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Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Faust. Opera in Five Acts
Faust, Raoul Jobin (ten); Méphistophélès, Ezio Pinza (bass); Valentin, Martial Singer (bar); Marguerite, Licia Albanese (sop); Siébel, Lucielle Browning (sop); Marthe, Thelma Votipka (m.sop); Wagner, John Baker (bar)
Chorus and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera, New York/Sir Thomas Beecham
Private recording made for Raoul Jobin of the ‘Met’ tour broadcast, from Boston, on 15th April 1944. Issued by arrangement with ‘The National Library of Canada, to whom Jobin bequeathed the master acetates
Bargain Price

Given access to the master acetates, restorer Richard Caniell found a number of problems. As is his practice in this series, he has interpolated short extracts from other broadcasts involving the same performers. This gives a sonically acceptable version, one or two pitch variations apart (CD2. tr.8). The value of the enterprise mainly rests on two great strengths, Beecham and Pinza. The conductor’s lightness of touch, and thoroughgoing grasp of the score, merely underlines what is lacking in several more modern recordings. Pinza is by turns vocally suave, sardonic and appropriately saturnine. His ‘serenade’ (CD 2. tr. 11) exhibits all these facets in an altogether superb characterization. Raoul Jobin as Faust is more tasteful than on some of his recordings but sounds rather middle-aged and is a little strained by the high note in ‘Salut! demeure’ (CD 1. tr. 21). Elsewhere he exhibits some elegance of phrase. As his ladylove, Marguerite, Licia Albanese is somewhat overly matronly but sings throughout with steady tone, smooth legato and in the ‘King of Thulé’ and ‘Jewel Song’ (CD 1. trs. 14-15) a secure trill. The Valentin of Martial Singher has no great vocal beauty or strength of characterization. This is strange since he was French-born and the biographical note claims him to be ‘revered for his lieder recitals’. Certainly his diction, and that of the other principals, is good and the French is idiomatic throughout. The chorus sings with enthusiasm and the minor parts are adequate.

As indicated the sound is acceptable if not particularly atmospheric or immediate being rather lacking in forward presence. However, that is to carp. The issue makes it possible to admire Pinza and Beecham and that opportunity alone is worth the price.

Robert J Farr

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