Arias and scenes from Le Nozze di Figaro, Fidelio, Die Verkaufte Braut, Eugen Onegin, Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Un ballo in maschera, La forza del destino, Aida and Madama Butterfly
Sena Jurinac, soprano, with orch. cond. by Herbert von Karajan, Lovro von Matacic, Wilhelm Schüchter, Walter Martin, John Pritchard and Berislav Klobucar
GALA  GL 100.529 (2 CDs) (B) TT:  75:03 & 76:14

Sena Jurinac, lyric soprano regarded by Lotte Lehmann as her truest successor, was born in Yugoslavia Oct. 24, 1921, daughter of a physician and his Viennese wife. In 1939 she began her vocal studies with Milka Kostrencic who already had taught Zinka Milanov. After attending the Zagreb Music Academy she made her major operatic debut in 1942 with the Zagreb Opera as Mimi in La Bohème. Nedda in Pagliacci, Marguerite in Faust and the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro followed. After her first appearance with the Vienna State Opera in 1945, as Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, she became an enormous success there in a wide variety of roles, making Vienna her artistic center for the remainder of her career. Jurinac also appeared in major festivals, at La Scala, Covent Garden, and was a particular favorite at the Metropolitan Opera. 

Her voice is a model of beauty, secure intonation and ample power for the roles she sang. She wisely declined repeated offers to sing Salome, Aida (although she recorded arias), Carmen and the more taxing Wagner, as well as turning down Rudolf Bing's offer to perform Vanessa.  

Jurinac's repertory was broad, ranging from Poppea in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea to the title role in Janácek's Jenufa.  She was best known for her Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier and Madama Butterfly.  Jurinac sang Leonore in Fidelio for the first time in 1961 at Covent Garden conducted by Otto Klemperer followed by a number of other performances of the role including two conducted by Karajan in Vienna, and recorded the opera  for Westminster with Hans Knappertsbusch on the podium. She also recorded several Mozart opera for EMI and Rosenkavalier for Decca.  The latest Schwann Artist catalog contains only nine listings for Jurinac the most intriguing of which is a live performances of  Rosenkavalier (Knappertsbusch, 1955).  

This new budget Gala issue is superb and displays the soprano mostly in live performances of some of her major roles.  The focus is on Fidelio, about 45 minutes of an undated Zagreb Opera production conducted by Lovro von Matacic, but the major attraction for most will be scenes and arias from Madama Butterfly recorded in Vienna March 25, 1960 with Berislav Klobucar conducting.  Ermanno Lorenzi is Pinkerton, Hilde Rössel-Majdan, Suzuki.  Jurinac's Cio-Cio-San is on a grand scale; this is no mincing young Japanese girl.  After her Vienna debut in the role a critic wrote, "Sena Jurinac lives this life. She doesn't appeal to the audience to share her grief.  Because she doesn't play, sing, or think for the audience...her movements, her voice, her mere existence are so expressive, so gripping, moving (and yet never sentimental) in such a marvelous manner, that one starts to wonder whether this, what's happening before our indiscreet eyes, is still drama, is still play."

Verdi is represented by 1950 studio recordings of the two major arias each  from Un ballo in maschera and Aida plus a live performance from the 1955 Edinburgh Festival of two excerpts from La forza del destino.  Also dating from 1950 are arias from Die Verkaufte Braut,  Les Contes d'Hoffmann and a particular touching account of Tatiana's Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin, sung in German, as was Ljuba Welitsch's 1948 recording.

Jurinac's final performance was in November 1982 at the Vienna State Opera when she sang the Marschallin in Rosenkavalier, an appropriate end to a sterling career This Gala set is a fine memento of her artistry, with excellent sound quality, complete recording information—but no texts.  At full price this would be highly recommended—at budget price it is a steal.

R.E.B. (July 2001)