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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Enrico CARUSO (tenor). 1873-1921
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

La Traviata, ‘Brindisi: libiamo, libiamo’
Requiem,
‘Ingemisco’
Macbeth, ‘Ah, la paterno mano’
Antonio Carlos GOMES (1836-1899)
Il Guarany, ‘Sento una forza indomita’
SZULC

‘Hantise d’amour’

Georges BIZET
(1838-1870)

Carmen, ‘Parle-moi de ma mère’
Francesco Paolo TOSTI (1846-1916)

‘La mia canzone’
‘Luna d’estate’
PENNINO

‘Pecchè?’
CIOCIANO

‘Cielo turchino’
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1868)

Il Duca d’Alba, ‘Angelo casto e bel’
Luigi DENZA (1846-1922)

‘Si vous l’aviez compris’
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1858-1919)

‘Les deux séreénades’
César FRANCK (1822-1890)

‘La Procession’
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Le Cid, ‘Ah! Tout est bien fini…Ô souverain’
Francesco Paolo TOSTI (1846-1916)

‘Luna d’estate’
DI CAPUA

‘O sole mio’
Georges Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)

La Reine de Saba, ‘Faiblesse de la race humaine’
ROTOLI

‘Mia sposa sarà la mia bandiera’
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

La Boheme, ‘Vecchia zimarra’
Adolphe ADAM ((1803-1856)

‘Cantique de Nöel’
Recorded in New York and Camden, New Jersey, in April 1914, January and February 1915 and February 1916.
‘Victor Orchestra’ and Chorus of The Metropolitan Opera/Walter B Rogers and Giulio Setti
The Complete Recordings Volume 9. 1914-1916
Bargain Price
NAXOS HISTORICAL GREAT SINGERS SERIES 8.110750 [78.14]

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Hugh Griffith’s informative sleeve note points out that although Caruso did not know it, 1914 was a defining year in Europe as far as his career was concerned. On June 29th he sang Cavaradossi at Covent Garden in what was to be his last appearance there. This was one day after the assassination of Francois Ferdinand, heir apparent to the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary which lit the fuse for World War 1. There would be no more appearances in Germany or Austria either, and when Italy entered the war the following year, no journeys home until after the Armistice was signed. However, the singer’s career was largely centred around the ‘Met’. He substituted a punishing schedule in South America, involving 52 appearances in 102 days, and without the benefit of the enforced rest that the boat journey to Europe entailed.

By this stage of his career, Caruso had already recorded almost all the big operatic numbers that suited his voice. His record company, Victor, generally only repeated the likes of the Rigoletto quartet or Lucia sextet matching the latest soprano star with their tenor. This disc fills in two Caruso gaps, the ‘Brindisi’ from Verdi’s La Traviata, and the ‘Ingemisco’ from his Requiem. In the former Caruso lightens his tone most effectively, whilst Alma Gluck isn’t a typical or pleasant Gilda (tr. 1), but in the latter his tone is too heavy, even lugubrious, when he needs to float some head voice (tr. 9). Certainly in Donizetti’s charming ‘Angelo casto e bel’, recorded the same day, Jan 15th 1915, finds him with lighter tone and fine legato (tr. 10). Of the Carmen Act 1 duet, with Frances Alda a heavy Micaela, the booklet shows tr. 4 as an alternate take ‘never previously issued’, and the repeat on tr. 5 as un-issued on 78rpm. Certainly the great tenor is comfortable and idiomatic in French with good mid voice support and graceful phrasing. Elsewhere the disc comprises songs and arias by composers active in Naples in the decades before World War 1. In that milieu Caruso was king among mortals. There are also arias from generally long forgotten works. A significant exception is ‘Vecchia zimarra’, Colline’s farewell to his coat from La Boheme, an aria for the bass voice! (tr. 20). This was never intended for public sale, a few copies being distributed to Caruso’s friends as a memento of a feat he had performed, on stage in Philadelphia, when the bass had a throat infection. By Act 4, the bass’s voice was completely gone and Caruso had sung the aria for him and without the audience being aware - amazing.

The re-mastering is up to the usual high standard of this series, although I found an added clarity in the following volume (10), reviewed elsewhere on this site, perhaps because of access to masters. Those following this excellent series should not hesitate, not least for the rarity of many of the items included.

Robert J Farr

 



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