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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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Great Swedish Singers - Rut Jacobson
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
Le nozze di Figaro (1786)
1. E Susanna non vien!... Dovre sono [6:57]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792–1868)
Le Comte Ory (1828)
2. En proie à la tristesse [7:55]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)
La traviata (1853)
3. Addio del passato [3:48]
Pyotr TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893)
Eugene Onegin (1879)
4. O! Kak mnye tyazhelo! [12:26]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858–1924)
Madama Butterfly (1904)
5. Un bel di, vedremo  [4:27]
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863–1945)
L’amico Fritz (1891)
6. Suzel, buon di … Tutto tace [8:56]
August SÖDERMAN (1832–1876)
Hin Ondes första lärospån (Le diable à lécole) (1856)
7. Helga Jungfru (Holy Virgin) [5:08]
Gösta NYSTROEM (1890–1966)
Herr Arnes penningar (Herr Arne’s Hoard) (1959)
8. Varför äter du inte? [2:51]
Lars Johan WERLE (1926–2001)
Tintomara (1973)
9. Glans, vilken glans [6:43]
Ivar HALLSTRÖM (1826-1901)
Den bergtagna (The Bride of the Mountain King) (1874)
10. Spinn, spinn gyllne sländan min [7:27]
Hertig Magnus och sjöjungfrun (Duke Magnus and the Mermaid) (1865)
11. Jag lekte som barn [2:59]
Jacopo FORONI (1825–1858)
Maître Pathelin (1858)
12. Besöka honom, stackars karl [4:18]
Rut Jacobson (soprano)
Suzanne Brenning (mezzo-soprano) (2), Harald Ek (tenor) (2), Per Stokholm (baritone) (4), Tonny Landy (tenor) (6), Busk Margit Jonsson (soprano) (8), Marie-Louise Hasselgren (mezzo-soprano) (9), Arne Tyrén (bas) (12); Chorus and Orchestra of the Stora Teatern, Gothenburg; Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra; Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Sixten Eckerberg; Okko Kamu, Styrbjörn Lindedal; Stig Rybrant; Gunnar Staern; Stig Westerberg
rec. 1959–1976
BLUEBELL ABCD097 [75:07]



In my traversal of Bluebell’s series ”Great Swedish Singers” (see list at the end of this review) I have reached soprano Rut Jacobson. For more than twenty years she was one of the foremost singers of the Gothenburg Opera. Jacobson was born in Jokkmokk in northern Sweden, just north of the Arctic Circle but quite early she moved to Stockholm, where she studied with Dagmar Gustafson, among whose pupils were Ingvar Wixell. After studies at the Royal University College of Music and Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna she made her début at the Graz Opera in 1954, where she stayed for three years, followed by one year at Volksoper in Vienna. Karajan wanted her at the State Opera but Rut didn’t feel ready for such a challenge and instead she moved to Gothenburg, where, apart from one year in Malmö, she stayed until her retirement in 1982. She appeared as guest in Stockholm and Copenhagen and gave concerts in Paris, Prague and for Italian radio; otherwise she remained loyal to the Swedish West Coast, where, in Sören Tranberg’s words in the liner notes, “[she] was to Gothenburg as Margareta Hallin to Stockholm”.
 
This disc covers a period of seventeen years, from the year of her first engagement in Gothenburg. We hear her in some of her greatest roles in the standard repertoire but also in rare Swedish operas, which makes the disc even more valuable. Some recordings were made in the opera house, most of them are broadcasts from Swedish Radio. Sound quality varies a bit but is perfectly acceptable. Compared to a live performance from Carnegie Hall in 1974 with Montserrat Caballé, which I reviewed recently, this is high-fidelity sound.
 
There is a lot of stamping on the excerpt from Le Comte Ory but otherwise there is no cause for complaint. With two exceptions – Madama Butterfly and L’amico Fritz – everything is sung in Swedish, which isn’t such a bad thing, since Swedish is a very singable language.
 
She is a deeply involved Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, anxious and warm and she spins a breathtakingly thin and beautiful pianissimo thread in the reprise of the aria. In Le Comte Ory she exhibits her expertise in coloratura and here we also get glimpses of two of Ms Jacobson’s pupils, Suzanne Brenning and Harald Ek, the latter with an international career, including a couple of seasons at Bayreuth. Jacobson is a moving Violetta and a sensitive Tatiana in the final duet from Eugene Onegin, where her real-life husband Per Stokholm is a powerful Onegin. The title role in Madama Butterfly was her favourite part and in her second act aria expresses all the mixed feelings: sorrow, longing, hope in frail but glowing tones. This is one of the high-points of the disc and it is followed by another, the Cherry duet from L’amico Fritz with Tonny Landy a lyrical and intense Fritz. Superb singing from both artists!
 
August Söderman is one of the most interesting of Swedish 19th century composers. Had he lived longer and been able to concentrate more on composing he might well have reached international status like Grieg, Svendsen and Gade from roughly the same generation. Fiamma’s prayer from the operetta Le diable à l’école, with a libretto by Fritz Arlberg, is folk-song inspired and has a wandering bass for much of the time.
 
Gösta Nystroem of Sinfonia del mare fame, got a commission from Swedish Radio to write an opera in the mid-1950s. He had in vain looked for a suitable text but he finally settled on Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlöf’s novel from 1904 Herr Arnes penningar (Herr Arne’s Hoard). Bertil Malmberg wrote the libretto It was premiered on Swedish Radio in 1959 and the short excerpt we have on this disc should be from that occasion. However, according to “Sohlmans Opera” the premiere was on 26 November 1959 and the recording here was made on 5 May. Be that as it may, Rut Jacobson is a lovely Elsalill, youthful and crystal clear in this earliest recording on the disc and the even younger Busk Margit Jonsson as her foster-sister is also splendid. Later she also took part in the first staged performance on 6 January 1961 and the cover photo shows her in the role from that occasion.
 
To mark the 200th anniversary of the Royal Stockholm Opera in 1973, Lars Johan Werle was commissioned to write an opera. Leif Söderström wrote the libretto, based on Carl Jonas Love Almqvist’s Drottningens juvelsmycke (The Queen’s jewellery), a mystic-romantic novel which partly takes place in the opera house during Gustavus III’s era. It was entitled Tintomara, after the mysterious, androgynous main character. Three years later it was produced in Gothenburg in a partly revised version. It was a great success, was shown on Swedish TV in 1977 and there was also an LP recording with highlights. The excerpt on this disc is from a performance in April 1976, less than a month after the Gothenburg premiere. Jacobson sings Clara’s aria with impressive tone, long beautiful legato phrases and occasional excursions up in the highest regions. It is a masterly composition, written with Margareta Hallin in mind, who was Clara in the Stockholm productions. This no doubt enhances Sören Tranberg’s parallel between the two sopranos.
 
The two arias from Ivar Hallström’s operas have much in common: beautiful melodies, folk inspiration and grateful music for the singer. Anna’s song from Hertig Magnus (tr. 11) is particularly lovely. The opera as a whole is well worth the acquaintance. It is available on a fine Naxos recording with young Swedish singers (8.555322-23, see the review of this performance in its Marco Polo release).

The last item is an aria from the popular buffa opera Maître Pathelin by the Italian conductor and composer Foroni, who lived in Stockholm from 1848 until his death ten years later. This opera was composed during his last year and it remained in the repertoire of the Royal Opera until 1940. The role of Guillemette was written for coloratura soprano Louise Michaëli. In the aria heard here Rut Jacobson is as mettlesome and glittering as it is possible to imagine. Arne Tyrén’s Josseaume is typically dry-voiced but expressive.
 
Considering the rarity of the Swedish works it could have been a good idea to enclose texts and translations but in the last resort it is Rut Jacobson who is the main attraction. Her singing and identification is throughout superb. Bearing in mind that she was almost fifty when the latest recording was made (Tintomara) it is remarkable how well preserved the voice is even there.
 
Göran Forsling
 
 
Earlier issues in this series
Margareta Hallin
Kjerstin Dellert
Barbro Ericson
Elisabeth Söderström
Erik Saedén
Gösta Winbergh

Nicolai Gedda
Kerstin Meyer
Ingvar Wixell
Leon Björker



 


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