CANTELOUBE: Chants d'Auvergne. RAVEL: Trois Chansons Hebraiques. Trois Chansons Madecasses. Six Chansons "A L'Ecole." Deux Chansons Folkloriques "Chant du Monde."
Madeleine Grey, soprano; Orch/Elie Cohen; Ensemble/Ravel; Ensemble/Roger Desormiere

Arias from I Puritani, La Sonnambula, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Lucia di Lammermoor, Rigoletto, La traviata, Mefistofele, Gli Ugenotti, Dinorah, Faust, Romeo e Giulietta, I Pescatori di Perle, Lakmé, and Louise
Ada Sari, soprano; various orch/cond.
PREISER 89659 TT: 79:32

Arias from Lohengrin, La traviata, Faust, The Maid of Orleans, Iolanta, Eugene Onegin, Manon, Lakmé, Les Pecheurs de Perles, I Pagliacci, and La Bohème
Elisaveta Shumskaya, soprano; Orch. cond. by Samuel Samosud, Aleksandr Orlov, Vassili Nebolsin and Aleksander Melik-Pashayev
PREISER 89664 TT: 76:55

Arias from Fidelio, Tannhäuser, Die Meistersinger, Die Walküre, Parsifal, I Vespri Siciliani, Simon Boccanegra, L'Africana, Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Prince Igor, Don Carlo, and Die Zauberflöte.
Paul Schöffler, baritone; Orch. cond. by Wilhelm Loibner and Felix Prohaska
PREISER 89658 TT: 76:27

Robert Weede sings arias from Il trovatore, Rigoletto, La traviata, Un Ballo en Maschera, Don Carlo, Otello and Falstaff (with the Concert Arts Orchestra conductred by Nicola Rescigno). Arias from La traviata, Rigoletto, La forza del destino, I Pagliacci, and Faust (with soprano Licia Albanese, tenor Jan Peerce, and Orchestra conducted by Karl Kritz and Gaetano Merola). "Votre toast" from Bizet's Carmen (with Chorus and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera conducted by George Sebastian
PREISER 89657 TT: 77:30

Arias from The Marriage of Figaro, La Bohème, Madama Butterfly and the final scene from Salome
Maria Cebotari, soprano; Berlin Radio Symphony Orch/Artur Rother, cond.

WAGNER: The Flying Dutchman
Hermann Uhde (Dutchman); Astrid Varnay (Senta); Ludwig Weber (Daland); Rudolf Lustig (Erik); Josef Traxel (Steersman); Elisabeth Schärtel (Mary); Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orch/Joseph Keilberth, cond.
TESTAMENT SBT2-1384 TT: 74:02 & 66:56

Colette Alliot-Lugaz (Lazuli), Georges Gautier (King Ouf); Gabriel Bacquier (Siroco); Francois Le Roux (Hérisson de Porc-Épic); Antoine David (Tapioca); Ghyslaine Raphanel (Princess Laoula); Magali Damonte (Aloès); Michel Fockenoy (Patacha); Lyon Opera Chorus and Orch/John Eliot Gardiner, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 58688 (2 disks) TT: 58:53 & 44:44

Soprano Nathalie Grünberg (1897-1979), who later changed her name to Madeleine Grey, was the first to record Joseph Canteloube's enchanting harmonizations of songs of the Auvergne region. The recordings were made from 1924 to1927 and were great favorites with collectors. Since that time countless recordings have been made, notably by Netania Davrath and Victoria de los Angeles, as well as a very recent superb set at budget price on Naxos with soprano Véronique Gens (8557491), also available in splendid surround sound (6110065). Grey's recordings are legendary and here we have them along with her Ravel recordings made with the composer, and conductor Roger Désormière. Superb transfers, but, unfortunately, no texts. This is a major historic reissue. Those interested in Canteloube's work should check out the private issue of Songs of France recorded by a very young Lucie Daullene before she want on to Walt Disney fame. (REVIEW).

Polish coloratura soprano Jadwiga Szayer adopted the professional name Ada Sari. Born in 1886, she came to Vienna while very young, later moving to Milan to study. She made her operatic debut in 1909 in Faust and soon appeared in many major opera houses—including performances of The Magic Flute in Milan in 1923 with Toscanini conducting. Sari was considered to be successor to Tetrazzini in coloratura roles. According to Preiser's CD notes, she, like many singers, didn't want to give up her career in spite of diminished abilities. At a performance of Rigoletto at the Vienna State Opera in 1946 she was booed off the stage, a tragic end to an otherwise illustrious career. On this CD we hear Sari in prime voice in recordings made in 1925-1926. Elisaveta Shumskaya (1905-1988) began her career in 1928 without any formal training at the Workers' Opera Theatre, an amateur ensemble, singing Micaela in Carmen. She then studied voice and soon had an impressive career at the Bolshoi Opera where she became preferred partner of two great Russian tenors, Ivan Koslovsky and Sergei Lemeshev. Her wide-ranging roles included Gilda and Lakmé as well as Verdi, and she excelled in operas of Rimsky-Korsakov. Melodiya recorded twelve complete operas with her (including the remarkable Sadko issued on Preiser 90655). Her Violetta as heard on this CD was full-blooded and vocally secure, with Koslovsky almost stealing the show in his brief appearance as Alfredo. Sound on this CD is rather bright, but good enough. No recording dates or recording information are provided, unusual for Preiser.

Baritone Paul Schöffler (1897-1977) can be heard on more than a dozen Preiser recordings. This welcome new disk offers him in music in which he excelled, as listed above. A major release, in fine transfers. American baritone Robert Weede (born Robert Wiedefeld, in Baltimore), had the misfortune of competing with, among others, John Charles Thomas, John Brownlee, Lawrence Tibbett, Leonard Warren and Robert Merrill. In spite of this, Weede was recognized for his fine voice and artistry, in many American opera houses, countless broadcasts and, beginning in 1956, 676 performances on Broadway of The Most Happy Fella. On Preiser's CD we hear 8 arias recorded in 1953 for Capitol, and a number of broadcast performances as outlined above.

A major loss to the operatic world was the death of Maria Cebotari in 1949 after a long struggle with cancer. Born in born Feb. 10, 1910 in Bessarabia, Roumania, she already had conquered the operatic world in a wide range of roles ranging from Mozart, Puccini and Verdi to Richard Strauss. Cebotari had the misfortune of singing Salome at the same time as newcomer Ljuba Welitsch, but Cebotari excelled in the role as can be heard in the stunning 1947 live recording from Covent Garden conducted by Clemens Krauss. On Berlin Classics' new CD we hear Mozart and Puccini (all sung in German) and a studio recording of the final scene from Salome in a version that has a quiet ending. It's odd producers didn't include more of Ceborati's recordings—playing time of this CD is only 42:35. Collectors also should investigate Preiser reissues of Cebotari on this site (REVIEW).

Collectors are indebted to Testament for their issues of Bayreuth Wagner performances recorded live at the 1955 Bayreuth Festival. To date, they have issued Das Rheingold, Die Walküre and Siegfried, with Gotterdämmerung to arrive shortly. These performances were recorded by Decca producer John Culshaw and have been issued before but never in stereo, the format in which they originally were recorded in the early days of two-channel. CD notes in Testament's issues give detailed circumstances of these recordings. Stereo sound is basic, simple, full and totally satisfying with splendid dynamic range, vividly conveying the intense performances. Casts boast the finest Wagnerian singers of the time, and Keilberth is an ideal conductor. Now, in addition to The Ring, we have this legendary Dutchman, also recorded in 1955. The cast could not be bettered, with Hermann Uhde's splendid Dutchman matched by Astrid Varnay's incandescent Senta. All of these Testament reissues are pricey—about $20 a disk—but this will not matter for devoted Wagnerians who have been waiting a half-century for quality stereo releases of these magnificent performances.

Audiophiles have delighted in John Eliot Gardiner's terrific DGG disk of orchestral music of Chabrier with the Vienna Philharmonic in top form, recorded in 1995 and spectacularly engineered (447751). Again displaying he is a master of Chabrier, we have Gardiner's 1984 recording of the composer's 1877 comic masterpiece L'Ètoile, a delightful fantasy of lovelorn hopes, terrors and misunderstandings, with a happy ending. The performance is superb in every, the stereo sound just fine. The set sells for the price of two mid-priced disks. However, this recording was made immediately after a staged production, and you can see this—and hear it in surround sound—on a DVD video ( Image Entertainment 9302) for just a few dollars more. That surely is the way to experience this entrancing little gem.  

R.E.B. (January 2007)