MOZART:  Excerpts from The Marriage of Figaro.  NICOLAI:  "Nun eilt herbei, Witz, heit're Laune from The Merry Wives of Windsor." JOHANN STRAUSS:  "O habet acht" from The Gypsy Baron.  VERDI:  Excerpts from La Traviata.  PUCCINI:  Excerpts from La Boheme and Madama Butterfly.  RICHARD STRAUSS:  Excerpts from Ariadne auf Naxos, Salome and Daphne.
Maria Cebotari, soprano; Orchestras conducted by Artur Rother, Haans Steinkopf, Felix Prohaska and Herbert von Karajan
PREISER 90511 (2 CDs) (F) TT:  73:39 & 73:53>br>BUY NOW FROM AMAZON

STRAUSS:  Taillefer (with Walther Ludwig, Hans Hotter, Singgemeinschaft Rudolf Lamy), and excerpts from Salome, Feuersnot (with Karl Schmitt-Walter), Der Rosenkavalier (with Paula Buchner and Tiana Lemnitz), and Daphne.
Maria Cebotari, soprano; Berlin Radio Symphony Orch/ Artur Rother, cond.
PREISER 90222 (F)  TT:  66:45

Maria Cebotari, born Feb. 10, 1910 in Bessarabia, Roumania, attracted attention by her singing in the local church choir.  After attending her home town conservatory, she met Russian actor Alexander Vyrubov who managed the Moscow Arts Theatre.  He offered her a contract, marriage as well (she divorced him in 1938 and married film actor Gustav Diessl), and they traveled from city to city ending in Berlin where she met Max von Schillings who recommended her to noted singing teacher Oscar Daniel.  After intensive studies, she was signed by Fritz Busch for the Dresden State Opera where she made her debut April 15, 1931 as Mimi in La BohËme.  Bruno Walter engaged her for the role of Amor in Gluck's Orpheus and Euridice at the Salzburg Festival.  Her career skyrocketed and she was a great favorite at the Berlin and Dresden State Operas. In 1934 she received the title Kammers”ngerin, a distinction reserved for meritorious singers which had never been, and has never since been, awarded to a 24-year old.  In 1936 she sang for the first time with the Vienna State Opera where she became a great favorite.  Her busy schedule with leading European opera houses made it impossible for her to accept invitations from America. Cebotari was known for her Mozart and Strauss; in 1935 she sang Aminta in the world premiere of the latter's Die Schweigsame Frau, and also was known for her Salome (an exciting live performance is reviewed on this site in the feature on recordings of Salome).  She also sang in the Salzburg world premiere of von Einem's Danton's Death.  Aware of her fatal illness, she performed extensively before her untimely death June 9, 1949 when her funeral in Vienna was one of the most imposing demonstrations of love and honor any deceased artist has ever received.

We are indebted to Preiser for these two fine releases.  Two important recordings are on both CDs - the Salome and Daphne excerpts.  Preiser 90222, issued in 1994 is exclusively Strauss, also containing an excerpt from Der Rosenkavalier and an unusual work of Strauss - Taillefer, a ballad composed in 1902 describing in a most bombastic way the Battle of Hastings via poet Ludwig Uhland.  The soprano solo is quite short, but beautifully sung by Cebotari.  The last Schwann/Opus lists only this recording of the work, although at one time there was another on EMI - and it is odd that Rudolf Kempe didn't include it in his EMI set of Strauss' orchestral works. Nor was it included on the Thorophon CD of Strauss choral music (REVIEW). There would have been room on 90222 for Cebotari's glorious Ariadne excerpt (with Herbert von Karajan conducting); strange it wasn't included.  Cebotari also can be heard in brief excerpts from Capriccio from a Vienna State Opera performance conducted by Karl B–hm recorded in 1944.  This is in Koch Schwann Volume 21 in their Vienna State Opera Series (3-1471).

All performances on the Preiser CDs are sung in German.  The twin-CD set displays Cebotari's distinctive Mozart in excerpts from The Marriage of Figaro (19 min), Verdi in excerpts from La Traviata (45 min), and La BohËme (24 min). Cebotari easily negotiates the coloratura of the first act Traviata aria and, with her physical beauty must have been a near-perfect Violetta.  Unfortunately there is no death scene. One of the soprano's greatest successes was in Nicolai's Merry Wives of Windsor the year of her death; a tantalizing excerpt recorded that year is on this CD along with a scintillating "O habet acht" from The Gypsy Baron.  It's also fascinating to hear her Mimi—in spite of tenor Peter Anders, a distinguished tenor not heard here at his best.  However, Walter Ludwig is an appropriate partner for the Butterfly love duet, and these well-filled disks also include "Eines Tages seh'n wir" ("One Fine Day").

Fine, natural-sounding transfers; no texts and rather limited CD notes.  But these are important issues for the vocal collector.

R.E.B.  (February 2003)