GERALDINE FARRAR - Complete Victor recordings 1907-1909
Arias from Madama Butterfly, Tannhöuser, Don Giovanni, Mefistofele, La Boh╦me, Carmen, Manon, Marriage of Figaro, Mignon, Faust, Tosca, Don Giovanni and Tales of Hoffman; Scottish and other songs.
Geraldine Farrar, soprano
ROMOPHONE 81036 (2 CDs) (F) (ADD) TT:  2 hrs. 23 min.

POL PLANÇON - Complete Victor recordings 1903-1908
Arias from La Sonnambula, Le Ca´d, La Damnation de Faust, Rom╚o et Juliette, Faust, Le Chalet, Phil╚mon et Baucis, Il Flauto Magico, Dinorah, Don Carlos, Martha, ╔toile du Nord, Robert le Diable and Mignon; other music of Adam, Faure, Niedermeyer, Schumann, Godard, Gounod, Massenet, Haydn, Ferrari, Georges, Bemberg, Flegier and Rossini
Pol Plan┴on, bass
ROMOPHONE 82991 (2 CDs) (F) (ADD) TT:  2 hrs. 22 min.

FEODOR CHALIAPIN - A  Vocal Portrait
Acoustic Recordings (1907-1924):  Arias from Don Giovanni, Norma, Lucrezia Borgia, Roberto le Diavolo, Ernani, Don Carlos, La Boh╦me, Lakme, The Demon, Prince Igor, songs of Mussorgsky, Korganov, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Glazunov, Brahms, Grieg and traditional
Electric Recordings (1926-1936):  Arias from Il Barbiere di Siviglia, La Sonnambula, Faust, Mefistofele, Don Quichotte, Ruslan and Ludmila, Sadko, Boris Godunov, Aleko; music of Mussorgsky, Rubinstein and traditional songs.
Feodor Chaliapin, bass
NAXOS 8.110748/9 (2 CDs) (B) (ADD) TT:  79:07 & 77:50

Three more essential releases for the vocal collector!  American soprano Geraldine Farrar, born in Melrose, Mass. Feb . 28, 1882, began her career working with a voice teacher in her neighborhood.  She had the great luck to meet the famous tenor Jean de Reszke who, impressed by her talent - doubtless by her beauty as well - encouraged further study.  A generous sponsor gave her $30,000 (a great deal of money at that time! - when her career was established she repaid it) so she and her mother could go to Europe.  She studied first with Trabadello in Paris and then with Graziani in Berlin.  Her voice - and doubtless her beauty - attracted attention of the Crown Prince which might have had something to do with the 19-year old girl making her debut at the Berlin Opera Oct. 15, 1901 as Marguerite in Faust with Karl Muck conducting. In 1904 she cultivated an association with King Oscar of Sweden to the extent that he awarded her the gold cross of the Order of Merit, for her singing of course!  Always confident and aware of her glamour, beauty and vocal ability, throughout her entire career Farrar was publicity conscious and did everything she could to keep her name before the public.  Her Met debut was Nov. 26, 1906 in Gounod's Rom╚o et Juliet and the following year she sang Cio-Cio-San at the Met premiere of Madama Butterfly.  Puccini directed rehearsals, and the cast also included Louise Homer, Antonio Scotti, and Enrico Caruso with whom she frequently appeared thereafter.  She retired from the Met in 1922 when only 40; while there she had created the title character in Puccini's Suor Angelica and the Goose Girl in Humperdinck's Kľnigskinder.  She lived to the hilt, made several silent films and had a 7-year passionate love affair with Arturo Toscanini that ended when the conductor refused to leave his wife and marry her.  Assumption of heavier roles caused vocal problems and she had a not-too-successful  operation on her vocal chords in 1918.  Farrar was able to continue giving recitals until 1931, and died at her home in Ridgefield, Conn. Mar. 11, 1967.  This fine Romophone set contains 45 recordings made for Victor 1907-1909, featuring operatic arias as well as songs and The Star Spangled Banner, all recorded with "the Victor Orchestra" and an anonymous conductor. Her voice recorded well - and it is fascinating to hear the Butterfly excerpts sung by a soprano who had been coached by the composer.  Seth B. Winner's transfers are superb.

The other Romophone issue is devoted to French bass Pol Plan┴on (1851-1914) unquestionably one of the greatest singers of all time.  His voice was not as powerful as many or as beautiful, but his technique and artistry remain unchallenged. How fortunate we are he made many recordings; this set contains the complete Victor recordings - 46 of them - made from 1903-1908.  In spite of the acoustic process, his voice recorded very well although the piano/orchestra accompaniments sound quite dated.  Included are many of Plan┴on's featured roles all sung with taste and technical perfection.   As Henry Pleasants says in his fine CD notes, "there is the vocal virtuosity, notably in the most famous of his performances, the song of the drum-major from Thomas's Le Cöid with its unique display of rapid runs, turns, trills and staccati, never duplicated nor even approached by any other bass."  Or try the aria from Flotow's Martha with its incredible trill.  Ward Marston's transfers are perfection, as usual with this archive artist.

The two sets above should be obtained as soon as possible. It is sad indeed that this quality label - Romophone - which has served vocal collectors so splendidly for the past decade - has decided to close shop.  You might visit their website to find out what is still available, and wise collectors will get what they wish while these superb recordings are still available:

Artistry of another remarkable bass, Feodor Chaliapin (1873-1938) has been rather well documented on CD, most recently on this site with the latest expanded issue of his live 1928 Covent Garden performance of Boris Godounov (REVIEW).  EMI's CD in their Great Recordings of the Century series (61009) has disappeared, Preiser's issues (Song Book - 89207, 2 CDs and 89030) are still in the catalog, but the Nimbus items have disappeared.  Thus the new Naxos 2-CD set called A Vocal Portrait is particularly valuable - and at budget price.  The first CD contains acoustic recordings made from 1908/1924 - 22 of them, and the second consists of 18 electric recordings dating from 1926/1936 including the final scene from Boris. Chaliapin's operatic interpretations tended to be larger than life but always were vocally and dramatically secure.  For an example of his artistry in song literature, try his remarkable Persian Love Song by Anton Rubinstein in which he spins out soft phrases in the upper register with ease and sensitivity. No texts, but complete recording information - and impeccable transfers by Ward Marston.

R.E.B. (March 2003)