Therese Malten was born in Insterburg, Prussia on 21st June 1855. She was only 27 years old when she sang Kundry at Bayreuth in the world premier of Wagner’s last opera Parsifal in 1882. Three singers were cast as Kundry for these performances. The other singers, Marianne Brandt and Amelia Materna, were well established singers at that time and they pulled rank over Malten, who sang Kundry in the third performance during this first production of Parsifal at the composer’s request. Malten sat with Wagner in the family box for the final performance. She was a star of the Dresden Opera for many years and was made Kämmersangerin in 1880. In 1884, she sang Kundry in private performances of Parsifal for King Ludwig and she was the first Bayreuth Isolde in the same year. In 1889, she appeared in the Ring in a German season at St Petersburg under Angelo Neumann returning to that city in 1898 where she sang Brünnhilde (Siegfried and Die Walküre) and Isolde to the Tristan of Jean de Reszke. After her farewell appearance at Dresden in 1903, when she sang Isolde, she was given the most emotional farewell by the great and good of Dresden, which left her sobbing most of the night after she finally went home to bed. She was hailed as a great singer and was clearly cherished by the opera lovers of Dresden.
This beautifully produced volume contains many photographs of Therese Malten, some of which have not been published before. Many of the photos come from a private collection, acquired by the author, portraying Malten off-stage in her private life. Also published for the first time is a portrait of Malten in the role of Elisabeth, in Tannhäuser, painted on porcelain in 1886 by Helen Eichler. There are also extracts from diaries hitherto unpublished and Malten’s reminiscences of rehearsing the role of Kundry with Wagner at Bayreuth in 1882 plus reviews of the German season in St Petersburg in 1898 and an essay on the music of Wagner by César Cui published in the St Petersburg newspaper Novosti.