MARIA CHIARA - The Decca Recitals
Arias from Anna Bolena, I puritani, Aida, Mefistofele, La Bohème, Suor Angelica, Lodoletta, Manon Lescaut, Turandot, I Masnadieri, I vespri Siciliani, Otello, Giovanna d'Arco, Simon Boccanegra, La forza del destino, Adriana Lecouvreur, Andrea Chénier, L'amico Fritz, Pagliacci, La Wally, Loreley, and Iris.
Maria Chiara, soprano; Orchestras conducted by Nello Santi and Kurt Herbert Adler
DECCA 475 6250 (2 CDs) TT: 77:31 & 72:03

WAGNER: Wesendonck Lieder (with pianist Gerald Moore). Elisabeth's Prayer from Lohengrin (Issay Dobrowen, cond.). Ewig war ich from Siegfried (with tenor Set Svanholm/Georges Sébastian, cond.). Immolation Scene from Götterdammerung (Wilhelm Furtwängler, cond.); Isolde's Narrative and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde (Issay Dobrowen, cond.) All with Philharmonia Orchestra

Arias from The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, Cosi fan tutte, The Magic Flute, The Barber of Seville, La Gazza Ladra, L'Elisir d'amore, Don Pasquale, La Gioconda and La forza del destino
Fernando Corena, bass; various orchestras and conductors
PREISER 89597 TT: 76:47

Arias from Don Giovanni, Fidelio, The Flying Dutchman, Der Freischütz, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Lohengrin, Die Meistersinger, The Bartered Bride and Der Rosenkavalier
KURT BÖHME, bass; various orchestras and conductors
PREISER 89599 (M) TT: 73:34

STENHAMMAR: Florez och Blanzeflor, Op. 3. Ithaka, Op. 21. HEISE: Kongesonnens Romance af "Tornerose." Vaagn af din Slummer af "Bertran de Born." LANGE-MÜLLER: Sange ved Havet, Op. 54. MALLING: Stormen paa Kjobenhavn, Op. 60. NIELSEN: Skjaldens Sang af "Moderen," Op. 41. Saenk kun dit Hoved, du Blomst, Op. 21. GRIEG: Den Bergtekne, Op. 32. En Svane.
Bo Skovhus, baritone; Danish National Symphony Orch/Michael Schonwandt, cond.
CHANDOS CHAN 10249 (S) TT: 61:29

Italian soprano Maria Chiara (b. 1939) had a distinguished career but never quite made it to the superstar status. A beautiful, slender woman, she was well-known for her Aida (which she recorded in 1986 with Pavarotti), and Liu. This Decca 2-CD set displays her chosen repertory recorded in 1972, 1973 and 1977. She isn't quite at ease in the coloratura of Bellini, but singing of this quality would be welcome in any opera house today. Sonically these recordings are superb, typical of Decca's best of the time, with engineers Gordon Parry, James Lock and Kenneth Wilkinson. No texts or translations, but this is a two-for-one priced set.

If you don't already have these post-war Kirsten Flagstad Wagner recordings, here's a chance to get them in fine new remasterings on this well-filled (75:04) mid-price CD. Complete texts are provided with French and English translations.

Preiser continues their valuable series of historic vocal reissues with two major releases by two outstanding basses of their time. The first features Fernando Corena (1916-1984) whose career focused primarily on buffo roles after he realized his voice was not among the finest but he had considerable acting ability. This CD offers music of Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, Ponchielli and Verdi in recordings all made in 1952. You'll also find Corena participating in many major recordings with conductors including Josef Krips, Erich Kleiber, Herbert von Karajan, Zubin Mehta, and Dimitri Mitropoulos. The other Preiser CD gives us recordings made from 1943-1951 by Kurt Böhme (1908-1989), a major bass on the operatic scene for almost four decades. He was identified with the role of Baron Ochs in Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier which he sang a total of 572 times in 30 different productions worldwide. Böhme's wide range and sonorous voice are amply displayed on this new compilation of recordings made 1943-1951 which includes two excerpts from Rosenkavalier. Record collectors will remember the bass's ominous Fafner in the Solti recording of Wagner's Ring. No texts or translations, but complete recording dates are provided. Preiser's transfers, as always, are totally satisfactory.

My first exposure to Scandinavian songs was a magnificent Jussi Bjoerling LP primarily of songs of Alfvén, Peterson-Berger, and Sibelius, all recorded 1957-1959 and sung in Swedish, later issued on a Swedish Society CD (SCD 1010) now, unfortunately, discontinued. This new Chandos CD, in the same vein, called Songs by the Sea: A Scandinavian Journey, with baritone Bo Shovhus. The varied program includes premiere recordings of major, if rather brief, works of Lange-Müeller and Malling for baritone and orchestra, as well as Grieg's Den Bergtekne, for baritone solo, string orchestra and two horns. Shovhus is a sensitive, secure interpreter known for his Mozart operatic performances, and he is given fine support from Schonwandt and the orchestra. As usual with Chandos, complete texts are provided along with translations in French, English and German. This is a welcome CD—although there is room for several more songs. If you enjoy this repertory, don't miss the magnificent Birgit Nilsson recital of Sibelius, Grieg and Rangström, tucked on the last side of the second CD of a Decca set called Ritorna vincitor! the legendary Birgit Nilsson (see REVIEW)—and also look for the Bjoerling disc.

R.E.B. (January 2005)