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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett



 

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Enrico CARUSO (tenor) 1873-1921
‘The Complete Recordings’. Volume 5. Naxos Historical. ‘Great Singers Series’
Charles GOUNOD. (1818-1893)

Faust, Act 1 ‘O merveille’. Act 3 ‘Seigneur Dieu’. ‘Eh! quoi! Toujours seule’. ‘Il se fait tard’. ‘Eternelle? O nuit d’amour’. Act 4 ‘Que voulez vous messieurs?’.Act 5 ‘Mon Coeur est penetre’. ‘Attends! Voici la rue’. ‘Alerte! Ou vous etes perdus!’.
With: Geraldine Farrar (sop) Marguerite. Antonio Scotti (bar) Valentin. Marcel Journet (bass) Mephistopheles.
Alberto FRANCHETTI (1860-1942)

Gemania, ‘Studenti! Udite!’. ‘No, non chiuder gli occhi vaghi’.
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Madama Butterfly, ‘Amore o grillo’. ‘Non ve la avevo detto’.
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1843-1886)

La Gioconda, ‘Cielo e mar!’.
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919)

Pagliacci, ‘No! Pagliaccio non son’
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Otello, ‘Ora a per sempre addio’
Il Trovatore, ‘Mal reggendo’. Se m’ani ancor; Ai nostri monti’. With Loise Homer (m. sop).
Aida, ‘Giá I saceradoti adunansi’. ‘Misero appien mi festi’. With Loise Homer (m. sop).
Henry GEEHL ‘For You Alone’.
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)

Cavalleria Rusticana, ‘O Lola’.
Francesco TOSTI (1846-1616) ‘Addio’.
Recorded in New York and Camden, New Jersey, in January, March and December 1910 accompanied by the ‘Victor Orchestra’.
Bargain Price
NAXOS Historical 8.110720 [79.01]

The tenor made the gramophone, and the gramophone made the tenor. No, not Pavarotti, but this tenor, Enrico Caruso. Born in Naples he made his debut in his native city in 1894. He arrived at Covent Garden in 1902 and at the ‘Met’ a year later and where he sang every season until 1920 making over 600 appearances in 36 roles. His career ended prematurely on Christmas Eve 1920 when he was singing Eleazer from ‘La Juive’ whilst suffering from plural pain, which developed into acute bronchial pneumonia.

Equally at home in bel canto and, to him, contemporary verismo, Caruso’s voice was full-toned, mellifluous and mellow. Even in his younger days his voice had baritonal overtones. In the 1908-09 season he suffered something of a vocal crisis and on recovery his voice was distinctly darker. These recordings, all listed as being made in 1910, are therefore particularly interesting for being some of the earliest he made post that change. (The sleeve front gives 1908-1910 and contradicts the individual matrix numbers and dates!).

Whilst Caruso dominated the ‘Met’ roster, the theatre also featured all the great singers of the day and several of them grace this disc alongside the great tenor. The disc starts with nine tracks from Faust. Here the tenor’s lovely phrasing and honeyed head voice is matched by the powerful and characterful Mephisto of Marcel Journet, and Geraldine Farrar’s flexible soprano as Marguerite. The love duet (tr 5) and the final trio (tr 9) are particularly fine. Those interested in direct comparisons with our present and recent generation of tenors should focus on Caruso’s rendition of Ponchielli’s ‘Cielo e mar’ (tr 14) from La Gioconda. Personally, I prefer Bergonzi’s rendition in the complete recording of the opera (Decca). But of course style changes with time, and as the sleeve note points out the two Il Trovatore extracts exhibit a distinctly different style than we find on contemporary recordings or in the theatre (tr 19-20). In these two extracts Caruso is joined by the even toned Louise Homer, more contralto in timbre than many interpreters she is a fine Azucena to his heroic Manrico. She is also equally at home as Amneris to Caruso’s elegantly phrased and characterized Radames in the Aida extracts (tr 22-23).

The re-mastering is very good, as we have come to expect from Ward Marston. Surface noise, although present, is not intrusive. For those interested in singing, and particularly how Caruso’s voice changed after 1909, this disc will be an essential purchase and will, I suggest, provide much pleasure.

Robert J Farr



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