ERNA BERGER - A Vocal Portrait
MOZART:  Arias from Abduction from the Seraglio, Idomendo and The Magic Flute. VERDI:  Arias from Rigoletto and La traviata.  PUCCINI:  Arias from La BohËme and Madama Butterfly. JOHANN STRAUSS:  Arias from Die Fledermaus/Voices of Spring waltz; plus arias from operas by Weber, Auber, Flotow, Donizetti and Bizet.
Erna Berger, soprano; Orchestras conducted by Josef Krips, Bruno Seidler-Winkler, Thomas Beecham, Johannes Schuler, Leo Blech, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Walter Schültze and Walter Susskind
NAXOS 8.110733 (B) (ADD) TT:  74:04

FRIDA LEIDER - A Vocal Portrait
ACOUSTIC RECORDINGS:  WAGNER:  Excerpts from Rienzi, The Flying Dutchman, Tannh”user, Die Walkure, Siegfried and Parsifal; four Wesendonck Lieder; VERDI:  Arias from Il trovatore, Aida and Don Carlos; arias from operas of Weber and Strauss
ELECTRICAL RECORDINGS:  WAGNER:  Excerpts from Tristan und Isolde and G–tterd”mmerung; arias from operas by Mozart, Gluck and Beethoven; lieder of Schubert and Schumann
Frida Leider, soprano; Lauritz Melchior, tenor; orchestras conducted by John Barbirolli, Leo Blech and Albert Coates; Michael Raucheisen, pianist
NAXOS 8.110744/45 (2 CDs) (B) TT:  72:43 & 78:24

Two more valuable historic CDs from Naxos! Erna Berger (1900-1990), born in Dresden, made her debut Dresden in 1925 in a minor role (the First Boy in Magic Flute) staying with the company until 1928 singing world premieres:  Busoni's Doktor Faust (1925), Graener's Hanneles Himmelfahs (1927), Strauss's Egyptian Helen (1928) and Mark Lothar's Lord Spleen (1930).  She later sang often with the Berlin State Opera (where she remained for more than two decades), Bayreuth (at the request of Toscanini), also appearing in Rome, Amsterdam, Paris, Hamburg, Munich and Vienna.  Berger sang in more world premieres:  Fried Walter's Andreas Wolfius (1940) and Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress (1952).  She sang Queen of the Night in Beecham's famous 1937/8 recording of The Magic Flute.  Her association with the Met began in 1949 where she sang Sophie, Gilda and Queen of the Night; it was in 1950 the famous recording of Rigoletto was made.  Between 1946 and 1953 she gave many concerts and from 1960 to 1971 was a respected teacher in Hamburg.  She died in Essen June 14, 1990.

Naxos' CD is a fine overview of the soprano's repertory.  Her Mozart is perfection, the youthful quality she had throughout her career is effective in the Verdi and Puccini heard here.  Her coloratura is effortless - she is a perfect Queen of the Night, a charming Adele in Fledermaus.  Everything is sung in German.  No texts, but complete recording information - and Ward Marston's transfers are exemplary.

Frida Leider's artistry recently was documented on a fine Preiser CD.  Now we have this 2-CD set, the first devoted to acoustic recordings made from 1921-26, the second electrical recordings from 1927-43.  Leider's magnificent voice was in its prime when all of these were recorded - she was the leading Wagnerian soprano in the pre-Flagstad era, evidenced by these excerpts from Tristan and G–tterd”mmerung.  Her Verdi, too, is thrilling - that infamous high C in O Patria Mia is sung with the greatest of ease.  Leider also has a true trill - an ability lacking among today's crop of Wagnerian sopranos.  There are countless treasures on these CDs - I don't know of a finer performance of Wesendonck Lieder (she only recorded four of the five).  As usual, Ward Marston's transfers are perfection - even the acoustic recordings vividly convey Leider's rich sound.  This is an indispensable set for vocal collectors.  No texts, but complete documentary information.

R.E.B. (March 2003)