlin-Charlottenburg and stayed there for eleven years, until 1930. In 1925 when Bruno Walter was appointed musical director of the opera housc, it changed its name into Städtische Oper Berlin and competed very successfully with the State Opera (unter den Linden and later also Kroll Oper).
It was in Berlin at the Städtische Oper that I heard Kipnis, then already recognised as a singer of the front line and by chance it was the same performance of "Boheme' which was also my first sight of Maria Ivogün on the opera stage. She was Mimi and Kipnis was Colline and subsequently I heard Kipnis in all his bass roles, as Daland (with Schipper and Bettendorf), as Cardinal in "The Jewess" with Enderlein and Dusolina Giannini, as Ramphis (with Grete Stückgold. C. M. Oehman, Wilhelm Rode). In the first great Bruno Walter premiere, "Fidelio", Kipnis was the minister Don Fernando amidst a star-studded cast which included Helene Wildbrunn, Karl Aagard Oeslvig, Lotte Schoene, Paul Bender and Wilhelm Rode. With Grete Stückgold and Josef Burgwinkel he sang Mephisto in Gounod's "Faust"; in "Tristan und Isolde" with Wildbrunn, Onegin, Enderlein, Rode, his King Marke was outstanding in legato singing and acting. Among his new parts was the small one of the doctor in Pfitzner's seldom played opera "Der arme Heinrich" which Walter, as friend of Pfitzner tried (1927) to transplant to Berlin with a great cast consisting of Lotte Schoene, Wildbrunn, Rode, Oestvig. Another attempt to make the Berlin opera fans fond of Korngold's "Das Wunder der Heliane" also misfired, despite a cast of Grete Stückgold, Fidesser, Emil Schipper and Kipnis as the Doorkeeper (Pförtner) (1928). In the same year Kipnis was heard in much more substantial parts, as Sarastro in the "Magie Flute" with Karl Erb and Käthe Heidersbach and as Hagen in "Götterdämmerung" with Nanny Larsen-Todsen, Sigrid Onegin and Enderlein. While the public did not take kindly to "L'amore dei tre re" by Monternezzi (1928) the old king of Kipnis became one of his finest parts (with Riavez, Julien, Fischer).
The new season 1928-9 presented us Kipnis in what I think was his most memorable part—King Philipp in "Don Carlos". Though the opera, conducted by G. Sebastian, lacked a Posa and an Elizabeth of the front rank, there was Sigrid Onegin as a marvellous Princess Eboli, there was C. M. Oehman as Carlos in his prime, and in the duet between King and Grand Inquisitor we heard Kipnis and Ludwig Hofmann in this scene full of dramatic impact. I shall never forget the great aria of the sad old king "Ella giammai m'amo" as sung by Kipnis, he was then only thirty seven years of age, but he played and acted by singing the tragedy of the betrayed old man as none has equalled him since. I attended as many performances of this opera as possible, Berlin Opera fans rushed to hear again and again Kipnis, Onegin and Oehman, the three pillars of this "Don Carlos".
During the first Berlin Festival of June 1929 when Toscanini came over with the stars of La Scala, there was a gala performance of "Tristan und Isolde" conducted for the first time by Wilhelm Furtwängler who then made his return to opera conducting after having limited himself for seven years to musical direction of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. His cast was an extraordinary one, Melchior, Frida Leider, Sigrid Onegin, Friedrich Schorr and Kipnis again as King Marke. It was a night to remember.
Thanks to the co-ordination of the three Berlin opera houses under Heinz Tietjen (Bruno Walter had by then left Berlin) Kipnis could now be heard also in the Staatsoper. So he appeared in the "Schauspielhaus"—not in the Staatsoper, considered too large for this Mozart opera—as Figaro in a new performance conducted also by Furtwangler who had regained his old love for opera .This happened also in June 1929, the same week as the "Tristan" mentioned above. The singers were, apart from Kipnis, Lotte Schoene and Margret Pfahl from the Städtische Oper as well as Hans Reinmar, while Nelly Merz had to be invited as Countess.
The new season 1929-30 found Kipnis firmly established at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, but he continued to sing also in Charlottenburg. So there was at the former opera house an excellent "Zauberflöte" conducled by Leo Blech with Roswaenge, Fr. Schorr, W. Domgraf-Fassbänder, Gitta Alpar, Käthe Heidersbach and with Kipnis as benevolent Sarastro. In April 1930 however there was a new "Don Giovanni" under the musical direction of Furtwängler in the Städtische Oper with a cast hard to equal: Reinmar, L. Hofmann, Rose Pauly, Käthe Heidersbach, Maria Ivogün, Fidesser and the Leporello of Kipnis. This became a Standard cast with only Marcel Wittrisch sometimes taking the part of Don Ottavio. This was Mozart singing at the finest, and old Berlin opera lovers remember gratefully those performances.
From 1930 onwards the appearances of Kipnis in Berlin became rarer owing to his commitments in America. There was a lonely "Nozze di Figaro" conducted by Kleiber (June 1930) with the lovely voices of Delia Reinhard and Maria Ivogün as Countess and Susanna, Gitta Alpar and Janssen while Kipnis presented his well beloved Figaro. Maybe I should mention one fact: Kipnis as I remember him was one of those rare singers from whom you get always a first class performance, his singing and acting always justified his high reputation, you felt yourself secure when listening to his voice. Despite the hardness of his youth of which I have told in the beginning, he was fortunate in being given excellent health, a gift so urgently required by singers who are moving between the capitals of the world.
When the Nazi party conquered the German republic and Jewish artists were evicted from their employments, the two Jewish bass singers of front rank in the Berlin Staatsoper were asked to stay—not out of human kindness but simply owing to the fact that the Nazis had nobody to take the place of Kipnis and Emanuel List. They continued to sing until 1935, while Friedrich Schorr with his feeling for the coming political events had left Berlin before the ascent of Hitler. The last great pre-Nazi premiere was the "Meistersinger" in October 1932 with one of the finest casts ever assembjed for this work: Furtwängler conducted, Bockelmann was Sachs, Kipnis Pogner and Lotte Lehmann came over from Vienna to sing Eva. Janssen, Fritz Wolff and Gustav Schützendorf were heard in other important parts. The sound of Kipnis' great speech in the first Act "Das schöne Fest, Johannistag" is still in my ears—after more than forty years. This was one of the last sunset premieres of grandeur prior to 1933.
In the Staatsoper work continued as if nothing had happened. Leo Blech continued to conduct, with more than usual applause of the listeners who thought they could thus express their anti-Nazi feelings. Blech conducted also his famous "Aida" with Giannini, M. Klose, Roswaenge, Bockelmann and Kipnis as Ramphis (October 1933). Furtwängler took Charge of the Wagner repertoire and was the conductor of "Walküre" with Max Lorenz, Bockelmann, Viorica Ursuleac, Frida Leider, M. Klose and Kipnis as Hunding (November, 1933). Kipnis was also taking part in two new premieres, the one being "Wilhelm Tell" with Robert Heger conducting, taking the part of Walter Fürst, while Bohnen as Gessler. Bockelmann as Teil, Roswaenge and Heidersbach excelled in the main parts. The next year (March. 1934) brought a new "Freischütz" with Furtwängler in the pit and Bohnens Kaspar, Wittrisch, Maria Müller Erna Berger, Grossmann and Janssen while Kipnis appeared at the end of the opera as the pious Eremite who finds the solution for poor Max and Agathe. Kipnis was in wonderful voice.
My last Berlin opera with Kipnis taking part was "La Forza del Destino" when Blech conducted and Roswaenge, Schlusnus, Viorica Ursuleac were the stars together with Kipnis' dignified Padre Guardian. This was one of the finest parts in the repertory of Kipnis, here he could display the rare art of singing legato, and the scene with Leonora di Vargas remains one of the high points in operatic singing.
I admit I have given in this short biography of Kipnis prominent place to his Berlin activities, not only because I as a listener can tell the story from my own experience, but also because the singer himself considered Berlin his residence and base for twenty years and more.
In 1923 Alexander Kipnis went with the German Opera Company to the United States. After the first performance of "Meistersinger" in New York (Manhattan Opera) which was attended by Mary Garden and Sam Insull, he was at once engaged for the Chicago Civic Opera where he appeared for nine seasons (1923-1932) singing the larger part of his repertory in German, Italian, French and English. In between there were guest artist commitments at Covent Garden 1927 (Marcel-Ugonotti), 1929 (Meistersinger), 1933 (Parsifal and Rosenkavalier, the latter with Lotte Lehmann, Adele Kern and Eva Hadrabova). In the Covent Garden season of 1934 Kipnis appeared with Lehmann, Heidersbach, Maria Müller as the three "Eva"s (Cond. Beecham) and in Walküre as Hunding with Leider and Lehmann. In 1935 the Covent Garden engagement included King Henry in "Lohengrin" with Melchior, Elisabeth Ohms, Lotte Lehmann or Elisabeth Rethberg (cond. Beecham), "Tristan und Isolde" (Cond. Furtwängler) with Leider, Kalter, Melchior and Janssen in the other parts and lastly "Prince Igor" (Konschak) with Rethberg, Kullman, Janssen, Branzell (Cond. Beecham).
In the Bayreuth Festival Kipnis appeared in 1930 as Landgraf in "Tannhäuser" with Maria Müller, Pilinsky, Hüsch and Janssen (Cond. Toscanini) and as King Marke in "Tristan" with Melchior, Larsen-Todsen, Bockelmann and Anny Helm (Cond. Toscanini). Previously there had been in 1927 his Gurnemanz in "Parsifal" (conducted by veteran Muck) alternating with Ivar Andresen and in 1930 he repeated the role. The end came of course in 1933: he sang once again Gurnemanz and Titurel with Richard Strauss conducting and repeated his Pognor to the Sachs of Bockelmann and Prohaska and the Eva of Maria Müller and Käthe Heidersbach.
After cessation of his artistic activities in Germany Kipnis became a member of the Vienna Opera for the next three years, i.e. until the "Anschluss" in 1938. In 1937 he was one of the glorious quartet of singers Toscanini had assembled for the Verdi Requiem (August 14): Zinka Milanov, Kerstin Thorborg, Helge Roswaenge and Kipnis. Under the direction of Toscanini he sang at the same Festival Rocco in "Fidelio" with Lotte Lehmann, Roswaenge and Jerger and also Sarastro in "Magic Flute".
He was also engaged at the Glyndebourne Festival for the 1936 season, singing eight performances as Sarastro, the first on June 30th with Thorkild Noval as Tamino, Aulikki Rautawaara, Noel Eadie, Lili Heinemann, Roy Henderson and Paul Schwarz in the other lead-ing parts. Hans Oppenheim conducted the first performances, Fritz Busch the remainder.
Spike Hughes in his "Glyndebourne" adds an unexpected bit of operatic history in that in 1939 part of the Glyndebourne Company went to the Monnaie in Brüssels for two performances each of Nozze and Don Giovanni. En route some members stopped off at Antwerp for a Mozart Festival there and appeared in single performances of these operas, where they were joined by Kipnis, not then a member of the troupe, as Figaro and the unlikely part of Don Giovanni. The tenor engaged was Luigi Fort and the performances were conducted by Eugen Szenkar.
Guest appearances at the Scala of Milan, the Grand Opera of Paris—debut 20 May, 1930 as King Marke, the same season sang Mephistopheles and Hunding, Gurnemanz in 1933 and Pogner in 1934—concert tours to Australia and New Zealand preceded his engagement at the Metropolitan Opera in New York until the year 1946, when he decided to cease his operatic career and to devote his time to teaching and concertising.
So far we have spoken only of the operatic artist. Now I should like to say a few words about Alexander Kipnis the Lieder singer. In Berlin Kipnis appeared regularly once in every year in recital. His accompanists were eilher Arpad Sandor or Dr. V. Ernst Wolff. The recitals always took place in the Beethoven-Saal, at the same house of the Philharmonie.
He used to open his Programme with some arias by Handel (Berenice, Ariodante) or Haydn (Teilung der Welt), but devoted the main part of the programme to the Lied by Schubert, Wolf, Schumann ("Mondnacht" sung in his beautiful legato was always one of the peaks) and after the interval he was in the habit of continuing with Russian Folk Songs which invariably aroused the enthusiasm of the audience, sometimes also some art songs by Gretchaninoff, a great fayourite of his, while the culmination of the recital were the great arias from "Boris Godunov"—while in Berlin he never sang the role in the theatre, still being too young or feeling himself too young, while in U.S.A. he became famous just for this part—"Simone Boccanegra", "I Vespri Siciliani" and of course the great aria of King Philipp from "Don Carlos".
Kipnis knew how to conquer the public as well as the critics and yet he always remained nobility and dignity itself on the concert platform. The critics of the Berlin press admired him and looking through the old cuttings I have preservcd in my collection I find the expression of the highest appreciation. "Whatever he is singing, it gains new life by his singing. This pianissimo, this languishing mezzavoce, then again the ferocious accents of dramatic eruption, who is able to equal him nowadays? There are some songs, like "Moonlight" or "Secret" (Strauss) where the highest grade of singing is achieved (H. H. Stuckenschmidt).
Often Kipnis was invited by the most famous conductors to appear as soloist in the great choral works requiring soloists. I remember one of the finest performances of the Verdi "Requiem" conducted by Bruno Walter when the quartet of soloists consisted of Lotte Leonard (now living in Israel), Sigrid Onegin, José Riavez and Kipnis.
With the ascension to power by the Nazi party and the ejection of Jewish musicians from the opera stages and concert halls of the Reich, the Jewish community in Berlin and in some other big cities of Germany succeeded in developing their own artistic cultural life— theatre and music—within the framework of the "Kulturbund deutscher Juden". Kipnis was still a member of the Staatsoper Berlin but he at once accepted the invitation to appear in a recital before an audience composed exclusively of his fellow-Jews. His programme started with Mozart's Leporello and Sarastro’s arias, continued with Mendelssohn, Schumann, Wolf and ended with the Russian folk songs, the Boris Monologue and the Don Carlos aria. The large hall of the "Berliner Theater" (this had been leased to the Kulturbund for their artistic manifestations) was overflowing, the success of the concert was without precedent, Kipnis gave his fellow sufferers by his singing beauty and confidence.
He appeared once again as soloist in the title part of the Mendelssohn oratorio "Elijah" as given in the same year, 1934, by the Jewish Kulturbund in the large synagogue in the Oranienburgcr Strasse. Looking back it seems to me that this oratorio at that very moment in the suppression and humiliation of the Jewish people had its special significance. Alexander Kipnis' understood the command of the hour and identified himself with his people when he sang the great arias of Elijah "Lord God of Abraham" and "It is enough", his voice and his nobility of singing gave us the consolation we were so much in need of. It was more than an artistic feature, it was a human confession that remains unforgotten.
The following winter Kipnis was heard in a concert tour in Britain. Of the Wigmore Hall recital on Nov. 26, 1935 in the "Morning Post" F.T. wrote "Kipnis's fine bass yoice is familiär to us at Covent Garden and needs no praise at this time of day for its quality or its strength. But singing in a concert hall is a very different matter . . . effects must be more delicate, more subtle. Kipnis was, however, equally successful. Above all, his variety was astonishing. Schubert . . . Brahms . . . Wolf . . . and Chaliapin himself could not have sung the Russian songs better". Ernest Newman in the "Sunday Times": "One of the most significant features of Kipnis's recital on Tuesday was the number of musicians in the audience. For a bass of his depth and general power Kipnis has an astonishing range of tone and variety of colour; and the concert room is an even better testimony to these than the opera house". Neville Cardus in the "Manchester Guardian": "Kipnis's voice, which mixes the rich sonorities of the pure bass with the more flexible colour of the baritone. His soft singing is lovely for its own sake. He is at his best in Hugo Wolf—and to say that much is to make a rare compliment to him ... he is a nobly beautiful singer". On Nov. 30th he was with the Scottish Orchestra in Glasgow and that city's "Evening News" reported: “He gave us a memorable performance of Hans Sachs' Monologue "Wahn! Wahn!” from the Mastersingers. Kipnis was right in his interpretation, psychologically and vocally . . . His singing of Lieder is the complete musical joy that only Lieder can give, when sung by a great artist". And with the same orchestra in Edinburgh on Dec. 2nd. the "Evening News" said "He gave masterly renderings of two great operatic scenes—"The Death of Boris" and "Wotan's Farewell and Fire-Spell" from Wagner's "Valkyrie". The first excerpt sung in his native tongue revealed Kipnis as an extra-ordinary operatic artist . . . Nothing more noble could be imagined than the beautiful sonority and great power with which Kipnis delivered the grand operatic rhetoric of Wagner's closing scene from "Valkyrie"."
Here I shall end my story, the artistic career of Alexander Kipnis lasted many years after he had left Europe for good in 1936. He remained a member of the Metropolitan Opera until 1946 and then began his teaching career. About this American period, the years in Chicago and New York as well as about his appearances in South America my learned friend Professor Eduarde Arnosi of Buenos Ayres will continue the story.
I am indebted to Mr. Alexander Kipnis and Mrs. Mildred Kipnis for their assistance in the collection of facts, especially about the first years of his youth in Russia and Poland. I wish to thank both of them most cordially for their help. While the artist is still active as teacher, his son, Igor Kipnis, the excellent harpsichord player is continuing the artistic tradition of the family and by his Bach playing has already won universal fame in concert halls as well as by his records.
|Kipnis als König Marke|
ALEXANDER KIPNIS'S CAREER ON THE AMERICAN CONTINENT
by Professor Eduardo Arnosi
Alexander Kipnis, the great Russian bass who specialized in the German repertoire, sang for the first time on the American continent in 1923 as a member of the Wagner Festival Company which gave its first presentation in Baltimore, U.S.A., on Jan. 31 with Kipnis as Pogner, followed by Daland in "Der fliegende Holländer". The Company moved to the Manhattan Opera, New York, with Leo Blech as principal conductor and F. Schorr as one of the principal baritones, Kipnis made his debut there on Feb. 12, 1923 again as Pogner in "Meistersinger", with Plaschke as Sachs, Hutt and Seinemeyer, under Blech. The next day he sang the Landgrave in "Tannhäuser" with Schorr as Wolfram, Seinemeyer and Alsen. Followed a Marke in "Tristan" with Eva van der Osten, Metzger and Urlus and Hagen in "Götterdämmerung". When the Manhattan lease expired the Company transferred to the Lexington Theater for a further run, Kipnis first singing there on March 17 in "Fidelio" with Alsen, Schorr and Fleischer. The success of these performances had brought him an engagement with the Chicago Opera, where he made his debut on Nov. 18 as the Wanderer in "Siegfried", a Wagnerian role properly for baritone, which, like that of the "Walküre" Wotan that he sang there many times after 1925, we cannot trace that he sang outside America, on stage that is, he recorded the Farewell in Berlin a year later.
Kipnis remained on the Chicago roster from 1923 to 1932, with some isolated later performances in 1938 and 1942. His interesting and long career there gives proof of his versatility by the varied major and minor roles he sang in the Italian, French and German repertories, which he must have anticipated as Chicago never staged more than two or three German works in a season. His roles there with dates of the first time he sang them were:
Aida, King: with Marshall, Raisa, Homer, Forrai, 28 Nov. 23.
L'Africana, Don Pedro and High Priest: Raisa, Crimi, Macbeth, 23 Nov. 23.
Andrea Chenier, Dumas: Muzio, Crimi, Meisle, 27 Nov. 23.
Forza del Destino, Marquis: Crimi, Muzio, Meisle, Formichi, 19 Dec. 23.
Königskinder, Woodcutter: Claire Dux, 25 Dec. 23.
La Juive, Brogni: Raisa, Minghetti, later Leider, Norena, 29 Dec. 23.
Thais, Palemon: with Garden, Mojica, Cotreuil, l Jan. 24.
Le Jongleur de Notre Dame, Prior: with Garden, 5 Jan. 24.
La Gioconda, Alvise: Raisa, Cortis, Formichi, 5 Nov. 24.
Prophete, Zacharias: Marshall, Homer, Forrai, 7 Nov. 24. Tannhäuser, Landgraf: Raisa, Schwarz, Van Gordon, later Lehmann or Eva Turner, 11 Nov. 24.
Werther, Albert: Garden, Ansseau, 28 Nov. 24.
Pelleas et Meisande, Arkel: Garden, Mojica, Baklanoff, 21 Jan. 25.
Rosenkavalier, Ochs: Mason, Raisa or Leider, Forrai or Olczewska, later Rajdl, 3 Nov. 25.
Walküre, Wotan: Van Gordon, Forrai, Lamont, later with Leider, Olczewska, 3 Dec. 25.
Lohengrin, King: Fitziu, Lamont, Baklanoff, 12 Jan. 26. Carmen, Escamillo: Garden, Ansseau, 16 Jan. 26.
Tristan und Isolde, Marke: Alsen, Van Gordon, Bonelli, 12 Nov. 26.
Tiefland, Tommaso: Alsen, Lamont, Rimini, 23 Dec. 26.
Don Giovanni, Commendatore: Raisa, Mason, Schipa, Vanni-Marcoux, 31 Dec. 26.
Aida, Ramphis: Raisa, Van Gordon, Formichi, 6 Nov. 27.
Faust, Mephistopheles: Edith Mason, Hackett, 10 Nov. 27.
Rigoletto, Sparafucile: Paggi, Hackett, 11 Nov. 28.
Fidelio, Rocco: Leider, Rajdl, Strack, Nissen, 17 Jan. 30.
Mefistofele, title role: Muzio, Cortis, Van Gordon. 29 Nov. 30.
Die Meistersinger, Pogner: Lehmann, Olczewska, Maison, Nissen, later Rajdl. 20 Nov. 30.
Die verkaufte Braut, Kezal: Rajdl, Olczewska, Strack, 25 Dec. 30.
Die Zauberflöte, Sarastro: Noel Eadie, Rajdl, Leider, Marion, 3 Nov. 31.
Parsifal, Gurnemanz: Leider, Maison, Nissen, 20 Dec. 31.
Kipnis returned in 1938 to sing the Walküre Wotan and in 1942 to sing Ramphis in Aida and the Faust Mephistopheles.
This shows nine roles in his first season, only two in the hitherto familiar German and one of these was for the first time. Five more in the second, four in the third, three in the fourth and so on to a total of thirty parts he was regularly singing there. What he never sang there, or elsewhere, was the "Meistersinger" Hans Sachs, as wrongly attributed to him by Leo Riemens in "Le Grandi Voci".
In 1926 Kipnis sang in South America for the first time, as pari of the German Company appearing at the Teatro Colön, Buenos Aires. Another of the principal artists was the baritone Friedrich Schorr, appearing also for the first (and the only) time there. Kipnis' debut was as Hunding in "Die Walküre" on July 8, 1926. "He made a severe and imposing Hunding . . . and sang his part with a voice of excellent quality and most expressively" wrote the then critic of "La Prensa". During that season Kipnis was greatly celebrated for his interpretation of the principal Wagnerian roles in his register (bass), besides the "Walküre" above, in "Tristan und Isolde", Tannhäuser and "Die Meistersinger" as well as the Eremite in "Der Freischütz".
Kipnis returned to the Colon in 1928 and in that season made known there, together with his Mozartian Figaro, his very personal and sober, at least vocally, portrayal of Baron Ochs in "Der Rosenkavalier". He also sang King Marke and Fafner in "Siegfried". He had his busiest and most varied season in Buenos Aires, always at the Colón of course, in 1931, a year in which, under the batons of Klemperer and G. Sebastian, the Colón had one of the most brilliant German seasons that theatre has known, with besides Kipnis such stars as Melchior, Leider, L. Hofmann and Branzell. The fine qualities of Kipnis were again appreciated in the principal basso roles of the "Ring" (especially as Hagen), of "Tristan" and of "Die Meistersinger".
Kipnis had an extended voice, with sonorous low notes, very flexible and capable of subtle nuances, but of a Slavian colour, that, even being—certainly—agreeable, was not that of the authentic deep, or black, basso, ideal for the Wagnerian roles that other singers, perhaps less polished than he, possessed; such as Ludwig Hofmann, or List, or Frick. He was in the type of, say, a Ridderbusch of today, although certainly more rich and expressive. This is my own impression which I do not presume to consider the only one possible. The interpretative art of Kipnis, his culture and deep musicianship always aroused admiration for his creations, not however, without some reservation that his temperament was more suited to the serene or contemplative roles than to the villainous or violently dramatic ones.
Kipnis returned to the Colón in 1934, 35 and 36. In 1935 he again portrayed the principal bass roles in the "Ring", this time under the baton of Busch. At the end of 1937 he returned to the United States (where he decided to stay and whose citizenship he had adopted) and on January 5, 1940 he made his debut, inexplicably very late, at the New York Metropolitan, remaining on its roster until 1946. Here he was cast mainly as a German singer, he had one new role, of which more later, and apart from two arias in Met Concerts and Leporello in Italian, sang only Arkel and Nilakantha in French, plus some performances in English. His debut was as Gurnemanz with Flagstad, Schorr, Melchior, Cordon and Olitzki under Leinsdorf. "Mr. Kipnis irnmediately won the favour of his audience. He inyested the röle with the utmost significance . . . The tenderness and wisdom exemplified by the later scenes were the continuation of one of the most authoritative and sympathetic representations of the character that the Metropolitan stage has seen in recent years", wrote Olin Downes in "The New York Times". On Feb. 10 he sang his first Baron Ochs there with Lehmann, Rise Stevens and Marita Farell. On Feb. 29 came King Marke with Flagstad and Melchior, Thorborg and Janssen, under Leinsdorf. Olin Downes again "The appearance of Kipnis as King Mark gave added interest to the performance given last night . . . The role is one that will bear the finest art which can be bestowed upon it; otherwise Marke becomes another dusty figure in the long gallery of operatic bores . . . This Marke is not a senile old man but one in the ripe years of his maturity, with the wisdom and forbearance of those years and the agony of the most bitter of disillusions . . . For a rarity the audience looked upon the Cornish monarch not with irritation but a fascinated sympathy, seeing that he was less a wronged monarch and friend than another helpless human, lost and bewildered in the toils of destiny". On March 7th came Arkel in Pelleas with Cathelat, Jepson, Doe and Brownlee and the following evening Hermann in Tannhäuser" with Flagstad, Thorborg, Hartmann and Janssen. There was another performance of "Pelleas et Melisande" on March 13 and a Hagen on the 16th with Flagstad, Melchior and Schorr to complete that season.
The 1940-41 season heard him in "Tristan" Dec. 12, as Arkel on 20th and again on Jan. 13, 1941. On the 29th his first Met. Hagen with Flagstad, Melchior and Janssen. On Feb. 7 Fasolt, with List as Fafner and Schorr as Wotan in "Rheingold". Another King Marke on Feb. 8 was followed by his first Met. Rocco with Flagstad. Maison, Janssen and Huehn, under Walter on Feb. 14, repeated on the 22nd. The Fidelio performance was repeated on Mar. 3, there was a Gurnemanz with the usual other leading artists on April 11 and Kipnis also sang King Marke in Boston and Cleveland with the Met. Company on tour.
In 1941 came a Hermann, this time with Traubel, Branzell and Melchior. On Dec. 6 he added Hunding with Traubel, Melchior and Schorr. On Dec. 11 came a revival of "The Magic Flute", in English, Kipnis was Sarastro, with Schorr, Laufkotter, Novotna, Rosa Bok, Kullman and Brownlee. The conductor was Walter and the performance was highly praised—"The whole thing sprang as music full born and rounded. Rarely have I heard an opera so unmaimed" (Virgil Thompson, N.Y. Herald Tribune). Another critic would have preferred more native artists, singling out only the last two mentioned above for clarity of diction (which one would expect from an American and an Australian). This production later went on tour and Kipnis sang in it at Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Cleveland. It was repeated at the Met. itself on Dec. 22 and Jan. 10, 1942. On Jan. 21 he sang Nilakantha, with Pons and Jobin, on the 28th Hunding again, but with Lehmann for Traubel, on Feb. 23 Hagen with Melchior and Traubel, on the 27th a Gurnemanz and on March 7 a Leporello with Bampton, Novotna, Sayao and Pinza. He also sang twice at Met. concerts, including the Boris Monologue and Hallucination scene, as well as "Ella giammai m'amo".
During the 1942-43 season came his new role, the title part in "Boris Godunov". As we have read, excerpts had featured in his concerts for many years, but this was the first time in actual performance. It had been a Pinza preserve as the work was sung in Italian. Kipnis sang his part in Russian, exactly as Chaliapin had done on the same stage twenty years before. Kipnis first sang the role on Jan. 19 at Philadelphia and made his debut in it at Company headquarters on Feb. 13. The reviews were very good "He illuminated the psychology of the troubled and maddened Czar in the later, revealing pages of the score . . . (his) portrayal was one of the best in his gallery of fine characterizations" (H. Taubman, N.Y. Times). Kipnis also sang Boris at Chicago in April. It remains documented on discs made by Victor in 1945, giving the principal scenes, later transferred to long play Victrola Vic. 1396. He was busy otherwise that season, with a Marke on Jan. 7, repeated twice; Hermann on Jan. 12, one repeat; Sarastro (in Eng.) on Jan. 22, one repeat; Arkel on Jan. 26, two repeats; Hunding on Feb. 15, Hagen on Feb. 29 and on the last two nights of the season a Gurnemanz on Apr. 7 and Hagen again on the 8th whilst on tour he sang in Philadelphia and Cleveland as well as Chicago already mentioned.
The 1944-45 season heard him as Hunding, Marke, Arkel, Sarastro and Gurnemanz, plus Boris's Monologue at a concert. 1945-6 was Kipnis' final season at the Met. On Jan. 25 he sang Hunding, on Feb. 2 Marke, Feb. 11 Hagen and March 6th Gurnemanz, his last performance at the Metropolitan. On tour he sang it again on April 16 at Philadelphia, also a Hunding there; and his final appearances for the Company were as Hermann on April 23 at Cleveland and May 6 at Chicago. 1t was not his last appearance on that stage. Twenty years later at the Gala Farewell Concert, April 16, 1966, Bing had the happy idea of inviting all the available previous luminaries to a seat on stage. They came on alphabetically, to rousing ovations, chance decreeing that Kipnis should come between two contemporaries with whom he had often sung—Jobin, Kipnis, Kullman.
On leaving the theatre Kipnis appeared for some years in recitals, devoting himself at the same time to teaching. If as an opera singer he was a distinguished artist, as a Lieder singer, a genre to which his voice and temperament were singularly suited, he was exceptional, especially for the emotive and poetic expression of his phrasing. Nobody forgot his recitals in Buenos Aires, writes Professor Arriosi. After the annexation of Austria early in 1938, which happened when he was on his way to Australia for a tour, Kipnis appeared only as a recitalist until joining the Met., when he combined both activities for the length of his stay there. Reviews were consistently rhapsodical "Not only one of the greatest contemporary operatic basses but also one of the foremost living masters of the Lied" wrote the N.Y. Times critic. "No one since Chaliapin and the young John McCormack has had such a stage presence, his ability figuratively to bring his listeners across the footlights, just as do great actors, ought surely to win him a concert following of vast scope, even aside from his extraordinary vocal power" wrote an earlier one. And later the "Detroit Evening Times" on an all Russian concert opening the Ann Arbor May Festival, May 9, 1940, Kipnis was soloist with the Philadelphia orrchestra under Ormandy His share was the two vocal parts from "Lieutenant Kije", the Hallucination Scene from Boris, Galitsky's aria from "Prince Igor , with the "Volga Boatmen" as encore. "Too often bass voices are merely deep or phenomenally powerful, seldom do they have that resonant timbre, the melodic warmth and the lilting, flexible quality which we generally associate with voices of a higher register."
(The bulk of the foregoing was sent by Professor Arnosi, who was obviously strongest on South America. The Editor added much of the performance data, etc., on the United States from such sources as Seltsam's "Annals", Quaintance Eaton's "Opera Caravan", Ewen's "Living Musicians", Briggs' "Requiem for a Yellow Brick Brewery", the books on Chicago by Edward Moore and Ronald Davies, dates supplied by Harold Barnes, etc., plus some reviews kindly supplied by the artist himself, and so is responsible for any shortcomings in that area (this last was written by James Dennis, the editor of the Record Collector).