Lauritz Melchior (1890-1973) was the great heldentenor of the first half of the 20th century. Toscanini called him Tristanissimo, which is also the name of his authorized biography. He sang over 500 performances at the Met where his career was mainly made, though he did sing extensively elsewhere. Born in Denmark, he became an American citizen in 1947. At the Met he was exclusively a Wagnerian. Verdi’s Otello was in his repertoire, but the Italian wing of the house “protested” his appearance as the Moor so he never sang the opera in New York. He did get to sing the opera’s last act at General Manager Gatti-Casazza’s retirement Gala.

This 10 CD collection, Lauritz Melchior – The King Size Hero, is available at Amazon for $16.09. There are no notes with it and only the barest information is available on the back of each CD envelope. But at this price the collection is a must for anyone interested in this extraordinary artist. The sound on most of the material is quite good.

Since everyone is familiar with Melchior’s Wagner here are few selections that show what he could do outside his usual repertoire. The four selections are taken from a studio session in 1930 with an orchestra led by John Barbirolli; they are all in German. He was at his vocal peak here. He did record some other excerpts from Otello in the 1940s when his voice was past its prime. They are included in this collection.

Meyerbeer : L’Africaine – O Paradis

Verdi : Otello – Dio! Mi Potevi

Verdi : Otello – Niun Mi Tema

Leoncavallo : Pagliacci – Recitar! Mentre Preso Dal Delirio