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Gladys Swarthout (1904-1969)
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)

Margarethe (Faust): Faites-lui mes aveux
Roméo et Juliette: Que fais-tu
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)

Mignon: Connais-tu le pays?
Mignon: Je connais un pauvre enfant
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Pique Dame: Paulines Romanze
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

Carmen: L' amour est un oiseau rebelle
Carmen: Pres des ramparts with Ramon Vinay
Carmen: Les tringles des sistres tintaient with Thelma Votipka and Lucielle Browning
Carmen: Melons, Coupons...En vain pour eviter with Thelma Votipka and Lucielle Browning
Carmen: C'est toi...C'est moi with Ramon Vinay
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)

La Périchole: Je t'adore
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Werther: Qui m'aurait
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Samson und Dalila; Printemps qui commence
Samson und Dalila: Amour, viens aider ma faiblesse
Samson und Dalila: Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta vois
Joseph CANTELOUBE (1897-1957)

Chants d'Auvergne: Nr. 2 Baïlèro
Gladys Swarthout (mezzo soprano) with
RCA Victor Orchestra/Wilfred Pelletier (first four items)
RCA Victor Orchestra/Alexander Smallens, Erich Leinsdorf and Jean Paul Morel (remainder)
Recorded 1942-1951
PREISER 89561 [75.57]



Missouri-born Gladys Swarthout made her debut at twenty and in the same year Mary Garden, no less, was proclaiming her a star-to-be. Her Met debut came in 1929 and over the next decade and a half she made her name in Carmen and Romeo et Juliette amongst many other leading roles. Around the start of the Second World War she gravitated more and more to the concert stage but she’d earlier done her bit in promoting new American works – she was in the premieres of Hanson’s Merry Mount and Deems Taylor’s Peter Ibbetson. She made Hollywood films before her career was curtailed by heart problems and her death came in 1969 in her Florentine Villa.

Like her compatriot Tibbett her French was poor – as the extract from Faust shows only too clearly – but the singing as such is fine and even if her French repertoire never quite lives up to Mary Garden’s earlier billing (Mignon’s Connais-tu le pays? is sturdy but a mite superficial) there are shafts that open up new vistas into her art. One such is the same opera’s Je connais un pauvre enfant which is genuinely engaging. Pique Dame wasn’t published at the time – 1936 and by some way the earliest recording here – and is sung in English (it first saw service years later on LP). And though forty-two is certainly not old there is a discernable sense of wear in the voice in these post War Victors – in Carmen, for example, her most famous assumption and here conducted by Leinsdorf – it was Virgil Thomson who cattily said of her in this role that she "never left the country club." What is true is that in the extract with Vinay her lower notes sound somewhat unfocused and she sounds theatrically outclassed by him. Perhaps one reason might be some breath control problems that manifest themselves in 1949 in the Offenbach though it has to be said that her Werther is really fine (especially for 1949 which was late for her) and sensitively done. The sound in the Canteloube – rather unexpected repertoire – is a touch cloudy but she manages to impress though the voice is not necessarily the first one would think of for this type of music.

The selection has been well made and the copies used are in good, clear condition.

Jonathan Woolf


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