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RTE Lyric FM

 

Margaret Burke Sheridan (1889-1958) - “Un bel di …”
Michael BALFE (1808-1870)
‘The Bohemian Girl’ - “I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls” [3:38]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
‘Madama Butterfly’ - “Un bel di vedremo” [4:34]; “Bimba dagli occhi pieni di malia” [8:30]; “Con onor muore” [4:31]; ‘La Bohème’ – “Si, mi chiamano Mimi” [4:41]; “Dorme?... riposa” [4:46]; ‘Manon Lescaut’ – “Tu, tu amore .. O tentatrice” [8:25]

Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)
‘Andrea Chenier’ – “Vicino a te … la nostra morte” [6:42]

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
‘Otello’ – “Già nella notte densa … ed io vedea” [9;05]; “Ave Maria” [4:37]
Thomas MOORE (1779-1852)
Believe me if all those endearing young charms (arr Byng) [3:10]; O breathe not his name (arr Larchet) [2:29]

“CLARIBEL” (Charlotte ALINGTON) (1830-1869)
Come back to Erin [2:47];
ANON (words by Fred Weatherly)
Danny Boy [3:39]

Arthur COLOHAN (1884-1952)
Galway Bay [3:32]

Margaret Burke Sheridan speaking [1:53]
Margaret Burke Sheridan (soprano);
Aureliano Pertile (tenor); Browning Mummery (tenor); Renato Zanelli (tenor)
various orchestras and pianists
rec. musical items recorded 1926-1944; spoken item broadcast 1962
RTÉ LYRIC FM CD118 [77:09] 

 

Experience Classicsonline


Outside her native Ireland Margaret Burke Sheridan is perhaps an unfamiliar name, even to those interested in singers of Italian opera in the first half of the last century. Her career was indeed short. Her debut, as Mimi in “La Bohème” was in 1918 in Rome, but as Anne Chambers’ helpful notes to this disc explain, following an operation on her vocal chords in 1931 she lost confidence in her vocal technique and soon after gave up singing in public altogether, although she recorded two of the Irish songs here in 1944. She is now perhaps best known for taking the title role in an early electrical recording of “Madama Butterfly”. The booklet states that this was made in 1929 but Edward Greenfield in the first volume of “Opera on Record” says that it was made in 1931 and that the first electrical recording was made in 1929 but with Rosetta Pampanini in the title role. Both versions were made with the orchestra of La Scala. Who recorded the role first is perhaps of little importance but this does indicate her international reputation in this role. Substantial extracts from that opera are included here but in earlier recordings from 1926 and 1927 with two different tenors taking the part of Pinkerton – Aureliano Pertile and Browning Mummery, the latter only briefly. Lionello Cecil took the part in the complete recording. The excerpts here are sung in a wonderfully forward, idiomatic and full-blooded manner even if occasional inaccuracies and imperfections of line suggest that her loss of confidence in her technique may have been well placed. The Act I duet with Pertile is in many ways the highlight of the disc, with both singers thoroughly involved in the music, and responsive to its changes of mood. It is slightly truncated but worth hearing nonetheless as an explanation as to why her singing appealed to both Puccini and Toscanini. The former coached her in the role of Manon, so that unsurprisingly the love duet from that opera, again with Pertile, is another highlight of the disc, with both singers displaying all the fervor and belief that is needed in this music.
 

The closing pages of “La Bohème” were recorded at a performance at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on 4 June 1926. As might be expected, this is idiomatic and full of theatrical life, even if coordination between stage and pit is approximate throughout and by the end they are well apart. Incidentally both this and the spoken track are described as “bonus tracks”. This term is much used by the manufacturers of CDs without any indication as to what it might mean. Here it could be intended to indicate items not previously issued on commercial disc, but this is not made clear.

Of the remaining items, the Giordano duet is sung with great panache by both singers. The Verdi duet is sung in a similar manner although this is less appropriate here, and for all the obvious conviction that she brings to the role it is hard to imagine the very mature-sounding Sheridan as obvious casting for Desdemona. 

The Irish items are less compelling, although it is good to hear “I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls” sung faster than usual. The other songs are worth hearing once but the performances lack the charm that might encourage repetition. The brief speech at the end is of modest interest but again unlikely to be listened to more than once. 

The transfers appear to have been made sympathetically. Sensibly the well designed booklet concentrates entirely on the singer and says nothing about the music. No texts are included, neither are the contexts of the various extracts explained. Clearly a disc like this will appeal mainly to specialists with a specific interest in singers of this period or country or in this particular artist. I am glad to have heard it, especially for the Puccini items, but this is not singing of such quality that it could be safely recommended to a wider audience.

John Sheppard






 


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