OFFENBACH:  The Tales of Hoffman
Raoul Jobin (Hoffman); Renèe Doria (Olympia); Vina Bovy (Giulietta); Géori-Boué (Antonia); Hélène Delahaye (Stella); Fanèly Revoil (Nicklausse); Renée Faure (The Muse); Councillor Lindorf (Louis Musy); André Pernet (Coppelius); Simone Borghese (The Voice of Antonia's Mother); Chorus and Orchestra of the Opéra-Comique, Paris/André Cluytens, cond.
NAXOS 8.110214/5 (2 CDs) (B) (ADD) TT:  57:37 & 72:13

STRAUSS:  Der Rosenkavalier (abridged)
Lotte Lehmann (Marschallin); Maria Olszewska (Octavian); Elisabeth Schumann (Sophie); Richard Mayr (Baron Ochs); Victor Madin (Faninal); Anne Machalsky (Marianne); Hermann Gallos (Valzacchi); Bella Paalen (Annina); Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Robert Heger, cond.
NAXOS 8.110191/2 (2 CDs) (B) (ADD) TT:  71:06 & 70:58

This famous recording of Tales of Hoffman recorded in 1948, the first ever made, recently was previouisly issued at mid-price on Preiser.  For Ken Meltzer's comments, see his (REVIEW).  This is an extraordinary totally French performance of Offenbach's setting of the sad loves of the poet Hoffman.  Casting here could not be bettered, with sound surprisingly vivid for its era.  The Naxos issue, magnificently transferred by Ward Marston, has 39 tracks and although there is no complete libretto, there is an explanation of the scenario for each track.  Preiser's issue offers only a cast listing and identification of the 28 tracks - and costs considerably more.

The 1933 recording of most important segments of Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier has already has been issued on EMI as a Great Recording of the Century.  The cast is exemplary—Lotte Lehmann's Marschallin is near definitive, Maria Olszewska is a perfect Octavian, and there never was a better Sophie than Elisabeth Schumann.  All three singers were in their prime at the time; Richard Mayr as Baron Ochs was a bit past his, but he has the stamp of authority—he often sang the role for the composer after the Dresden premiere in 1911. This  performance, though abbreviated, must be in all Strauss operatic collections and we are indebted to Naxos for making it available in this outstanding new transfer by Mark Obert-Thorn. Of major interest here is the substantial "filler" - 43-minutes of excerpts from Rosenkavalier performed by "legendary singers." Indeed, they are that. Richard Tauber's 1920 acoustic Italian Singer's aria (recorded transposed down) and two scenes with Lehmann and Mayr recorded in 1927 feature some music not recorded in their "complete" version. Live recordings of excerpts from Acts I and III featuring Barbara Kemp (a favorite Strauss singer of her era) recorded in 1928 were previously issued on Preiser (REVIEW).  Also there are excerpts sung by Richard Mayr and Anni Andrassy with Bruno Walter conducting recorded in 1929, Alexander Kipnis and Else Ruziczka with Erich Orthmann conducting recorded in 1931—as well as a scene with Conchita Supervia and Ines Maria Ferraris recorded in 1928 sung in Italian.

As with Hoffmann, there is no libretto but a detailed track-by-track description.  Again, kudos to everyone involved in both of these quality budget reissues.

R.E.B. (October 2002)