All Wagner lovers will swoon. In 1958 the incomparable Birgit Nilsson was a more tender interpreter than she would become even a few years on, and Hans Hotter's voice, though it still shows some unsteadiness at loudest volume, was at the height of warmth and expressivity. When the two singers collaborated on the main items here -- the love duet from Fliegende Hollander and the whole of Act 3, scene 3 from Die Walkure -- a classic recording was created. Now we have it reissued in exemplary sound, leaving vast admiration in its wake touched with melancholy that we will never hear its like again.
On her own Nilsson sings three popular excerpts: Elisabeth's Greeting from Tannhauser, Senta's Ballade from Fliegende Hollander, Elsa's Dream from Lohengrin, and the Liebestod from Tristan. In her younger, pre-Brunnhilde days I believe she sang all three roles onstage. Needless to say, she makes glorious sounds and attacks every line with authority. (Unless my ears deceive me, Senta's aria is in mono; the rest is obviously in stereo.)
Ecstasy may be the automatic response to this reissue, but I wish that Otto Klemperer had been on the podium, a true master in Wagner rather than the limp, marginally serviceable Leopold Ludwig. The only reason I can think of for EMI keeping this CD out of circulation for so long is him.