Leo Slezak, Leo Slezak Sings Arias by Wagner, Verdi, and Meyerbeer

Adam Sweeting

By Adam Sweeting

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
One of the most renowned tenors of the early 20th century.

Though not widely name-dropped nowadays, Leo Slezak was a renowned tenor in the early decades of the 20th century, not least because of his long association with the prestigious Vienna Court Opera under its conductor, Gustav Mahler. Slezak, born in Moravia in the Czech Republic in 1873, was awarded a contract with the New York Met in 1909, where he was hailed as a superb Otello as well as a notable interpreter of Wagner. Despite his American successes he returned to Vienna, and after retiring from singing in the '30s he made regular acting appearances in German cinema. His son Walter later became a notable Hollywood character actor. To hear Slezak at his best, listen to "Morgenlich Leuchtend," the song with which Walther (a Franconian knight) wins the singing prize in Wagner's Die Meistersinger. Although Wagner is sometimes feared for his excessive longueurs, Slezak revels in the piece's bright, ringing lyricism.