Walton conducts Schwarzkopf in scenes from his 1955 opera
Excellent XR remastering lifts the veil on this and his 1959 stereo Partita
"...Walton wrote the part of Cressida for Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, who did indeed record extracts from it in 1955. When asked to open with the opera she demurred pleading another engagement, although Neil Tierney, in his biography of Walton, quotes Walter Legge as saying that she disliked singing in English and neither liked the story nor the character of Cressida. Covent Garden suggested the Hungarian soprano, Magda Laszio; Walton agreed that she had the looks but she could not speak any English. She was expected to learn the part parrot-fashion and to sing without a trace of a foreign accent. If you listen to the Schwarzkopf recording you can hear how impossible that was going to be. In the event, her English was so poor that she had to be coached by Susana Walton, who was herself Argentinian! Opposite her Peter Pears played Pandarus. The producer was George Devine and the designer Hugh Casson. It became known that the opera was to be a sumptuous affair, very romantic in style and destined to become very popular.
Sargent proved a problem. He was a rather vain and self-opinionated conductor. He had not conducted an opera at Covent Garden since 1936 - nor anywhere else except for Gilbert and Sullivan. The singers complained that he often left them without support when they were unaccompanied to which he responded that since there was no orchestral part it was not necessary for him to conduct. He constantly questioned Walton's scoring, which did not endear him to the composer and a further difficulty was that Sargent's eyesight was failing but he was too vain to wear spectacles when conducting. Since the score had still not been printed Sargent was working from the rehearsal score which was rather indistinct in parts. He seemed uncertain of the score and even during performance he counted the bars out loud, which was very off-putting for the performers. On one occasion he brought Geraint Evans in a bar too early with an enormous flourish., Evans decided to ignore this and came in at the proper time. Evans notes in his biography that Walton often had to be called into rehearsals to help and he became increasingly disenchanted. (Unbelievably, Sargent was still the conductor at the Covent Garden revival in 1963 even though Walton pleaded with David Webster to find somebody else. Christopher Hassel, the librettist, died from a heart attack whilst running for a train to attend one of the revived performances.)..."
From "This unfortunate opera" by Len Mullenger - http://www.musicweb-international.com/troil1.htm
Notes on the recordings:
Both of these recordings benefitted from the development of true high fidelity equipment during the 1950s and are good examples of what could be achieved at the time. It is unfortunate that the earlier recording, Scenes from Troilus and Cressida, was made only in mono, but the Ambient Stereo version of our remastering does at least add some air and space around the performers. In both cases I have been able, in XR remastering, to reduce background noise whilst lifting the veil which hung over the upper treble. In the case of Troilus and Cressida the slightly cramped and restricted lower frequencies have also been greatly improved.