Conductor Bruno Walter, born on Sept. 15, 1876 as Bruno Schlesinger, was one of the finest conductors of the 20th century.
His career was, in many ways, linked to the works of Gustav Mahler, but he also had an extensive repertoire and worked at a number of prominent opera houses including the Salzburg Festival, the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, the Vienna State Opera, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and the Bavarian State Opera, among others.
His even-keeled temper made him a perfect match for the operas of Mozart, though he did make forays into Wagner, Verdi, and Beethoven’s “Fidelio.” He also helped bring a number of operas into the world. Here is a look at the work’s he world premiered.
Der Ring des Polykrates
Walter brought Korngold’s first opera, a one-act piece, into being on March 26, 1916, leading the world premiere at the National Theatre in Munich with a cast that featured Karl Erb and Maria Ivogün.
Walter also led the first performance of Korngold’s second opera, also in one act, back on March 28, 1916, just two days after the world premiere of “Der Ring des Polykrates.” It was also showcased at the National Theatre Munich.
On June 12, 1917, Walter led the first performance of Hans Pfitzner’s with Erb as the tenor lead. Though he would never record the work, Walter held it in very high esteem and wrote in his final letter before death, “Despite all the dark experiences of today I am still confident that ‘Palestrina’ will remain. The work has all the elements of immortality.”
On Nov. 20, 1920, the maestro led Walter Braunfels opera at the National Theatre Munich with Erb also in one of the principal roles. Ivogün, who featured prominently in Palestrina as well, also starred in the opera.
Das Lied von der Erde
Technically not an opera, but some have made the claim that this is as operatic as Mahler ever got. The conductor was set to premiere the work himself, but his untimely death meant that his wife Alma had reached to Walter to lead the opening performance of the work. He also did the same for the Ninth Symphony. Sara Cahier and William Miller were the singers for the premiere of “Das Lied” and Walter would go on to record it a few times thereafter.