Vilhelm Herold, Tenor by Rene Aagaard
Why I collect opera post cards.

I think postcards are a nice addition to my records. I like to know what the artist looked like when I hear the old 78 rpm with my "heros." I like to see them in the roles they made alive on the records. I also like to know a little of their biography. When I transfer my favorite 78's to CDs the post cards come to their right as illustrations.
Why Vilhelm Herold? Because he - like myself - is from Denmark. Herold was born in 1865 and died in 1937. He started out as a school teacher and he was 28 before he had his debut as a singer - as Faust in Gounod's Faust on February 10, 1893 (fig. 1, from the night of his debut). The debut was at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen; he took all by storm and a new great tenor was born.

Figure 1.
Vilhelm Herold as Faust.

Figure 2.
Vilhelm Herold in Carmen.
He was around at the same time as Caruso, and was considered just as great a singer. In Denmark he was the most popular artist for several decades. He sang 29 roles at the Royal Theater in total 707 times. He sang Don José in Carmen - his greatest succes - 100 times (fig. 2). He was only employed for 10 years at the Royal Theater becoming a "Royal Chamber-Singer" in 1901. The highest honor an opera singer can receive. In 1903 he went on his own and from then on he was a "guest" when he sang at the Royal Theater and the salary was many times higher!!

Figure 3.

Vilhelm Herold in Romeo and Juliette

Figure 4.
Vilhelm Herold as Turrido
in Cavalria Rusticana.
Herold as a tenor was in the lyric vein. His voice was not as powerfull as Caruso's or later Gigli's but the impression he left was just as beautiful. He was very gifted as an actor. He sang all over Europe and once at a Royal Command Performance at the Buckingham Palace, along side Caruso and Mm Melba.

Another great Herold role, especially for his many female followers, was as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet (fig. 3).

In his short career (1893-1915) Herold recorded around 200 songs and arias but only about 135 were released (most of them first as black G&T's and later on as Pre-dogs and Black Dogs and a few on the Red Dog label as late as 1946!) and it was only about 100 different songs. He had his favorites that were recorded as many as seven times and released four or five times! In those days it apparently was easier to make a new recording of a "hit" than to keep on pressing from the old mould.

Herold's very first recording was a Danish song "Vågn af din slummer" made in December 1899 on Emil Berliner's Gramophone. The second was "Viva el vino" from Cavalria Rusticana, but sung in Danish (fig. 4). He made only three records for Berliner then ten phonograph cylinders and the rest was for the Gramophone and Typewriter company.

Figure 5.

Vilhem Herold with
Emile Ulrich in Werther.

Figure 6.
Vilhelm Herold
Apart from a few German songs all his recordings are in Danish; probably one of the reasons he was so popular in Denmark, but lacked sales in Europe. He did 20 duets all with great singers from the Royal Theater and the duets with bass-baritone Helge Nissen was and is some of the best ever recorded Danish opera. In "Solenne in quest' ora" they equal Caruso-Scotti! Figure 5 shows him with soprano Emilie Ulrich in the opera Werther. Herold sang in several long forgotten operas. Unfortunately he didn't record from all his roles.

Another favorite post card of mine is Herold as Zephoris on the "beach" in the opera "Si j'etais roi" (fig. 7). He has written the title of the song in the sand "Om jeg var drot" (If I was ruler) (Un regard ses yeux).



Figure 7.

I also like the Lohengrin post cards (fig. 8 & 9). Herold was a great Wagner interpreter, but not the best in Denmark at that time. His rival, Peter Cornelius, was even better suited for the Wagnerian repertoire, but it was always the ever popular Herold who got the roles, because the directors knew, that with Herold in the leading role, it was always a totally sold-out show.

Figure 8.
Vilhelm Herold in

Figure 9.
Vilhelm Herold in

Herold's motto was: Not only the voice, also the atmosphere! On his 50th birthday, March 19, 1915, Herold said his stage goodbye after 13 different goodbye opera shows at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen. He could have gone on for many years, but the guess is, he thought his voice wasn't as fine as earlier on, so he wanted to stop while in his prime.

Herold became Chief of the Royal Opera in 1922, but only for a couple of years. He was unable to be the tough boss needed in this place. He was a teacher for many opera singers, among them Lauritz Melchior, the great Danish Wagnerian tenor. Herold, as a private man (fig. 6) made sculptures and paintings. He was multi-talented.

Herold is long gone, but not forgotten. His records sold many copies in my country and it is still possible to find some fine examples.