Arias from The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, La Sonnambula, La Traviata, Faust, Romeo and Juliet, Manon, I Pagliacci, La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, and Gianni Schicchi
Bidu Sayão, soprano; Orch. cond. by Fausto Cleva, Pietro Cimara and Erich Leinsdorf
PREISER 89624 TT: 75:21

Arias from Manon, Tosca, Turandot, Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute, Rigoletto, Il trovatore, Cosi fan tutte, L'elisir d'amore, La forza del destino, Cavalleria rusticana, La Bohème, Madame Butterfly, Das Spitzentuch der Königin, Eine Nacht in Venedig, Giuditta, Das Land des Lächelns
Anton Dermota, tenor; Orch. cond. by Walter Lutze, Rudolf Moralt and Erwin Baltzer
PREISER 89623 TT: 75:33

Arias from I Puritani, Don Pasquale, Rigoletto, Martha, The Huguenots, La Sonnambula, Olga, Mirelle, La traviata, The Pearl Fishers; music of Alabieff, Bach,-Gounod, Tosti, and Zardo
Olimpia Boronat, soprano; unidentified orch. & cond.
PREISER 89629 TT: 69:20

Arias from La Favorita, The Huguenots, The Prophet, Il trovatore, La forza del destino, Aida, Lohengrin, Faust, Carmen, Mignon, Il Re di Lahore, La Gioconda and La Serenata by Braga
Armida Parsi-Pettinella, contralto; unidentified orch. & cond.
PREISER 89627 TT: 79:21

Arias from Fidelio, Euryanthe, Die Meistersinger, Die Walküre, Der Corregidor, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Salome, and Othello
Josef Herrmann, baritone; Orch. cond. by Joseph Keilberth, Kurt Striegler, and Ferdinand Leitner
PREISER 93445 TT: 76:54

Arias from Aida, La forza del destino, Un ballo en maschera, The Abduction from the Seraglio ,Oberon and The Queen of Sheba
Maria Nemeth, soprano; unidentified orch/cond

Arias from The Magic Flute, The Abduction from the Seraglio, Lakmé, Dinorah, The Tales of Hoffmann, Mireille, I Vespri Siciliani, Le Toréador, and music of Weber, Taubert, Rossini, Arditi, Denza, Alabieff and Johann Strauss
Miliza Korjus, soprano; various orch/cond.

Zinka Milanov (Tosca); Franco Corelli (Cavaradossi); Giangiacomo Guelfi (Scarpia); Michael Langdon (Angelotti); David Tree (Spoletta); Forbes Robinson (Sacristan); Royal Opera House Chorus and Orch/Alexander Gibson, cond.

Brazilian soprano Bidu Sayão (1902-1999) was a class act, a distinguished singer who knew her limitations and sang superbly her chosen repertory. Beginning in 1937 she appeared for 15 years at the Met singing roles perfect for her including Rosina, Manon, Violetta and Gilda. Her final concert was given in 1957 and in 1963 moved to Lincolnville, Maine, where she died. On this Preiser CD she is heard in superlative performances recorded during her prime, 1941-1947, recordings that well capture her lovely sound. And don't overlook her definitive (and the first) recording of Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 of Villa-Lobos, available on Sony Classical.

Austrian tenor Anton Dermota (1910-1989) became a member of the Vienna State Opera in 1936 and was a favorite there until he retired. He sang with many of the great conductors of the time and was recognized particularly for his Mozart. This Preiser CD contains only two works by Mozart, along with arias from many popular Italian and French operas, all sung in German, recorded by Telefunken 1939-1943. Olimpia Boronat was a large matronly woman, whose early career was outlined in some detail in Ward Marston's issue of her complete recordings about five years ago; Max de Schauensee, author of notes for this Preiser CD, did some additional research. Boronat sang extensively in Europe, particularly in Russia, but never in the U.S., England, France, Germany or Austria. She made only two batches of recordings, the first in 1904 in St. Petersburg, the second in Milan in 1908—all are included on this CD (as they were on Marston's issue, although the latter included a second take of the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria). We hear an assured, brilliant coloratura soprano with a superb technique, and her voice recorded remarkably well on these acoustic recordings.

Preiser's CD of recordings by mezzo-soporano Armida Parsi-Pettinella fills a great void in the CD catalog; only a few of her recordings currently are available. Born in Italy in 1868, she later was known as Parsi-Pettinella after her marriage to the conductor with that name. She was acclaimed at La Scala (never appearing at the Met, Covent Garden, Paris or Vienna) and was chosen by Toscanini to sing Franchetti's Asrael in 1903 and Un ballo en maschera. After 1911 she rather mysteriously disappeared but ended up in Casa di Riposa in Milan where she died January 9, 1949. Her strong mezzo is vividly heard in roles that made her famous.

Hungarian soprano Maria Nemeth (1897-1967) made her operatic debut in Budapest in 1923 and the next year began a long association with the Vienna State Opera, often appearing in other major European opera houses to great acclaim. Thomas Voight's CD notes discuss her brilliance, musicality and phrasing, comparing her with Bulgarian soprano Ljuba Welitsch, who appeared on the operatic scene about two decades later. On this new CD we hear recordings Nemeth made 1927-1929, arias from four Verdi operas (sung in German), as well as arias by Mozart, Weber and Goldmark. Her most famous role, Turandot (she sang the Vienna premiere in 1926), is not represented here; Voight feels she is far from her best in her commercial recording of In questa reggia; but this is included on Preiser's CD devoted to the soprano {89109}which also contains music from three Wagner operas, as well as many of the recordings on Hännsler's new CD and is perhaps the disk to have to sample this dramatic soprano's artistry.

Baritone Josef Herrmann (1903-1955) began his career when only 22 and was a major figure on the operatic scene in Dresden, La Scala, the Paris Opera, Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, and other major opera houses as well as the Salzburg and Munich festivals. He was called the German "Heldenbariton" par excellence, with a wide range comfortable in all registers, known particularly for his Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger, and Jochanaan in Salome, the latter recorded in 1948 with Christel Goltz. He also enjoyed great success in Verdi as well as Boris Godunov. During the final years of his career he was acclaimed for his interpretation of Wozzeck, a role that unfortunately he never recorded. His farewell to the operatic stage was in 1955 as the King in Orff's Die Kluge; he died four days later. He obviously was a major figure on the operatic scene for three decades as evidenced on this Preiser release, their second devoted to the baritone (the first is Preiser 89076).

Miliza Korjus (1912-1980) had a phenomenal career as a stratospheric coloratura (along with her contemporary, Erna Sack). She appeared in operatic performances conducted by Furtwängler at the Vienna State Opera, as well as singing in many famous European opera houses. In 1938 she starred in the MGM film The Great Waltz, surprisingly nominated for an Oscar for her appearance in this rather idiotic film. Korjus retired from concerts/opera in 1952 and lived in California until her death almost three decades later. During this period she made a number of LP recordings which, to my knowledge, have never been issued on CD, financed by her wealthy husband. These were issued in 1966/68 on the private label Venus Recording Company of America in which she is a caricature of herself. The labels describe the contents as "the golden voice of Miliza Korjus (rhymes with gorgeous)." There's a wide range of repertory on these LPs recorded in a highly resonant room. In some selections Korjus is accompanied by her pet bird William. It's all rather sad—the voice, such as it was, was gone. Quite different is what is heard on this Hänssler CD, recordings made during her prime, 1934-1936. Her voice actually was rather ugly, but the range was there and she nails most of the super-high notes, often sounding like a peanut-whistle. For the curious only.

Opera buffs must have this live recording of Tosca from Covent Garden's Royal Opera House recorded in July 1957. Milanov had made her debut at Covent Garden only the year before and appeared only one more time after this Tosca as her busy schedule at the Met made more appearances impossible. 1957 was late in Milanov's career; she first sang the role of Tosca in 1928 and had sung the role in German and Serbo-Croatian as well as Italian, with 21 performances at the Met beginning in 1955. Milanov's RCA recording of the opera (with Jussi Bjoerling and Leonard Warren with Erich Leinsdorf conducting) was made a week after this Royal Opera House performance, and Milanov was quoted as saying at the time, "high Cs don't grow on trees." And they didn't in this performance, but still there is ample opportunity to enjoy the Yugoslavian's soprano's rich sound and highly dramatic approach to the role. Franco Corelli made his Royal Opera House debut in this performance and is in astounding voice; this recording is worth owning just for his vivid Cavaradossi—his Vittoria is hair-raising indeed, E lucevan le stelle among the finest ever. Giangiacomo Guelfi is a full-voiced, menacing Scarpia. This recording has been issued before on the same label; this new issue, which costs twice as much, comes with rather extensive commentary and the complete libretto in Italian/English. The mono sound is fine, but it is inexcusable for Opera D'Oro to divide Act II onto two CDs.

R.E.B. (December 2005)