"Munich Opera Gala"
Arias from Der Freischütz, Oberon, The Flying Dut chman,
Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Il trovatore, Un ballo in maschera, La forza
del destino and
Arias from Eugene Onegin, Otello, La forza del destino,
Ariadne auf Naxos, and Arabella
VERDI: I Vespri Siciliani
Rigoletto was a major interest of Ferenc Fricsay; it was the first work he conducted, in Szeged in 1940 when he was only 26. This Audite recording was made Sept. 20-30, 1950 for RIAS, the radio station in the American Sector of Berlin (Fricsay also recorded for them The Abduction from the Seraglio and Die Fledermaus). The cast is excellent throughout if sounding rather unidiomatic in German, with a young Rudolf Schock as the Duke, the assured Rita Streich as Gilda, and Josef Metternich a powerful jester. Recorded sound is well-balanced, no libretto is provided. For whatever reason, producers have elected to have limited tracks, although individual sections are indexed, a rare occurrence today, and one that many CD players cannot accommodate.
Franco Corelli was the perfect Calaf in Turandot, and there is one commercial recording made in 1965 for EMI with Birgit Nilsson. There are several recordings available of live performances—one to search out is the 1961 Metropolitan Opera production that featured Corelli and Birgit Nilsson brilliantly conducted by Leopold Stokowski—once available from the MET. However there are several other live performances featuring Corelli of great interest including this one from the Italian Radio recorded in 1962. This already has been issued on Myto, and it's surprising Golden Melodram would issue this at full price(as is the Myto release) when it is available already in a super-budget 14-CD set on Opera D'Oro (REVIEW) at a fraction of the cost. And this same performance is available on VAI Video and surely this is the way to have this example of Corelli in his prime (REVIEW).
The "Munich Opera Gala" is a rather odd compilation recorded January 13, 1963 in Munich featuring soprano Inge Borkh, mezzo-soprano Ira Malaniuk and tenor Hans Hopf with the Munich Radio Chorus and Orchestra conducted by Horst Stein. Nothing is said about the occasion, there are no program notes, and it seems the collector is being slighted. What happened to the rest of the concert? Playing time of this CD is only 49:53. Why wasn't more included on the CD?—after all, this is a full-price issue, and surely the concert was much longer than this. The only reason to acquire this CD is to hear Inge Borkh singing the Act II opening from The Egyptian Helen, which she does very well, aside from a pause before the climactic ending—and she does add an extra high note at the end not written in the score. Sound quality is better than average for the label.
Although Dutch soprano Gré Brouwenstijn (1915-1999) had a fine career, she never quite entered the "super soprano" realm. She was a favorite with noted conductors including Sir Thomas Beecham, Otto Klemperer and Herbert von Karajan, and her best-known roles were Leonore in Fidelio, Jenufa, Amelia, Donna Anna, Desdemona, and Elisabeth in Tannhäuser. One of her finest recordings is the 1961 RCA issue of Die Walküre conducted by Erich Leinsdorf in which she sings a glorious Sieglinde (the recording is now available on Decca). There is a Philips CD devoted to Brouwenstijn made available by ArkivMusic containing many of the selections on Preiser's disk—but it does not contain, surprisingly, the Ah! Perfido, or the two arias from A Masked Ball. If you admire this superb singer, you must get Preiser's release.
Bulgarian soprano Anna Tomowa-Sintow (b. 1941) has enjoyed a long career specializing in Strauss and Verdi, as well as Mozart and lighter Wagner roles. She was a favored soprano with Herbert von Karajan and Kurt Masur, and here is a CD of recordings made in December 1974 when she was at the height of her career. Kurt Masur conducts the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in these arias of Tchaikovsky, Verdi and Strauss. This is a fine memento of Tomawa-Sintow, a worthy addition to her discography.
Testament has done a great favor for operaphiles, particularly the multitude of admirers of Maria Callas. Her famous May 26, 1951 Maggio Musicale Fiorentino performance of I Vespri Siciliani has been issued several times, but now we can hear this remarkable performance in far superior sound. Testament had access to a private recording made for EMI producer Walter Legge. When the recording was made, Legge had no interest in the overture, so it was not recorded and although Testament could have inserted the overture from another source, they elected not to do so, which shouldn't matter much to collectors—and it does make it possible to get the entire opera (minus overture) onto two very well filled disks. There's a synopsis of the opera's action, and the libretto can be downloaded on PDF form from the Testament WEBSITE A very important release! I question the choice of photograph for the cover showing Callas and conductor Erich Kleiber. The unflattering costume rather makes the famous soprano look like a big white rabbit.
R.E.B. (January 2008)