Arias from Rienzi, The Flying Dutchman, Lohengrin, Die Walküre, Fidelio, Don Carlos, Pagliacci, Manon Lescaut, Girl of the Golden West, and The Bartered Bride
Hans Hopf, tenor; Orch. cond. by Rudolf Moralt, Wilhelm Loibner, Otto Ackermann, and Wolfgang Sawallisch
PREISER 89695 (F) TT: 76:39

Arias from Don Giovanni, L'Elisir d'amore, Lucia di Lammermoor, Daughter of the Regiment, La traviata, Righoletto, Mefistofeles, Die Meistersinger, The Pearl Fishers, Carmen, Lakmé, Manon, La Bohème, Joseph, , and Rossini's Li marinari
John McCormack, tenor; various orch/cond.
PREISER 89697 (F) TT: 79:10

Arias from Carmen, Samson and Delilah, Un ballo en maschera, Rigoletto, La forza del destino, La gioconda; Excerpt from Verdi Requiem, and American songs: Lover Come Back to Me, I'll Take Romance, Love Me Tonight, Hills Of Home, All Through The Night, Deep River, and You'll Never Walk Alone
Claramae Turner, mezzo-soprano; Orch. with various conductors
PREISER 89696 (F) TT: 78:27

"PASIÓN ESPANOLA" Music of Mostazo Morales, Font De Anta, Monreal Lacosta, López-Quiroga y Miquel, Merenciano Boschi, and Álvarez Alonso
Plácido Domingo, tenor; José Maria Gallardo del Rey, guitar; Orquesta de la Comunidad De Madrid/Miguel Roa, cond.

'KARITA MATTILA FEVER" American and Latin songs performed by soprano Karita Mattila with orch. cond. by Kirmo Lintinen
ONDINE ODE 1105 (F) TT: 58:10

This is a very mixed bag of vocal releases. Most important are the Preiser historic reissues. Hans Hopf (1916-1993) had a distinguished career, mostly in Europe, where he progressed from lyric to heroic to heldentenor. At Bayreuth he sang Parsifal, Tannhäuser and Siegfried, and made his Met debut in 1952 where he sang 34 performances of Wagner. He was not the most subtle tenors, but retained his reputation as a true Wagnerian tenor. Collectors can hear him in four live recordings of Die Meistersinger: (1951-Karajan; 1952-Reiner, 1952-Knappertsbusch,1956-Knappertsbusch), a 1960 studio recording of Tannhäuser conducted by Konwitschny, and Tristan from 1973 with Kleiber conducting. Hopf would be welcome on today's operatic scene. Wagner is primarily featured on Preiser's CD, along with a group of Italian arias all sung in German. Another famous tenor of the early era was John McCormack (1884-1945). McCormack had natural talent, progressing quickly in his studies. When he made his debut at Covent Garden in 1907 as Turiddu; he was only 23 years old. He created a sensation and was known for his Mozart. McCormack moved on to the Met and signed a recording contract with Victor Records. In spite of his vocal qualities, he lacked stage presence and was highly criticized for his awkward acting. Because of this, he then specialized in concert performances. His name became a household word, his popularity increased and he performed to capacity audiences wherever he appeared. Most of his recordings are of lighter repertory, but on Preiser's CD we can hear his magnificent voice in standard arias. Another welcome issue!

American mezzo Claramae Turner (b. 1920) began her career in a chorus and Gilbert and Sullivan productions. Her uncommonly rich voice attracted much attention, and after minor roles at the San Francisco Opera she was signed by the Met and made her debut in 1946 as Marthe in Faust and sang 75 performances of 14 roles. Rudolf Bing did not renew her Met contract but she appeared often with other American opera companies. Turner created the role of Madame Flora in Menotti's The Medium. She also is known for her singing Ulrica in the 1954 Toscanini broadcast of Un ballo in maschera. She also made a number of movies, best-known of which is Carousel. Turner had a distinguished, wide-ranging career. Her opulent sound is heard here in both opera and popular song, including her widely-acclaimed 1956 recording of You'll Never Walk Alone.

The current catalog lists well over 400 recordings by Plácido Domingo. Here is his latest, called "Pasión Española," a collection of 13 Spanish coplas, a form of Spanish popular music often based on folk tunes, each of which tells a story covering a wide range of human emotions, rather like a "mini opera." Often these are presented with piano or small instrumental ensemble; on this CD we hear them in orchestral version. These recordings were made in Madrid in July 2007. Complete texts in Spanish and English are provided. One might wonder why more music wasn't included: 53:49 isn't much for a full-priced disk.

I'm a great admirer of soprano Karita Mattila. She has made some sensational recordings (one of my favorites is a collection of Sibelius and Grieg songs - see REVIEW), and doubtless will continue to make more. On this new disk we hear her in live performances of Latin and American pop songs all in arrangements by pianist-conductor Kirmo Lintinen, some with backup by the trio How Many Sisters. Mattila obviously is having a good time with all this, but it all sounds overly-rehearsed. I'd rather hear her spectacular voice in repertory in which she is needed. Sound quality is excellent but, like the previous Domingo disk, playing time is rather short (58:10).

R.E.B. (June 2008)