ENRICO CARUSO (Complete recordings Volume 11)
BENIAMINO GIGLI (The Gigli Edition Volume 4)
German coloratura soprano Adele Kern (1901-1980) was a protégé of conductor Clemens Krauss, made her debut in Vienna in 1927 in Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, and instantly became a favorite at the State Opera. She sang all of the big coloratura roles and also was well known for her Mozart. Kern had a phenomenal technique with the ability to toss off with the greatest of ease the most intricate coloratura passages—just listen to her super-elaborate version of Una voce poco fa (sung in German as are all opera arias on this CD). We also have the opportunity to hear her Mozart, Zerbinetta's big aria from Ariadne, a charming Musetta's Waltz, excerpts from Der Rosenkavalier, and varied other repertory. All of these recordings were made 1929-1933. Some of Kern's highest notes seem a bit pinched, which might be the recording quality—but remember seventy years ago there was no editing and these are complete takes.
Greek soprano Margherita Perras (1908-1984) studied in Berlin and, after a school performance of Don Pasquale, was offered a contract by Bruno Walter for the Berlin City Opera where she performed for three years before moving on to the Vienna State Opera. She was best known for her Mozart, particularly Constanza in The Abduction from the Seraglio, but she also sang Puccini (Tosca, Madama Butterfly, Liu in Turandot), Verdi (La traviata, Rigoletto), and coloratura roles in Ariadne auf Naxos and The Barber of Seville. HMV recordings heard on Preiser's CD were made from 1935-1937 and all are sung in German. We have the opportunity to hear Perras with tenor Walther Ludwig in a duet from Carmen, and with tenor Helge Rosvaenge in an excerpt from Tosca. Both of these Preiser CDs are of enormous interest for collectors as Kern and Perras, two major figures on the early 20th century opera scene, are scantily represented on CD. As usual, Preiser's transfers are superb.
Naxos has now issued Volume 11 in their Enrico Caruso series, this one featuring recordings made 1918-1919 in Camden, New Jersey, with the Victor Orchestra conducted by Josef Pasternack. Caruso was still in his prime in this fascinating assortment including patriotic songs (Over There, Le Régiment de Sambre et Meuse, Inno di Garibaldi, La Campana di San Guisto) and brief excerpts from operas with other famous singers of the time (La forza del destino with baritone Giuseppe De Luca, Samson and Delilah with mezzo-soprano Louise Homer and bass Marcel Journet, and L'Elisir d'Amore with De Luca). Program notes are provided along with complete documentation. Also included is Costa's Sei morta ne la vita mia which previously was issued only as a "Special Christmas l947" issue for Victor dealers. These are all new restorations by Ward Marston, sounding better than ever. All volumes in this remarkable series are highly recommended.
Naxos also supplies the fourth volume in their Beniamino Gigli series devoted to the tenor's "single"—song and aria recordings not part of complete opera recordings, including every published alternative take and some recordings never before issued. Recordings are presented in the order in which they were recorded, and this CD contains Camden and New York recordings from 1926-1927. Included are a number of Italian songs as well as 1926 recordings of duets from La forza del destino, La bohème and La gioconda in which he is joined by Titta Ruffo. Even though the baritone was only 49 at the time, he was in poor voice at the end of an illustrious career. A year later all three duets were redone with baritone Giuseppe De Luca who, even though about the same age as Ruffo, was in fine vocal condition. The Forza and Bohème remakes are on this CD; the Gioconda will be in Volume 5. These recordings originally were issued at full price on Romophone in 1996. For the Naxos, reissue producer Mark Obert-Thorn has further remastered his earlier transfers for Romophone. They sound just wonderful indeed. This is yet another admirable series from Naxos.
R.E.B. (April 2004)