Lebendige Vergangenheit - Gitta Alpar

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Lebendige Vergangenheit

Opera buffs frequently denigrate the vocal abilities of operetta singers - justifiably so in the present day and age. Yet there was a time when such a negative assessment was quite unwarranted, above all when the singer concerned had quite a respectable operatic career to his or her credit as well. The Hungarian soprano Gitta Alpar was by far the most popular operetta singer in the early 1930s. She was born on March 5, 1903 in Budapest. Her father was Cantor of the local synagogue and later a conductor. Gitta Alpar initially studied with Laura Hilgermann, a then famous soprano. In 1923 she made her debut at the Budapest National Opera. One day Erich Kleiber happened to be among the audience when Gitta Alpar was asked to substitute for an indisposed colleague as Lakme. He immediately engaged her to appear at the Berlin State Opera. After guest appearances in Munich as Gilda opposite Erik Wildhagen as Rigoletto in 1925 and at the Vienna State Opera she eventually joined the ensemble of the Berlin State Opera' in 1927. Among her calling card roles at the time were Queen of the Night, Cherubino and, above all, Violetta. Helge Rosvaenge recalls this assumption in his book 'Lache, Bajazzo' as follows: "My partner at the time was the extremely young and wonderful Gitta Alpar. She was the best Violetta that I was ever fortunate to .sing with. Unfortunately - and what a loss for operatic singing - she soon concentrated on the operetta repertoire, where she became a star of the first magnitude." In the music magazine "Der Ton" published in September 1931 one could read: "Gitta Alpar's art is not merely a matter of vocal agility. She manages to create a synthesis of histrionic and vocal ability. Her thespian empathy merges with her musical aptitude. Caruso's great artistry - not only being a virtuoso singer but also an outstanding embodiment of theatrical characters - is evident once again in Alpar's art." Gitta Alpar remained a member of the Berlin State Opera ensemble until 1930. Her manager, Count Coloredo-Westfried, informed the Rotter brothers - at the time Berlin's leading operetta impressarios - about her special suitability for virtuoso and histrionically demanding roles. Gitta Alpar was thereupon engaged at the Metropol theatre as Laura in "Bettelstudent". Soon she was the eponymous lead at the German premiere of Kalman's "Veilchen von Montmartre". Her most sensational success, however, was as "Dubarry" in 1931 at the Admirals­ palast. It was largely this assumption that launched her international career. Film producers now began to show an interest too. She played opposite Max Hansen in "Die oder keine". It was while shooting "Gitta entdeckt ihr Herz" that she first met Gustav Fröhlich, later her husband. In 1932 she sang her last premiere in Berlin: Paul Abraham's "Ball im Savoy". In 1933, after a reception in Hotel Kaiserhof, where her presence had been expressly desired, she had to flee Berlin at once. While a Nazi hymn - the Horst Wessel Lied - was intoned, she had pointedly remained seated. She and Gustav Fröhlich intended to meet in London in due course but it was not to be. In an endeavour to reorganize her life, she went on a world tour, with detrimental results to her health - both vocal and otherwise. Nervousness and stage fright contributed to her eventual collapse. After a final guest appearance in Buenos Aires she planned to retum to Europe, via New York, but the outbreak of the war prevented this. A medical operation ensured that she at least retained the remnants of her voice. Gitta Alpar subsequently became one of the most sought after vocal coaches in Hollywood. In 1940 she married the Danish dancer Niels W. Bagge but they divorced in 1953. Subsequently she lived in Palm Springs near Los Angeles. Her recordings give a good impression of her highly individual and fascinatingly erotic voice.