Sándor Svéd

May 29, 1906. Budapest – June 9, 1979. Vienna
Svéd Sándor (Fotó: Országos Széchényi Könyvtár)
Svéd Sándor
(Fotó: Országos Széchényi
He pursued his studies with Béla Szabados at the Academy of Music between 1924 and 1929 then in Italy under the guidance of Sammarco and Stracciari. He made his debut in Budapest in 1928 as Luna; at that time when it was possible to produce Verdi performances in Hungary at Viennese and Berlin standards – with own resources. He appeared in the La Forza del Destino conducted by Sergio Failoni in 1929, the success of which was undoubtedly a result of the dramatic interpretation of the Italian conductor of elemental power, besides the nice voices.
Also Failoni helped the Don Pasquale to be staged in 1931 (as a newly re-discovered work of the 19th century opera repertoire), in which two young talents – Júlia Orosz and Sándor Svéd – gained the greatest success for Donizetti.
He was soon ‘enticed': the Opera raised him as a real world –class artist. His enthralling voice became one of the most beautiful and most trained baritones of his time after the Italian schooling and Sándor Svéd learned the great Italian style there, as well. His outburst from the relatively narrow limits was self-evident. He became a member of the Staatsoper in Vienna, and then belonged to the team of the Metropolitan from 1940 to 1950. In the meantime he made several guest performances in Italy at the Scala, among others, where he gained great success at the title role of Guillaume Tell. He was the member of the Budapest Opera again between 1950 and 1956. Later he stayed and taught abroad and visited his home country for guest performances still at the beginning of the 1970s.
Sándor Svéd earned success by his excellent technique, knowledge of singing and beauty of his voice. He can not be classified as a type of dramatic singer; although his flowing voice material of truly Italian nature could efface the stiffness of his stage play and the relegation of dramatic expression to the background. He was one of those singers at whom the material and the knowledge of technique are at such a high level that provide experience alone.
During the Mozart-revival in Budapest at the beginning of the 1930s he sang the Don Giovanni with Knappertsbusch conducting and according to many he was probably the most seductive Don Giovanni of the Hungarian opera stage.
A contract tied him to the Budapest Opera again between 1949 and 1956. The Onegin proved to be the only long-lasting addition to the repertoire of the opera – which is interesting because they could not keep the work on the program before, despite of many attempts. Probably the spectacular staging, lyrical musical approach and – last but not least – the outstanding casting (Udvardy, Simándy, Svéd, Losonczy, Melis, Osváth and Mária Mátyás) played a main role in it.
His novelistic, parade-like lifestyle and ‘grandezza' stage style made his figure surrounded by legends in his lifetime already. The contemporary literature listed him as one of the three greatest baritones of the world; President Truman accompanied him at a private evening; he was a replacement artist in Un ballo in maschera in Vienna for 20 thousand peacetime schillings before inflation; and the row could be continued. Although he had to pay a publicity manager to get some of his photos or reviews published in the United States. ‘They priced it inexpensive because it was not very difficult to sell' – as he remembered.
He - in a particular manner - listened to his recordings with reluctance. ‘I am either so bad at those that it is impossible to listen to them, or I have to be jealous that I could do so 40 years ago' – grumbled to Béla Abody who admits that he always could sing ‘so'. He was a recipient of the Kossuth Prize, Merited Artist Award, ‘Kammersänger' of the Staatsoper in Vienna.
T. A.


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