Ultra-rare Bayreuth rehearsal film from 1934

Ultra-rare Bayreuth rehearsal film from 1934


norman lebrecht

December 25, 2020

It shows Winifred Wagner at the director’s console, Frida Leider and Max Lorenz working the stage magic.

Compelling stuff, just for those faces around Winifred. Not to mention Frida’s top notes. There is hardly any film of her anywhere.



  • Novagerio says:

    Not that rare. It’s been on the Tube for ages and it appears in Brian Large’s documentary “The making of the Ring” from 1979.
    We see Winifried, Heinz Tietjen (director), Emil Preetorius (set designer), Paul Eberhardt (pioneer lighting technician), Frida Leider (without a high C), Max Lorenz, all conducted by Karl Elmendorff.

    • Edgar Self says:

      thousand thanks to Novagerio for identifying Heinz Tietjen glasses) and Emil Preetorius, friends and colleagues of Furtwaengler. Karl Elmendorff conducted the slightly earlier recoriing of a complete “Tristan” from Bayreuth, and I think also a “Tannhaeuser”.

      Twenty years after this film, I saw Max Lorenz as Siegmund in 1954 at Bayreuth, replacing a tenor who had an acccident, in Keilberth’s “Ring” cycle. Lorenz was then near retirement at Berlin but samg gamely,though not a favourite. Windgassen, Moedl, Hotter, Neidlinger, Greindl, Resnik, and von Milankovic were in the cast.

      Frida Leider had recorded the “Tristan” love duet with Melchior circa 1927-28 with Albert Coates. She recorded Leonora’s “Abscheulicher, wo eilst du him?” from “Fidelio” around this time, also a Gluck aria, , and in 1947 produced a Berlin “Tristan” for Furtwaengler, though hurt he did not cast her as Isolde. The second and third acts were recorded live and issued. I ssaw Solti’s “Tritaan” in Frankfurt in 1952-53 with Helena Braun and probably Ferdinand Franz but have forgotten the tenor.

    • Novagerio says:

      Why 6 dislikes?…

      • Helden Sopran says:

        Well Novagerio, it seems that criticizing, or in your case just merely pointing out, an obvious and evident flaw such as Leider’s flubbed high C is a thought crime, otherwise your post is simply filled with LOTS of useful information.

        But flawed it is, and without the distraction of the video and in slightly better sound, this clip below, which has been around for years (2011), makes it even more obvious how bad that attempted C is! Admittedly a one time take that even a perfect singer might flub because they are human. To me far more offensive is the Wagner turn in “siegende Licht” on the word siegende. She simply joins all the notes with NO turn at all. Wagner turns are one of the great joys of life! think Act III of Lohengrin, or the Liebestod!!!! So not to have mastered that for no less than Bayreuth seems pretty unprofessional. And that is very likely not a one time flub!

  • John Borstlap says:


    Frida’s top note however went quite wrong, maybe she noticed Winnifred’s disapproving face.

    • Helden Sopran says:

      Not only the top C, which you kindly call “quite wrong” I’d call it worthy of heckling as she most clearly hasn’t managed the breath resources to rise to it in a healthy way, and then hold the note the appropriate length! Furthermore, besides this horrendously flubbed note, for a so called “bel canto singer” (and yes she did try Leonora Trovatore and other bel canto!) the glorious Wagner turn just before totally eludes her! But I’m sure the Leider fanatics will come out and tell us not to believe our own lying ears, it is just simply glorious top to bottom!. Such is operatic fandom!
      Of course there are other documents of Leider many accomplishments, most spectacularly her negotiation of the horrendously difficult octave leaps in Act II, and the liberal use of the chest voice there, repeated by only one other soprano in my experience, but this rehearsal is surely not the example to highlight!

      • BrianB says:

        If you or anyone alive can sing the Gluck Armide “Ah! Si la liberte”; the “Abscheulicher!” or indeed the Trovatore Act 4 aria (with perfect trills, if you please). by all means let’s hear you. At Covent Garden in the 20s, if you wanted to hear real bel canto singing of classical opera, Verdi, or indeed Wagner himself, a time when Italian singers had abandoned such singing for the cruder styles of verismo, you had to turn to the Germans; not only Leider but Schlusnus, Schorr, Husch, Janssen, etc.

    • John Borstlap says:

      My old uncle Gunther, who as a child was present at that rehearsel, however maintains that it was because she suddenly noticed Siegfried’s undone fly.


    • Jack says:

      Sometimes things just go awry, John. No chance for retakes. I doubt if Winifred (note spelling) could be seen in a dark hall. I’m just grateful to have even a snippet of actual staged footage from Bayreuth sung by two of the great artists of that — or any — era. As noted, it’s fairly available, but still a rare moment.

    • BrianB says:

      Leider was never a top C or even B singer (audible in her Tristan recordings) but there were certain compensations as there were with Flagstad and Traubel. 😉 Though Leider was a more thrilling actress than either. Her live Covent Garden Götterdämmerung Act 2 scene 5 recordings burn a hole though the speakers.

      • Helden Sopran says:

        So let me get this straight, she didn’t have a high B or C, and she couldn’t muster a Wagner turn for her life! so what business did she have singing Brunnhilde which has 4 high Cs in Walkure, 2 in Siegfried and a super important one in Gotterdammerung?! and of course endless numbers of Bs and Bbs….. ohhhh I get it she had a trill, what would you know, the only one that could do the trill in the Hojotohos!!!! I’m impressed, why wasn’t she singing Lucia instead?!?! And she was a thrilling actress, I agree, but there are lots of thrilling actresses in the legitimate theater! Brunnhilde is the pinnacle of all opera! and it is a SUNG part!
        Even the French clip you posted while very musical, you cannot understand a word of the text! Surely no Crespin she! and the aria itself while beautiful is of course not taxing in any shape or form.

        Having said all of this, I have admired very much Leider’s Act II of Gotterdammerung, and the Abscheulicher (short B and all) is very musical. But to pretend to judge modern singers by the yardstick that there was no one better than Frida is simply silly!

        And your canard of “you cannot sing it better today” is right up there with “if you don’t like our president why don’t you just leave the country”. in other words the last refuge of the scoundrel! I suggest you do not try that in future, as it is kind of discussion-ending.

  • Paul says:

    There is also a snippet of film from the following scene where we can see (but not hear) the Gutrune of Kirsten Flagstad.

    • BrianB says:

      That must have been something. From acorns grow mighty oaks. Though the best Gutrune, a thankless part really, that I’ve heard is Elisabeth Grümmer in the 1958 Bayreuth RING.

  • There aren’t many acting choices in opera.
    Either you raise your arms or you don’t.

    • John Borstlap says:

      No, you can raise one arm only at mezzo forte and add the other at forte. At fortissimo you look to the rafters.

  • hanshopf says:

    It‘s as well part of this 2008 documentary about Max Lorenz:

  • Nafarepo says:

    Interesting video footage indeed. For those intrigued by Max Lorenz the man & the voice (and haven’t seen it), I recommend this full length documentary. A mirror of sorts of Richard Wagner’s saga, during Hitler.

  • CRWang says:

    Winifred Wagner: goddamn Nazis.

  • Concerned opera buff says:

    Have seen this a number of times. Consider it thrilling, complete with stock gestures. Will take this over any of the modernized productions of today. Also don’t know of anyone better than Lorenz.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Leider, nicht. Emma Leisner wird mein Schlummer, as they say in Berlin, Vienna, and perhaps Bayreuth.

  • Edgar Self says:

    This was only a rehearsal after all, one and a half minutes out of a long career. BruceB mentions Helen Traubel, one of the best Brunnhildes with Toscanini for the Immolation Scene and “Siegfried” excerpts with Melchior. Other favorites are Eileen Farrell, Nilsson, Moedl, Flagstad. Least favorite, Jane Eagle and too many wordless, nameless, voiceless wonders.

    I’ve seen good Wagnerian acting by James Morris, Philip Ems, Paul Schoeffler, Kurt Moll, Siegfried Jerusalem, Windgassen, Kaufmann,almost Peter Hofmann,Jess Thomas, and bestof allthe great Hans Hotter. Bad acting from Max Lorenz, Fritz Uhl, Burkhardt Fritz, Johan Botha, Gosta Winbergh. ˆIt’s a hard profession.

  • Edgar Self says:

    When Frida Leider directed Furtwangler’s “Tristan” in Berlin in 1947 the leads were sung by Erna Schluetter, Ludwig Suthaus, and Gottlob Frick. Acts II and III were recorded live and issued, five years before FLurtwangler’s famous 1952 HMV studio “Tristan” with Flagstad, Suthaus, Blanche Thebom, and Fischer-Dieskau. .