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Jennie Tourel (1900-1973)
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)

Les contes d’Hoffmann: Belle nuit, oh nuit d’Amour
La Périchole: Ah, quel diner je viens de faire
La Périchole: Je t’adore
La Périchole: Ah, que les hommes sont bêtes
La vie parisienne
La Périchole: O mon cher amant, je te jure
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

Carmen: Les tringles des sistres tintaient
Carmen: En vain pour eviter
Carmen: Pres des ramparts
Carmen: L’amour est un oiseau rebelle
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)

Norma: Sgombro e la sacra selva
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792 – 1868)

La Cenerentola: Nacqui all´affanno
L’Italiana in Algeri: Cruda sorte
Semiramide: Bel raggio lusinghier
Il Barbiere di Siviglia: Una voce poco fa
Jennie Tourel (soprano)
Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera Association/Pietro Cimara and Fausto Cleva
Columbia Symphony Orchestra/Maurice Abravanel and Jean Morel
Recorded 1946-52
PREISER 89589 [78.22]


Tourel admirers have quite a wide choice at the moment. Fortunately a relatively large slice of her discography is currently available but this Preiser screws the focus tightly to 1945-47 and her Offenbach and Carmen, which derive from sessions made for LP in 1952. In her middle years – from say 1942-46 (she was born in 1900) - she undertook progressively prestigious engagements, singing Berlioz with Toscanini, Debussy with Koussevitzky and Prokofiev with Stokowski. It was around this time that she gave a well received Town Hall recital and made renewed assaults on the Met where she was only an intermittent guest. She sang a lot of Poulenc, formed a notable partnership with Bernstein and proved a fine teacher.

So these recordings come from the period of her vocal maturity. The Rossini shows her rather girlish timbre, despite her mezzo extension, and the razor sharp divisions and not least in L’Italiana in Algeri a very subtly inflected portamenti style. Lest one thinks of her at this time as lacking in heft she proves in La Cenerentola to have quite a taste for the florid – with its corollary of a floated lightness of production and a wonderfully equalized scale. It’s certainly not incendiary but then Tourel wasn’t that kind of inflammatory artist.

There’s a lot of colour and expression in her Offenbach – just a hint of too much maybe in O mon cher amant, je te jure – but her cosmopolitan theatre style is just right in the main for Offenbach – highly witty and effective. Similarly her infectious, mocking laugh in Pres des ramparts shows how coquettish her Carmen could be.

The transfers are blemish free – unproblematic as to surface noise and speed. Notes are biographical as is generally the case with Preiser though they do go into the famous business concerning her obscure beginnings, about which some may still be unaware.

Jonathan Woolf


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