Leo Slezak

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What time is the next Swan?

Leo Slezak (18 August 18731 June 1946) was an Austrian tenor opera singer and film actor. He was the father of American actor Walter Slezak, and the grandfather of actress Erika Slezak.

Quotes about Slezak[edit]

Even the attendant who had ushered me in tottered when I sang.
After America had entered the war in December 1941 all postal service with Germany and Austria was stopped. But Papa had faithfully kept on writing to me, a ten-page letter nearly every week. ~ Walter Slezak
  • One of the most famous ad-libs in theatrical history came from the great Czechoslovakian tenor Leo Slezak. A century ago, Slezak was a huge star in the world of opera. One night, while playing the title role in Wagner's opera Lohengrin, he ran into an unexpected problem. At the end of the opera, a swan appears at the back of the stage, drawing a boat that is to return Lohengrin to his place with the Knights of the Holy Grail. This particular night, however, a stagehand erred and sent the swan boat off prematurely. It was the end of the opera, but there stood Slezak, watching the swan boat sail off without him. It was an awkward moment for the performers on stage and members of the audience, who were familiar with the opera's famous ending. As people began to fidget in their seats, Slezak brought the house down when he turned to a singer next to him and ad-libbed:
    “What time is the next swan?”
  • Papa told her about a Lohengrin performance. It was just before his first entrance. He was ready to step into the boat, which, drawn by a swan, was to take him on-stage. Somehow the stagehand on the other side got his signals mixed, started pulling, and the swan left without Papa. He quietly turned around and said: "What time's the next swan?"
    That story has since become a classic in operatic lore.
  • After America had entered the war in December 1941 all postal service with Germany and Austria was stopped. But Papa had faithfully kept on writing to me, a ten-page letter nearly every week. They were never mailed and I found them, neatly bundled, sealed and addressed to me. … And now, on the plane, winging back home, I began to read his letters. They are remarkable documents. It's the whole war, as seen from the other side, through the eyes of a man who detested the fascist system, who hated the Nazis with a white fury. In the midst of the astonishing German victories in the early part of the war he was firmly convinced that Hitler MUST and WOULD lose. He dreaded communism, and all his predictions have come true. He told of all the spying that went on, the denunciations to the Gestapo, the sudden disappearances of innocent people, of the daily new edicts and restrictions, of confiscations that were nothing but robberies, arrests, and executions; how every crime committed was draped in the mantilla of legality.
    His great perception, intelligence, decency, his wonderful humanity, his love of music and above all his worshipful adoration for his Elsa — through every page they shimmered with luminescent radiance.
    • Walter Slezak, in What Time's the Next Swan? (1962), on reading letters his father had written him during the years of World War II, after his father's death, p. 226

External links[edit]

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