STRAUSS: Final Scenes from Salome and Capriccio. Four Last Songs.
Nina Stemme, soprano; Royal Opera House Orch/Antonio Pappano, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 78797 TT: 56:22

Arias from Alceste, Don Giovanni, La Cenerentola, Semiramide, Ernani, Aida, Lohengrin, Tristan and Isolde, Tosca, Herodiade, The Damnation of Faust, L'Enfant prodigue, Atlanta and Gitanjali
Rose Bampton, soprano; various orch/cond.
PREISER 89675 TT: 79:03

Arias from Norma, William Tell, The Huguenots, Il trovatore, La forza del destino, Aida, Andrea Chenier, Otello, La fanciulla del west and Turandot
Mario Filippeschi, tenor; various orch/cond.
PREISER 89671 TT: 79:37

Arias from The Abduction from the Seraglio, Fidelio, Der Freischütz, Macbeth, I vespri siciliani, Tannhäuser, The Flying Dutchman, Das Rheingold, Götterdämmerung, Parsifal, Boris Godunov and Der Rosenkavalier
Ludwig Weber, bass; various orch/cond.
PREISER 89673 TT: 79:36

Decca 475 8465 (5 CDS)

Swedish soprano Nina Stemme already has appeared in leading opera houses of the world in a wide range of demanding roles ranging from Mozart through Puccini and Verdi—all to considerable acclaim. She attracted much attention for her Isolde in EMI's recent recording of Tristan and Isolde with Plácido Domingo, and rightfully so—it was an impressive performance in every way. Now exclusive with EMI, Stemme's first solo disk is an all Richard Strauss CD containing the final scenes from Capriccio and Salome, as well as Four Last Songs. As Isolde, her voice displayed icy security with plenty of volume—at least in a studio recording. On this Strauss disk she displays a wide vibrato with stridency better suited to Salome than the Countess or Four Last Songs. It's quite an unpleasant sound, at least as recorded here. Complete texts are provided in German, English and French, and EMI has even gone to the expense of including the brief utterances of Herod (Gerhard Siegel) and Herodias (Liora Grodnikaite) just before the final pages of Salome. However, when I wish to hear any of this music it won't be from this recording.

Cleveland-born Rose Bampton (1907) began her auspicious career as a mezzo. Leopold Stokowski chose her to sing El amor brujo and to record the role of Wood Dove in Gurre-Lieder in 1932. Bampton's first Met performance was as Laura in La gioconda (with Rosa Ponselle, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, Armando Borgioli and Tancredi Pasero—what a performance that must have been!). Bampton then moved to soprano and dramatic soprano roles after working with Lotte Lehmann. Arturo Toscanini chose Bampton for his Fidelio broadcast of 1944, and her 1948 live recording of Daphne under Erich Kleiber has long been treasured by collectors. Preiser's well-mastered disk samples both mezzo and soprano roles recorded from 1932-1946, many of which are conducted by her husband, Wilfred Pelletier. For a soprano who began as a mezzo, Bampton shows total security in the arias from Ernani and Aida—that dreaded high C in "O patria mia" is remarkable.Those interested in this soprano should also investigate Vai Audio's CD (1084) that contains many recordings not heard on Preiser's new CD (there are only three duplications).  

Mario Filippeschi (1907-1979) had the disadvantage of singing at a time when there was a good supply of outstanding tenors. Filippeschi began studying voice in 1930 and seemed to be a natural because of his easily-produced high notes, and his good looks were a plus. His debut in 1937 as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor was a huge success. For some years he concentrated on lyric tenor repertory , but soon advanced into heavier roles with much acclaim. In 1950 he sang Cavaradossi to Maria Callas's Tosca in Mexico, a performance available on Myto. Filippeschi retired from opera in 1961 although he still was in top form. Preiser's CD offers recordings made from 1951-1956 that display the tenor's best features and fearless attacks on high notes. He would be welcome on today's operatic stages.

Another valuable Preiser disk offers one of the finest basses of the century—Ludwig Weber (1899-1974). Weber participated in many famous recordings including Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with Furtwängler recorded at Bayreuth in 1954, where he also appeared with conductors Clemens Krauss, Hans Knappertsbusch, Herbert von Karajan and Joseph Keilberth. The earliest recording on Preiser's release is an impressive excerpt from Boris Godunov recorded in 1938; other recordings range from 1949 to 1955, when Weber was in his prime.

Decca has issued some terrific super-budget priced multiple disk sets that offer extraordinary value. The one mentioned above contains five jewel-boxes with near-maximum playing time for each disk. Don't expect documentation of any kind other than a listing of contents and performers—but what performers they are! Over the years the label has recorded many of the greatest singers and you'll find most of them here—including Pavarotti, Horne, Sutherland, Berganza, Del Monaco, Tebaldi, Corelli et al. For a complete listing of contents, go to DECCACLASSICS.COM Other super-budget releases include multiple disk sets of Romance, Audio Experience, Baroque and Relaxation. A wonderful way to build a substantial collection and obtain many outstanding performances at give-away prices.

R.E.B. (July 2007)