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This is someone's monomaniacal project and opera junkies can profit enormously. Someone has collected the recordings of almost everyone that has ever made a historical recording of any opera aria and collected them together and put them on compact disks. The postman, or carrier, arrives at your house, burdened with a heavy box containing three separate cartons. Each carton contains twenty CD boxes, and each of those holds 2 CDs. Do the math: that's 40 CDs times three, or 120 compact disks. Do more math: I ordered them from a German internet site and paid DM 300 plus 16.30 shipping. That amounts to about 160 euros or about 100 Pounds Sterling!.

For those of you who suspect that reviewers sometimes do not listen to the recordings they are talking about, I hereby freely confess that I have not listened to all of these recordings. I can only begin to describe the treasures in general terms and encourage you to delve into this remarkable resource and to make your own discoveries.

Here is some cautionary advice before you go off to get your own sets. There is no Pavarotti, Fleming or Domingo here. There is not even Tebaldi, although there is some Callas. This is for the most part a collection of historical recordings and consists of recordings not in current distribution by the big labels. For instance, in Volume II, Giuseppe di Stefano gets two compact disks - about 120 minutes - but these are recordings from early in his career. The Callas disk, where the prima donna asolta is forced to share a CD case with her case-mate, Maria Cebotari, contains 55 minutes of an odd collection of music but does include that ultimate exotic treasure of all Callas fans, her rendition of the "Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde(!) plus two arias from Parsifal. There is, however, a very fine 1949 recording of a "Casta Diva" from Norma.

This brings me to something that should be mentioned at the beginning. There is only a three-page text accompanying the albums. This text, in both German and English, contains only a paragraph or two about the artists and does not indicate the origin, or often even the date, of the recordings. There is almost never an acknowledgment of the accompanying artist in these recordings and of course there is no texts. There is no indication of the orchestra or conductor playing with Callas on the Norma, for example. Maddeningly, there is sometimes no indication of the other singer in duets. There is an aria from some live performance of Trovatore (you can hear the audience noise) but which one? Paris? Mexico City? There is, as in the case of Callas, sometimes not even the suggestion of a comprehensive selection of important repertory in the artist's career. Many of the singers, however, have recording much of their own specialties so this collection is not usually as flawed as it is in the case of Callas. Consider this compilation just raw data made available at a very low price.

While we're still in this first CD case (only 59 more to go), we can look at the other disk and hear, for me the first time, a German soprano named Maria Cebotari. (At least I think she is German, the English text says she was born in "pessarabic Kischinew" wherever that is. see footnote) Reading the two paragraphs we are first surprised to learn that her dates are 1910-1949 and that leukemia was the cause of her early demise. She sang the premiere of Strauss' Die schweigsame Frau, among others, and did several films in the 1940s with Gilgi. The first aria, "Eines Tages seh'n wir" from Madame Butterfly, reveals her to be a remarkable artist, with a gorgeous and strong soprano, with stunning accuracy and musicality. Later, her "Von der Freude Blumenkränze" from La Traviata shows her to be a breathtaking coloratura virtuoso. The arias "Un belle di vedremo" and "Sempre

libera," here in their German translation, serves as a reminder that much recording in the pre-war period was not in the original language. The final aria, "Ah, du volltest mich nicht Deinen Mund küssen lassen" from Salomé, sung with chilling intensity, could easily rival the great Maria Jeritza. Cebotari is certainly an impressive discovery.

Speaking of Jeritza, can I compare the two versions? Is she here? That is not easily determined. Here is a list of the artists in just Volume One (pencils ready?): Enrico Caruso (2 disks), Fyodor Chaliapin (2), Mattia Battistini, Titta Ruffo, Pasquale Amato, Giuseppe de Luca, John McCormack, Giovanni Zenatello, Alexander Kipnis, Ezio Pinza, Richard Tauber, Tito Schipa, Beniamino Gilgi, Aureliano Pertile, Apollo Granforte, Tancredi Pasero, Lauritz Melchior, Helge Rosvaenge, Giovanni Martinelli, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, Jussi Börling, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Claudia Muzio, Luisa Tetrazini, Lotte Lehmann, Kirsten Flagstad, Amilita Galli-Curci, Elizabeth Schumann, Rose Ponselle (2), and, sharing disks, Adelina Patti, Nelli Melba, Emmy Destinn, Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Geraldine Farrar, Frieda Hempel, Lily Pons, Maria Ivogün, Rose Raisa, Lucrezia Bori, Antonia Nezhdanova, Conchita Supervia, Elena Gerhardt, Eidé Norena, Gladys Swarthout, Dusolina Gianni, Kerstin Thorborg, Norina Greco, Lotte Schöne, Jarmila Novotna, Marian Anderson, Zinka Milanov, Sabine Kalter, Lilli Lehmann, Marcella Sembrich, Sabine Kalter, Gemma Bellincioni, Rosina Stochio, Emma Eames, Lilian Nordica and Félicita Litvinne.

She is not in the second box, which contains Rethberg, Callas, Cebotari, Berger, Ferrier, de los Angeles, Spani, Leider, Traubel, Wildbrunn, Müller, Güden, Stignani, Lemnitz, Onégin, Vallin, Lubin, Astral, Garden, Féraldy, Arnoldson, Crosi, Teyte, Anday, Schwartz and Jurinac, among other women and an equal number of male singers like Di Stefano, Tamagno, Christoff, Thill, Gobbi, Souzay, Slezak, Warren, Hotter, etc.

Voilà! Here she is, Maria Jeritza, with her own disk in Volume Three, sharing a disk case with Maria Caniglia. Alas, even though she was a famous Salomé there is no Strauss on her disk to compare. But there is a smashing "Suicidio" from La Gioconda and a "Dis-moi que je suis belle" from Massenet's Thaïs which is delivered with such sensual abandon some listeners might have to change their underwear. You can, however, compare her "Liebestod" with the one of Callas.

Owning these three sets of disks could very well change your life - and not necessarily for the better. You can join the likely internet group that spends all their free time arguing the merits of each of these singers. You can busy yourself making a database to allow yourself to easily locate all the arias and singers. You can propose a Sunday morning radio show to your local station. With these disks you can make weekly programs, like "Divas with First Names Beginning with K" or "Baritone Arias in Massenet's Hérodiade." There is enough material here to make programs until the next millennium. At the opera, when someone says "I have never heard "E lucevan le stelle" sang so beautifully," you can say "Obviously you have never heard it sung by the Spanish tenor Hipolito Lázaro, whose dates are 1887 to 1974 and who sang mostly in the Italian and Spanish houses."

A word of caution is appropriate here. There is a danger of you becoming an insufferable bore who will never again be invited out to the opera. With all the hours you could be spending digesting and comparing the various performances, you might not notice the divorce papers slipped under your locked door. My advice is to consume this vast treasure with moderation and consider it, like the collected works of Dickens, a lifetime project.

In addition to the reservations previously mentioned, there is the odd factual error and erratic spelling. For example, the first set has Meyerbeer living until 1950 but this is corrected in later sets. Although all of these recordings have been digitally remastered, there often still is surface noise and hiss, and the box is flimsy and mine already needs tape. However, with the under-a-pound price for each disk and the wealth of repertory this is, for the opera buff, an astonishing purchase. If you have never heard the French baritone Gérard Souzay, for example (Box 2, Disk Case 15), this discovery alone could be worth the price of the entire set. You can get several sets and give them to your friends and they will think you were not hit so badly by those stocks after all.

I was able to order this from the internet site It is entirely in German, but they are apparently working on an English version. You type the name "Great Voices of the Opera" in the search space and hit "Suchen." You will get the three sets on your screen and you can order them with your credit card information as usual. For those readers who are German-impaired, I have been given a name of a distributor in the United Kingdom which is Audio-Visual-Services, Belgrove House/Belgrove Street, WCI 8AA London. Telephone: 44-207-83334002. In America there is the email address Keeping in mind the cautionary advice above, these three sets are most highly recommended.

Frank Cadenhead

Footnote Posted on the Bulletin Board by Larry Friedman

Frank Cadenhead, in his interesting review of History's Great Voices of the Opera states that the documentation on Maria Cebotari says that she was born in "pessarabic Kischinew", to which Mr Cadenhead adds, "wherever that is." Perhaps I can clear this understandable confusion up. Cebotari was born in 1910 in the capital of the former Romanian province of Bessarabia, the city known in Russian as Kishinev and in Romanian as Chisinau. This is now the capital of the Republic of Moldova. I have read that she was brought up speaking both Romanian and Russian.
Hope this helps,
-Larry Friedman


Great voices of the Opera 1905-46
Verschiedene Interpreten "Great voices of the Opera 1905-46"
Die schönsten Arien und Lieder in Interpretationen der größten Tenöre und Sopranistinnen. Mit John McCormack, Eidé Norena, Titta Ruffo, Beniamino Gigli, Ezio Pinza, Rosa Ponselle, Enrico Caruso, Giuseppe de Luca, Maria Ivogün, Claudio Muzio, Frieda Hempel, Luisa Tetrazzini, Alexander Kipnis, Tito Schipa, Amelita Galli-Curci, Antonio Cortis, Lotte Lehmann, Lauritz Melchior, Kirsten Flagstad, Lawrence Tibbett, Antonina Nezhdanova, Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Vilhelm Herold, Geraldine Farrar, J.C. Thomas, Marian Anderson, Heinrich Schlusnus, Jussi Björling u.a. Reihenweise Raritäten. Heft mit Kurzbiografien der Interpret/inn/en. Historische Aufnahmen. ADD. 10 CDs 29.95 DM. Nr. 46239.

Great voices of the Opera 1901-46
Verschiedene Interpreten "Great voices of the Opera 1901-46"
Mit den schönsten Arien und Liedern, interpretiert von Enrico Caruso, Feodor Chaljapin, Mattia Battistini, Titta Ruffo, Pasquale Amato, Giuseppe de Luca, John McCormack, Giovanni Zenatello, Alexander Kipnis, Ezio Pinza, Richard Tauber, Tito Schipa, Beniamino Gigli, Aureliano Pertile, Apollo Granforte, Tancredi Pasero, Lauritz Melchior, Helge Rosvaenge, Giovanni Martinelli, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, Jussi Björling, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Claudio Muzio, Luisa Tetrazzini, Lotte Lehmann, Kirsten Flagstad, Amelita Galli-Curci, Elisabeth Schumann, Rosa Ponselle, Adelina Patti, Nellie Melba, Emmy Destinn, Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Geraldine Farrar, Frieda Hempel, Lily Pons, Maria Ivogün, Rosa Raisa, Lucrezia Bori, Antonina Nezhdanova, Conchita Supervia, Elena Gerhardt, Lotte Schöne, Jarmila Novtna, Marian Anderson, Zinka Milanov, Ära Patti u.a. ADD. 40 CDs 99.95 DM. Nr. 46737.

Great voices of the Opera vol. 2
Verschiedene Interpreten "Great voices of the Opera vol. 2"
Die schönsten Arien und Lieder interpretiert von Giuseppe di Stefano, Francesco Tamagno, Heddle Nash, Gerhard Hüsch, Julius Patzak, Joseph Schmidt, Boris Christoff, Tito Gobbi, Gérard Souzay, Riccardo Stracciari, Leo Slezak, Max Lorenz, Franz Völker, Leonard Warren, Hans Hotter, Rudolf Schock, Peter Anders, Renato Zanelli, Wilhelm Hesch, Victor Maurel, Fritz Krauss, Rudolf Bockelmann, Kurt Böhme, Hans Hopf, Elisabeth Rethberg, Maria Callas, Maria Cebotari, Erna Berger, Kathleen Ferrier, Victoria de los Angeles, Hina Spani, Frida Leider, Helen Traubel, Helene Wildbrunn, Maria Müller, Hilde Güden, Ebe Stignani, Tiana Lemnitz, Ninon Vallin, Germain Lubin, Sigrid Arnoldson, Sena Jurinac u.a. ADD. 40 CDs 99.95 DM. Nr. 50544.

Great voices of the Opera vol. 3 1905-1949
Verschiedene Interpreten "Great voices of the Opera vol. 3 1905-1949"
Die schönsten Arien und Lieder interpretiert von Gina Cigna, Erna Sack, Margarete Teschemacher, Maria Caniglia, Maria Jeritza, Ljuba Welitsch, Selma Kurz, Margherita Carosio, Magda Olivero, Maria Barrientos, Elvira de Hidalgo, Johanna Gadski, Karin Branzell, Frances Alda, Germaine Cernay, Florence Easton, Isobel Baillie, Irene Minghini-Cattaneo u.a. ADD. 40 CDs 99.95 DM. Nr. 51998


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