Arias from Mefistofele, Adriana Lecouvreur, L'Amico Fritz,
La Traviata, Tosca, La Bohème, Manon Lescaut, Suor Angelica, Resurrezione,
Loreley, Iris and Gianni Schicchi; Franck's La Procession.
Arias from The Barber of Seville, Nabucco, Ernani, Rigoletto,
Un Ballo in Maschera, Dinorah, Faust, L'Africana, Hamlet, Otello,
Chenier, Zazà, and Christopher Columbus.
Arias and scenes from Tosca, Don Carlos, Fidelio, Manon
Lescaut, Andrea Chenier, Elektra, La Bohème, Ariadne auf Naxos, Salome,
Il trovatore and Katerina Izmailova; lieder of Schubert, Brahms, Wolf and Richard
Arias from Der Freischütz, Fidelio, Lohengrin, Die Meistersinger,
La Traviata, I Pagliacci, Carmen, Othello, La Bohème, Madame Butterfly and
The Bartered Bride
Arias from Manon, La Bohème, Faust, The Pearl Fishers, Sadko,
Cavalleria rusticana; works by Tosti, Sullivan, Simons, Albeniz, Sandoval, De Crescenzo,
Schubert, Niedermayer, Rossini and De Curtis
Fortunately soprano Magda Olivero, a legendary figure in the operatic world, is quite well represented on audio and video disks. This new Preiser issue contains arias recorded during the prime of her career, the earliest from 1939, the latest 1953. Her unique voice with its delicate controlled vibrato, wide range and her ability to sustain notes for dramatic effect is well displayed here, including her dynamic Violetta in La traviata and two vivid excerpts from Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur. Those who love the soprano voice surely will wish to investigate this major issue. The duet from L'Amico Fritz with tenor Ferruccio Tagliavini recorded in 1940 is justification by itself for ownership of this disk.
Danacord's 2-CD set of performances by soprano Lone Koppel (pronounced "lone-uh coup-le") displays artistry of a remarkable soprano known primarily in her native Denmark and in Australia from 1973 to1978. At the Sydney Opera House, where her husband was general manager of the Australian Opera Company, Koppel sang a wide variety of roles including Salome, Elektra, Jenufa, Leonore in Fidelio, Marie, Kundry, Senta and Tosca. Included in this set are live and studio recordings from 1963-1986 with the love duet and "Vissi d'arte" from Tosca from the soundtrack for a TV production, and "Tu che le vanitá" from Don Carlos, all sung in Danish. The recognition scene from Elektra and final scene from Salome, from 1986 and 1967 (the latter sung in Danish and not including the final minutes) show Koppel to be a formidable Straussian; I'd like very much to hear her complete performances. The second CD contains six lieder of Schubert, five of Brahms and three each of Wolf and Strauss, studio recordings from 1963 with her father, Herman D. Koppel, at the piano. She isn't as effective here as in operatic repertory; perhaps Danacord will eventually issue a single disk of arias that show her at her best.
Baritone Titta Ruffo, born Ruffo Cafiero Titta (1877-1953), was known during his remarkable career as the "singing lion." Imposing physically, he had power and stamina particularly in the upper register, and this is evident recordings on this CD, made from 1914-1921 when he was at the height of his career. Ruffo's voice recorded very well and even though these are acoustic recordings the richness and vibrancy of his sound is very apparent. About a decade ago Preiser issued a 3-CD set (89303) of Ruffo recordings and although about a dozen of those are duplicated here, the new material here surely will be of interest to collectors. German tenor Peter Anders (1908-1954) so impressed director Max Reinhardt that he was hired for a big-scale 1931 production of Tales of Hoffman in which he sang a role written just for him, the reflection of the title hero—and this was the only time this "aria" was ever performed. Anders sang lighter roles earlier in his career later developing into a promising heldentenor. There were great plans for him: Norddeutscher Rundfunk was planning to record Tristan with Anders and Astrid Varnay and there was talk of his performing Parsifal in Bayreuth. However, in September 1954 after giving what turned out to be his final operatic appearance (as Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos, and a concert the next day in Plettenberg, he was in a traffic accident which caused fatal injuries. He was only 46. Preiser's CD displays the great loss to the operatic world.
Naxos continues their memorable Gigli Edition with Volume 7 which features recordings made in London, New York and Milan from 1931 to 1932, focusing on songs rather than arias although it contains music from Massenet's Manon, La Bohème, Faust and The Pearl Fishers. The famed tenor is at his idiosyncratic best, an example of the high level of tenor artistry at the time, virtually missing from today's operatic scene—at least judging by most of what has been heard on Met broadcasts this season. Mark Obert-Thorn has remastered his original Gigli transfers for the defunct Romophone company, and they are as perfect as could be. Collectors surely will want to have the entire series, particulaly attractive at budget price.
R.E.B. (April 2005)