PAOLO SILVERI II
Arias from The Barber of Seville, I Puritani, Ernani, Nabucco, La forza del destino, Otello, La Gioconda, The Pearl Fishers, Carmen, Il Re di Lahore, Herodiade, Hamlet, Prince Igor, and songs of Gastaldon, Denza and Rotoli
Paolo Silveri, baritone, with various orchestras and conductors
PREISER 89573 (F) (ADD) TT: 78:21
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BERNARDO DE MURO
Arias from Il trovatore, Don Carlo, Aida, Otello, Carmen, Andrea Chenier, Iris, Isabeau, La Fanciulla del West and Il piccolo Marat
Bernardo De Muro, tenor, with various supporting singers, orchestras and conductors
PREISER 89572 (F) (ADD) TT: 75:18
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ERICH KUNZ
Arias from The Marriage of Figaro, Cosi fan tutte, Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute, Die Meistersinger, Der lustige Krieg, Eine Nacht in Venedig, Der Zigeunerbaron, Der Vogelhändler, Die Schützenliesel, and songs of Fellner-Schneider, Krakauer and Pick
Erich Kunz, bass-baritone with various orchestras and conductors
PREISER 90550 (F) (ADD) TT: 78:18
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IRMA KOLASSI
FAURE: La Chanson d'Ève, Op. 95. RAVEL: Cinq mélodies populaires grecques. MILHAUD: Poèms juifs, Op. 34. AUBERT: Six poèmes arabes. Two Popular Greek Songs
Irma Kolassi, mezzo-soprano; André Collard and Jacqueline Bonneau, pianists
TESTAMENT SBT 1291 (F) (ADD) TT: 74:57
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PUCCINI: Tosca
Simona dall'Argine (Tosca); Nino Scattolini (Mario Cavaradossi); Scipio Colombo (Scarpia); Alfred Poell (Angelotti); Karl Donch (A Sacristan); Waldemar Kmentt (Spoletta); Harald Pröglhöf (Sciarrone); Walter Berry (A Jailer); Hans Breitschopf (Shepherd Boy); Vienna Kammerchor; Vienna State Opera Orch/Argeo Quadri, cond.
PREISER 20024 (2 CDs) (M) (ADD) TT: 61:52 & 56:12
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The Paolo Silveri CD is the second on Preiser devoted to the superb baritone who was a major figure on the operatic scene for more than two decades; for more on him read the REVIEW on this site of his first CD. On the newer CD we have a number of his later recordings including many of the Columbias made from 1950 to 1952, the period when he appeared with great success at the Metropolitan Opera where he made his debut in Don Giovanni under Fritz Reiner.

Bernardo De Muro(1991-1955) is a name unfamiliar to most opera enthusiasts, doubtless because he was overshadowed by his contemporaries of the first third of the 20th century.His natural talent was enormous with total freedom and security in the upper register. After study with Alfredo Martino, De Muro was to make his debut in 1908 at Rome's Teatro Costanzi in Iris by Mascagni, but Maria Farneti, the leading soprano in the performance, refused to go on stage with a "beginner." A sensitive man, De Muro was seriously depressed by the event, and like tenor Joseph Schmidt (1904-1942) had the misfortune of being quite small in stature which kept him from performing many dramatic roles even though his voice easily could have handled them. His debut came in March 1910 in Rome as Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana, and he was soon recognized as a leading dramatic tenor of the time. A highlight of his career was the premiere in 1912 of Mascagni's Isabeau, which became his most celebrated role. At La Scala he was a partner of Feodor Chaliapin in Rimsky-Korsakov's The Maid of Pskov; he also sang often in South America and Spain. After his marriage to American singer Elena Wait, Muro settled in the United States and taught during the final years of his life. His voice sometimes has a rather coarse sound but there is no question of his power.On this CD we have four excerpts from Otello, an opera he never sang on stage because of his physical limitations, and five excerpts from his great success, Mascagni's Isabeau. In two of these he joined by Valentina Bartolomasi, an intensely dramatic soprano whose career started in 1910 and lasted but 12 years. Based on what is heard here, I'd like very much to hear her 1921 acoustic recording of Tosca. Orchestras, choruses and conductors aren't identified, and sometimes their contributions are decidedly substandard, particularly Di quella pira which opens the CD. Preiser's transfers are first-rate although a few 78rpm ticks could not be eliminated. Limited program notes, and no texts.

Vienna-born bass-baritone Erich Kunz (1909-1995) made his operatic debut in 1933 and eight years later became a member of the Vienna State Opera where he remained for most of his career, also appearing at major music festivals. Noted particularly for his Mozart, he recorded that composer with many leading conductors: Cosi fan tutte with Böhm, The Magic Flute and Marriage of Figaro with Karajan, and Don Giovanni with Furtwängler. His recordings also include Die Fledermaus (Ackermann/Karajan), The Merry Widow (Ackermann), Die Meistersinger (Böhm/Karajan), Salome (Karajan) and Ariadne auf Naxos (Böhm)..Some collectors may remember several Vanguard recordings of German University Songs, later issued on CD, in which his sense of humor was obvious. I have two of them (Vanguard OVC 6010 and VBD 731); they are a delight, but out of print. Now that Vanguard has been revived, doubtless they will reappear. This Preiser CD was recorded during Kunz's best years, in repertory in which he excels It's a maximum playing time CD (79:18), transfers are perfect. Again, limited program notes and no texts.

Greek mezzo-soprano Irma Kolassi (b. Athens 1918) had a distinguished if limited career on the concert stage;one of the highlights was a concert performance of Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex in Britain with the composer conducting. Originally Kolassi wished to be a pianist, but when her remarkable vocal quality was discovered she concentrated on developing her voice. Her life was not easy. While studying she supported herself by working on Italian radio programs broadcasting to Greece. Briefly she was at the opera in Athens but she did not perform as she found "the unpleasant bawling of her colleagues on the stage too unpleasant to bear." Although she didn't sing opera (she never did on stage), she became choral director and an opera coach working on the role of Leonore in Fidelio with a young Greek soprano named Maria Kalogeropoulou—who later changed her name to Maria Callas. After winning several prizes in singing, Kolassi sang occasionally with leading conductors including Josef Krips, Sir John Barbirolli and Pierre Monteux. She recorded songs of Duparc and Faure for Decca, a disk that won a Grand Prix du Disque Award for 1957. She recorded Chausson's Poème de l'amour et de la Mer with the London Philharmonic under Louis de Froment for Decca (available on London Great Voices of the 50s, Vol. II); also we have a live recording from December 1952 of Hendrik Andriessen's Miroir de Peine with Eduard van Beinum and the Concertgebouw Orchestra (Andante 4060). As so few recordings of Kolassi exist, this well-filled Testament issue is particularly valuable, containing music of Fauré, Ravel, Milhaud and Louis Aubert who was astonished when Kolassi sight-read his Poèmes arabes included on this CD. Complete texts and translations are included.

Preiser's reissue of Tosca recorded in 1951 by Westminster is an oddity. CD notes state the recording had poor sales as it was released on three LPs, while competing versions on Decca and London took only two (the Westminster recording easily could have fit onto two disks). A more important factor doubtless is that singers on the Westminster recording could not compete with casts that included Renata Tebaldi, Giuseppe Campora, Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano and Tito Gobbi. Preiser states the three main roles on this recording "are sung by singers who today would be absolute world stars." Well, hardly. dall'Argine and Scattolini are adequate, no more, although Scipio Colombo is a superb Scarpia who had a distinguished career in Italy and whose credits include performing in the world premiere of Poulenc's Les Dialogues des Carmélites. Of greater interest is inclusion of baritones Alfred Poell and Walter Berry, both at the beginning of their careers. Sound is well-balanced mono. Limited program notes, nothing specific about any of the singers, and no libretto or synopsis.

R.E.B. (October 2003)