Never before
The Life & First New Yok Career Of


The First Screening
The Vocal Record Collectors Society
November 12, 2004

Summary of the documentary
Comment on Never before
Closing The Door Of Her Career

After a year and a half of hard work, long hours and the trying of many friends' patience, I finally finished my documentary on the legendary artist and human being, Astrid Varnay. As one might have read on my website, the project began almost three years ago when Donald Arthur, Mme. Varnay's co-biographer, contacted me to obtain a particular Met broadcast when Mme. Varnay sang Sieglinde to the Brünnhilde of Kirsten Flagstad in Die Walküre on February 3, 1951. I not only sent that one but included eight other broadcasts from the 1950s (my passion). I was treated to a phone call from Mme. Varnay (who lives in Munich, Germany) thanking me for the gift - something I will always remember.

My friend Martin Segal came down from Boston for the movie and tempted Phoenix with his wrap

(he also came down to see the movie...)

In January of 2003, I was given a trip to Europe by a fellow lover of great singing and I wrote to Donald Arthur asking if I could come to Munich and record a conversation with the great Wagnerian. Though she had turned away journalists for a number of years, she very graciously agreed to see me because "he had been so nice to us."

My friend Gregor Benko, who has just started a new line of CDs, Homophone

My original purpose was to make an audio presentation for the Vocal Record Collectors Society, a club which meets once a month here in Manhattan. I remembered one presentation being so enthralling: Seth Winner, the New York Public Library Record Librarian, played interviews of singers that had sung with the great Arturo Toscanini. Hearing these singers from the past brought a wonderful immediacy to the subject. I planned to play excerpts from my conversation with Varnay and also play excerpts from her Met broadcasts.

The final frame of the movie

On May 22, 2003, I met Mme. Varnay at Donald Arthur's apartment and we talked for two hours, ranging in subjects from her early studies, particular anecdotes about characterization, vocal styles and particular moments in operas such as Der Rosenkavalier, Elektra and Die Walküre. Her spectacular debut was also mentioned where she remarked that Milton Cross had mis-pronounced her name. She said that it was an innocent mistake as no one had told him how to pronounce her Hungarian name. Then she said something that basically sums up her life, dedication and commitment to her art:

"...and that wasn't the most important thing. The most important thing was that I had to do my work. And after that, went home."

Jeffrey Shaw, a Macintosh computer specialist, gave me the idea of making a documentary movie. He has been a great help to me in solving computer hardware/software problems and has given me long arduous hours of assistance over tthe past few years. I started learning the software Final Cut Pro with the help of Lynn Hall and gradually got up to speed with it. Then, via the Edit Center, I came into contact with Ted Rodenborn, a genius in his field and a wonderful teacher (he can answer any question I have about the software and taught me how to make my ideas become real. He had a very busy beginning of November: he and his wife Martha became the parents of a beautiful baby named Elena Jasper.

Richard Lalli gave me an early birthday present by providing the funding for the rental of a really nice projector, rented from Audio Visual Resource, a company located in Dallas. They now have a very satisfied customer in me since the company that I was going to deal with here in New York, Liman Video Rentals (with rude and condescending customer service), literally wanted me to shell out 36 times the price that was paid to AVR. Go figure...

After the movie, I introduced Dr. Peter Lynn and his lovely wife Hildegard to the audience. This lucky man happened to go the Met on December 6, 1941 expecting to hear his beloved Lotte Lehmann. He recounted the experience of 63 years ago as if it was last week. This was a true highlight of the evening. He didn't know I was going to ask him to do this and I am grateful to him.

Hildegard and Dr. Peter Lynn

Special thanks to

Bruce Badger / Dalton Baldwin / Gregor Benko / Robert Curtiss / Oresta Cybriwsky / Bill Ecker / David Franklin / Manuel Franz / Joe Fuller / Stuart Gavilon / Alan Green / Lew Grenville / Lynn Mandel Hall / David Hausman / Richard Holmes / Rodney Hunter / Stella Maria Kräzelberg von und zu Brabant / Richard Lalli / Moritz Lechner / Tobê Malawista / David McKee / Eugene Moon / William Nabers / John Pennino / Gene Pollioni / Ted Rodenborn / Mike Richter / Martin Segal / Jeffrey Shaw / Edwin R. Stafford / Jack Stein / Daniel Tritter / Seth Winner

"...I am eternally grateful that Donald Collup's fine presentation tells it like it is, without ever resorting to the tedious and unrewarding level of hagiography."

Astrid Varnay-Weigert
November 28, 2005

An excerpt from the documentary

Screening #2: The Opera Club - Philadelphia
Screening #3: Members of The Wagner Society of New York
Screening #4: The Wagner Society of Northern California
Screening #5: The Wagner Society of New York
Private Screening #6: The Home of Jack Mastroianni
Screening #7: The Wagner Society of America (Chicago)
Screening #8: The Wagner Society of Boston
Screening #9: The Princeton Club of New York
Screening #10: The Wagner Society of Southern California