CILEA: Poveri fiori from Adriana Lecouvreur. SMETANA: Dobrá! Já mu je dám! Jak je mi? from Dalibor. TCHAIKOVSKY: Pochudilis mne budto golosa from Oprichnik. PUCCINI: Vissi d'arte from Tosca. KORNGOLD: Ich ging zu ihm from Das Wunder der Heliane. GOUNOD: Le ciel rayonne, l'oiseau chante...O légère hirondelle from Mireille. STRAUSS: Orchesterzwischenspiel/Wie umgibst du mich mit Frieden from Die Liebe der Danae. RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Tsvetï moi! from Servila. VERDI: Tacea la notte..Di tale amor from Il trovatore. MASSENET: J'ai versé le poison dans cette coupe d'or from Cléopatre. JANACEK: Mamicko, mám tezkou hlavu..Kdo to je? from Jenufa. KORNGOLD: Ich soll ihn niemals, niemals mehr sehn from Die Kathrin.
Renée Fleming, soprano; Marinsky Theater Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
DECCA B007405 TT: 67:27

BEETHOVEN: Abscheulicher from Fidelio. WEBER: Ozean, du Ungeheuer / Traure, mein Herz, um entschwundenes Glück from Oberon. WAGNER: Traft ihr das Schiff im Meere an from The Flying Dutchman. VERDI: Rings liegt alles im Schlafe /Schon sinkt der Abend / Dieser Flecken kommt immer wieder from Macbeth. Frieden, Frieden from La forza del destino. Bald kommt Radames..O Vaterland from Aida. Nun in der nächt' gen Stille from Othello. PUCCINI: In diesem Schlosse from Turandot. D'ALBERT: Ich weiss nicht, wer mein Vater war from Tiefland. STRAUSS: Das war sehrt gut, Mandryka from Arabella.
Leonie Rysanek, soprano; various orch/cond.

VERDI: Ritorna vincitor! / Pur ti riveggo, mia dolce Aida from Aida. MASCAGNI: Tu qui, Santuzza? / No, no Turiddu / Als euer Sohn einst fortzog from Cavalleria Rusticana. LEONCAVALLO: Warum denn hieltest du mich schend umfangen? from Pagliacci. PUCCINI: Un po' di vero c'è / Un bel di verdremo / Che tua madre dovrà from Madama Butterfly. Qual occhio al mondo / Nur der Schönheit weiht' ich mein Leben from Tosca. Der ersten Tränen from Turandot. D'ALBERT: Sein bin ich! Sein Eigentum! from Tiefland. Psyche wandelt durch Säulenhallen from Tie toten Augen. DVORAK: Lieblicher Mond, so silberzart from Rusalka. PACINI: L'ama ognor qualio from Saffo. BIZET: Ja, die Liebe hat bunte Flügel / Draussen am Wall von Sevilla from Carmen. HALÉVY: Er kommt zurück from Die Jüden. GIORDANO: Welch' ein Duft! / Gott, der gerecht ist from Fedora.
Mafalda Salvatini, soporano; various orch/cond.

MUSSORGSKY: Sunless Song Cycle. Six Songs. Songs and Dances of Death (orch. Shostakovich). RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Excerpts from Sadko and The Tsar's Bride. Eight Songs.TCHAIKOVSKY: Excerpt from The Snow Maiden. Eleven Songs. PROKOFIEV: Russian Folksongs, Op. 104. SHOSTAKOVICH: Seven Romances on Verses by Alexander Blok. Five Satires.
Galina Vishnevskaya, soprano; London Philharmonic Orch/Mstislav Rostropovich, pianist & conductor
EMI CLASSICS 65008 (3 CDs) TT: 76:33 / 65:44 / 58:44

Birgit Nilsson (Salome); Gerhard Stolze (Herod); Grace Hoffman (Herodias); Eberhard Wächter (Jokanaan); Waldemar Kmentt (Narraboth); Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Sir Georg Solti, cond.
LONDON 475 7528 (2 CDs) TT: 99:26

Renée Fleming's latest disk is her tribute to "great divas of the past" including Mary Garden, Maria Jeritza, Geraldine Farrar, Lotte Lehmann, Emmy Destinn, Magda Olivero, and a brief mention in CD notes of Rosa Ponselle (with a full-page picture). Of the 12 roles heard on this CD, in five languages, only one—Jenufa—has been performed by Fleming on stage. Fleming is in fine form and Gergiev's indulgent conducting gives her ample opportunity to display her gorgeous voice. "Vissi d'arte" is over the top with extended notes at the climax that would bring down the house in a live performance. The brief excerpt from Rimsky-Korsakokv's Servilia, unheard since the 1902 premiere, is a gem. One might expect Fleming's voice would be perfect for the unjustly neglected extraordinary aria from Korngold's Miracle of Heliane, but those familiar with Lotte Lehman's 1928 recording will realize what is missing. Lehman sang the Vienna premiere and her recording of this music (available on Preiser 89189) is definitive. However, there is much to enjoy here, and the only possible debit is the cover photo of Fleming in which she rather resembles Carol Burnett as Nora Desmond. Recorded sound is broad and spacious. Complete texts are provided.

Leonie Rysanek is a magic name for operaphiles, and here we have an opportunity to hear her favored repertory of the early '50's, many performances from live German radio broadcasts. The Verdi and Puccini are sung in German, Rysanek is in good voice, that high "C" in O patria mia (here O Vaterland), doesn't faze her one bit. Recorded sound is excellent; no texts.

Italian soprano Malfada Salvatini (1888-1971) is another superb singer of the past relatively unknown to most collectors. Most of her career was focused on Berlin where in 1926 she sang in that city's premiere of Turandot. She also performed in Dresden and Vienna and, surprisingly, never in Italy. When she married the Lithuanian ambassador to Germany in 1930 she retired from the stage. These recordings were made from 1919 to 1930 for Grammophon and Odeon, and many are sung in German. She obviously was a singer of imagination as well as power. In excerpts from Aida, Cavalleria rusticana, Madama Butterfly and Tosca she is heard, unfortunately, with tenor Hermann Jadlowker who surely was not in his best form at the time. As usual, Preiser's transfers are first-rate.

Vocal collectors surely will be interested in the EMI Classics budget reissue of many of soprano Galina Vishnevskaya's finest recordings made from 1974 to 1978. Some of these were issued several years ago in EMI's Great Recordings of the Century series; now, for a few dollars more, the collector can have them all. This period was a bit late in Vishnevskaya's career; she began singing with the Bolshoi Opera in 1953 and made her Met debut in 1961. She married Mstislav Rostropovich in 1955 and they often performed and recorded together. On these CDs we can hear music of Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich, who was a good friend of theirs. There are no texts, but, after all, this is budget price.

In 1958 famed producer John Culshaw recorded Decca's magnificent first installment in their Ring cycle, Das Rheingold. In his fascinating book Putting The Record Straight, Culshaw explains as a publicity stunt it was announced they developed a new approach to operatic recording and in this recording the sound of the Rheinmaidens would be heard from below the Rainbow Bridge—which some critics actually heard although, of course, in regular stereo this effect is impossible. True, the sound can be altered somewhat, but would never actually be heard in a verticle plane. This 1961 recording of Salome also created a sensation at the time of its release.As a gimmick, Decca announced they had developed another new recording process which they called Sonic Stage—actually not different from anything they had done before, although some critics seemed to think it was. There's no question sonic quality on this recording is remarkable in its presence and impact. Interpretively Nilsson really wasn't right for the role of the young princess. However. aside from a few slightly off-pitch notes, she surely could sing it—and this reissue cover has the same rather odd photo of the soprano used on the origiinal release. The remainder of the cast is superb, the VPO magnificent, and Solti is right at home in this rich score. The set includes a complete German/English libretto and sells for the price of two mid-price CDs.

R.E.B. (November 2006)