MARCELLA SEMBRICH  Victor Recordings (1904-08)
Arias from Rigoletto, La Sonnambula, Faust, Don Giovanni, Lucia di Lammermoor, Ernani, Don Pasquale, The Marriage of Figaro, Martha, The Barber of Seville, Hamlet, Mignon, Norma, I Puritani, Alessandro and The Merry Widow; music of Johann Strauss, Richard Strauss, Schumann, Chopin, Arditi, Bishop, Arne, Moniuszko, Alabiev, Hahn and Schubert
ROMOPHONE 81026 (2 CDs) (F) (ADD) TT:  75:11 & 74:42


MARCELLA SEMBRICH  Victor Recordings (1908-1919)
Arias from Rigoletto, Lucia di Lammermoor, Semiramide, Linda di Chamounix, I Vespri Siciliani, The Merry Widow, Ernani, La Traviata and Waltz Dream; music of Johann Strauss, Jr., Barbieri, Lillejebjorn, Fall, Rubinstein, Massenet, Manney, Fisher, Stebbins, Paderewski, and anonymous composers.  Also Bettini and Mapleson Cylinder recordings of arias from The Magic Flute, La Traviata, Daughter of the Regiment and Ernani, and music of Johann Strauss, Jr. and Arditi
ROMOPHONE 81027 (2 CDs) (F) (ADD) TT:  64:37 & 75:49


Polish soprano Marcella Sembrich (1858-1935) began studying piano when only four and two years later studied the violin as well. When twelve years old she studied piano with Wilhelm Stengler at the Lemberg Conservatory (she later married him); her artistry on both piano and violin impressed Franz Liszt who advised her to study singing as well. Voice studied began in Vienna in 1875 and two years later she made her operatic debut in Athens as Elvira in I Puritani.  After two years at the Dresden Opera, she performed in London to enormous success and began her world-wide appearances in Paris, Brussels, Milan, Vienna, Berlin and Stockholm.  In 1883 Sembrich sang Lucia in the opening season of the Metropolitan Opera, where she performed often, her last appearance in 1909.  While at the Met she sang a wide variety of roles including Lucia (41 performances), Violetta (47), Queen of the Night (26), Rosina (65), Mimi (27), Zerlina (21), Marguerite in Huguenots (22), Gilda (28) and once even sang Eva in Meistersinger.  She was one of the first major singers to present lieder recitals.  Sembrich retired from the stage in 1909, and taught singing in Berlin and Lausanne.  After 1924 she was head of the voice faculty at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and at the Juilliard School of Music in New York.

We are indebted to Romophone and Ward Marston who produced the fine transfers heard here.  We must remember that when these were made Sembrich was towards the end of her performing career - she already had been on the opera stage for more than two decades.  The acoustic recording process was not overly kind to the soprano voice, but listening to these performances one can surely appreciate the soprano's artistry, technical mastery, and enthusiasm for the music.  Here is an opportunity to hear one of the supreme sopranos of the turn of the century not only in excerpts from some of her most famous roles, but with some of her famous associates:  Enrico Caruso, Antonio Scotti, Marcel Journet and Emma Eames.  In some cases we have not only the published takes but unpublished ones as well, in one case (Consecration by Manney) all five unpublished takes recorded in 1919 when her voice had diminished considerably.  Of particular interest is inclusion, in the second volume, of the famous Bettini cylinder 1900 recording of Voci di primavera (which has incredibly fine sound for its vintage), her eight Mapleson cylinders from 1900-1903, and the six 1903 Columbia "Grand Opera" recordings in their best transfers to date. 

For those who love opera and its history this is an indispensable set, a class production of important recordings, with informative program notes by Harold Bruder and a number of fine photographs showing a matronly woman whom one would not suspect was one of the leading coloratura sopranos of her time.

R.E.B. (November 2002)