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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.

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Kerstin Meyer - mezzo-soprano
Georges BIZET (1838–1875)
Carmen (1875)
1. Habanera [4:49]
2. Seguidille [4:07]
3. Duet act 2 [2:57]
Ambroise THOMAS (1811–1896)
Mignon (1866)
4. Connais-tu le pays [5:13]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901) Don Carlos
5. Chanson du voile [5:29]
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819–1880)
Les Contes d’Hoffmann (1881)
6. Couplets [2:25]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835–1921)
Samson et Dalila (1877)
7. Amour! viens aider ma faiblesse [3:50]
Richard WAGNER (1813–1883)
Die Walküre (1870)
8. Wie töricht und taub [5:49]
Richard STRAUSS (1864–1949)
Elektra (1909)
9. Ich habe keine guten Nächte [6:00]
Alexander BORODIN (1833–1887)
Prince Igor (1890)
10. Now the daylight dies [4:31]
Gunnar de FRUMERIE (1908–1987)
Singoalla (1940)
11. Singoalla, fly mig [10:27]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882–1971)
The Rake’s Progress (1951)
12. Baba’s aria [4:18]
Leos JANACEK (1854–1928)
Jenufa (1904)
13. Kostelnicka’s scene [3:59]
Giuseppe VERDI
Requiem (1874)
14. Lux aeterna [6:36]
Kerstin Meyer (mezzo)
Arne Hendriksen (tenor) (2, 3), Ingeborg Kjellgren (soprano) (5), Ragnar Ulfung (tenor) (6, 12), Joel Berglund (bass-baritone) (8), Birgit Nilsson (soprano) (9), Set Svanholm (tenor) (11), Charles Craig (tenor) and Kim Borg (bass) (14); Royal Orchestra (and Royal Opera Chorus); Swedish Radio Light Orchestra; Swedish Radio Orchestra/Sixten Ehrling; Egon Kjerrman; Herbert Sandberg; Berislav Klobucar; Stig Rybrant; Michael Gielen; Rudolf Vasata
rec. Stockholm, 1952–1972. ADD
BLUEBELL ABCD 100 [72:16]

 


“And I will never forget my first Carmen.” Thus Stefan Johansson, Head of dramaturgy at Swedish Royal Opera, rounds off his liner-notes for this issue. Neither will I. For both of us it was the same singer: Kerstin Meyer. She was the Carmen for many years, in Stockholm as well as in the rest of the world. And she came early to the role. She first sang it on 8 September 1954, when she was 26. The studio recordings on this disc were made a month later and her Don José then, as on stage, was Arne Hendriksen, who is rather stentorian in the Seguidille but has warmed a bit by the time we get to the second act scene. As for Ms Meyer she is as alluring as it is possible to be, singing the part in Swedish – as are most of the arias on this disc. She sings the aria from Mignon longingly in French, however, but both the Hoffmann and Samson et Dalila are again in Swedish, her Nicklausse glittering and joyous, her Dalila vibrant and dramatic.

The German excerpts are in the original language and what partners she has: Joel Berglund’s dark and powerful Wotan and Birgit Nilsson’s Elektra. The Walküre scene was privately recorded in 1960 and Meyer, who had been singing the role for four years by then, is a formidable Fricka. She is also a doughty and frightening Klytaemnestra in this broadcast recording from the Swedish premiere of Elektra, on 14 May 1965. I sat glued to the radio that evening, to the despair of my parents, since this also was Birgit Nilsson’s debut in a role that was to become one of her greatest.

The earliest recording on the disc, Konchakovna’s aria from Prince Igor, reveals that this early (1952) she was a true contralto. The longest number here introduces another gypsy, but this time an original Swedish one, the female protagonist in Gunnar de Frumerie’s Singoalla, based on Viktor Rydberg’s novel. This was also recorded quite early in her career and she is in superb voice, supple and intense. This is a version to set beside Anne Sofie von Otter’s on the complete Caprice recording. Unfortunately her Erland, Set Svanholm, is dry-voiced and rather weak – a far cry from his great Wagner roles.

Ingmar Bergman’s production of The Rake’s Progress in 1961 has become legendary. Stravinsky himself regarded it as possibly the best version of his opera. Very little has, unfortunately, been preserved but Baba is certainly a dream role for a good singing actor and Kerstin Meyer makes the most of the aria. Another famous Stockholm production was Jenufa, with Elisabeth Söderström in the title role and Kerstin Meyer a deeply involved Kostelnicka. This was a musical as well as visual treat and it is good to find that it works well as a sound alone document.

Ms Meyer also sang several Verdi roles. One of the earliest was Eboli in Don Carlos and the recording is probably from around the time she first sang it, circa 1956. Almost a decade later Swedish Radio broadcast Verdi’s Requiem from the Stockholm Concert Hall with Sixten Ehrling conducting. Kerstin Meyer’s voice had by then adopted a lighter, more silvery timbre and her singing is admirably steady in Lux aeterna, where we also can enjoy Kim Borg’s warm, sonorous bass.

Bluebell’s continuing “Great Swedish Singers” series provides priceless documentation of important artists in repertoire not otherwise available. The recorded sound, mainly from the Swedish Radio archives, can be variable but is more than acceptable, often more than that. Kerstin Meyer recorded key repertoire for EMI in the 1970s, part of which has been reissued on CD, but to hear her at her freshest this is the disc to go to first.

Göran Forsling

 

 


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