Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


The Very Best of Mirella FRENI (soprano) b.1935.
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)

Don Pasquale, ‘Quel quarde il cavalier … So anch'io’.
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

La boheme, ‘Si Mi chiamano Mimi’. ‘D’onde lieta usci’. (Nicolai Gedda, tenor)
Tosca,Vissi d'arte’.
Madama Butterfly ‘Un bel di vedremo’
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)

L’Amico Fritz, ‘Son pochi fiori’.
Francesco CILEA (1866-1950)

Adriana Lecouvreur ‘Ecco! respiro appena.. Io son L'umile’. ‘Poveri flori’.
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

Carmen, ‘C'est des contrebandiers’.
Les Pecheurs de perles, ‘Me voilà seul’.
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Manon, ‘Allons!.. Adieu, notre petite table’.
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)

Faust, ‘Je voudrais bien savoir... Il était un Roi de Thulé.. Ah! Je ris.’ (Jewel Song).
Roméo et Juliette, ‘Voyons, nouffice.. Ja veux vivre’, ‘O nuit divine’. (Franco Corelli tenor).
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Don Giovanni, ‘Vedrai, carino’.
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)

I Puritani, ‘O rendetemi la speme… Qui la voce sua soave… Vien diletto’.
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

La traviata, ‘É strano… Ah! Fors e lui ... Sempre libera’
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

La rondine, ‘Chi il bel sogno di Doretta’.
Gianni Schicchi, ‘O mio babbino caro’.
Suor Angelica ‘Senza mamma’.
Turandot, ‘Signore, ascolta’ ‘Tu, che di gel sei cinta’.
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

La forza del destino, ‘Son giunta! ... Madre, pietosa Vergine’. ‘Pace, pace mio Dio!’.
Aida, ‘Ritorna vincitor!’. ‘Qui Radames verra ... 0 patria mia’.
Otello, ‘Mia madre avea una povera ancella...Piangea cantando...Ave Maria’.
Various orchestras and conductors. Recorded between 1965 and 1986.
Bargain Price
EMI CLASSICS 7243 5 75909 2 [2CDs: 74.04+75.52 min]


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Mirella Freni made her professional debut at the young age of twenty in her native town of Modena. After a spell in the Italian provinces, and a season with the Netherlands Opera, she appeared at Glyndebourne in 1960 (Zerlina), Covent Garden in 1961 and La Scala in 1963, where she was Mimi in the renowned Karajan-Zeffirelli production which was filmed and is now available on DVD. Freni moved quickly to Violetta under Karajan and Giulini. In many ways it was a step too far too soon in a fach that was not to be her métier. The famous Act I scene, recorded in 1965 (CD2 tr3) exhibits good characterization but not the coloratura the best interpreters bring to the part. Where her lovely lyric voice was to be heard at its best at this time was in the likes of La Boheme and the French repertoire. Her 1964 recording of Mimi under Schippers (CD1 trs 2-3) finds her light toned and fresh voiced; innocent and very believable. Freni recorded the part again under Karajan in 1972 where her voice had developed greater colour and her characterization deepened. Matched by Pavarotti as Rodolfo, it is a truly great recording, but being on the Decca label it cannot be included here. What we do have is Freni’s Marguérite from Gounod’s Faust (CD1 tr 12), from a 1968 recital under Votto where her even, girlish, light tone, is to be preferred to her portrayal in the 1978 recording of the complete opera, good though that is. Similar strengths grace her 1968 Juliette (CD1 trs 13-14), a performance that was the recorded benchmark for thirty years until displaced by Gheorghiu and Alagna’s more recent recording, also on EMI. This issue could gainfully have included her Mireille, which she recorded for the company in 1979.

Freni never ventured far in the bel canto repertoire although she sang in ‘I Puritani’ at the Wexford Festival of 1962 and to acclaim in Rome in 1969 (with Pavarotti). An excerpt from a 1965 recital included here (CD2 tr2) makes for an interesting comparison with Caballé’s interpretation to be found on the disc devoted to her singing, also in this series. In the 1970s Karajan tempted Freni into Verdi with the offer of Desdemona (Otello) at Salzburg and the associated recording. Knowing her own strengths, and keen to preserve them and her career, she asked for a year to prepare - and with the right to refuse at the end! The results are a superb ‘Willow Song’ and Ave Maria (CD2 trs 13-14). Purity of tone, legato and outstanding characterization of Desdemona’s uncertainty, frustration and desperation pour out of every bar. Tempted by Karajan to try Aida, and after her great La Scala success as Maria Boccanegra under Abbado (recorded by DG), her portrayal is represented here (CD2 trs 11-12). In ‘O patria mia’ there is a little, and I stress a little, sign of strain. Despite Karajan holding the orchestra on a tight rein the part demands all the singer’s resources. Indeed, the live recording of the ‘Forza’ Leonora, from the stage of La Scala in 1986, is at least a size too big for Freni’s instrument (CD2 trs 9-10) with her phrasing becoming choppy and abbreviated and the legato line broken. The recording of these two tracks is the poorest on the discs, with recessed sound and the voice set too far back. Those tracks apart, the recordings have all been well re-mastered to give a good forward sound.

Freni’s care of her voice means that in 2003 she is still appearing, in the Russian repertoire, on the operatic stage. I will cherish this issue which, together with the disc in Decca’s ‘Grandi Voce’ series (still around in some shops), devoted to extracts of her work for that company (440-412 2), provide examples of a superb singer and artist at the height of her powers. I commend this issue to all lovers of singing and this artist in particular.

Robert J Farr

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