Wagner, Der fliegende Holländer, Thomas Stewart, Gwyneth Jones, Bayreuther Festspiele, Karl Böhm (re-released June 12, 2007)
When the distinguished American bass-baritone Thomas Stewart died last year, it was one of several signs that the representatives of a golden age of opera singing were disappearing. Birgit Nilsson, Renata Tebaldi, Victoria de Los Angeles, and others died, followed this year by Beverly Sills. This year, Deutsche Grammophon re-released a classic live recording of Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer from the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, spliced together from several performances in the summer of 1971, with Thomas Stewart in the title role. Being only two years old at the time, I missed that one and was happy indeed to have the chance to appreciate Stewart’s voice in its heyday. The Dutchman’s opening monologue as preserved here is electrifying, dark, and full of desperate terror, in spite of the sometimes less than ideal sound quality, complete with inelegant joining of spliced sections and prompter’s whispers.