Hommage à Bidú Sayão
Conductor Donald Voorhees introduces Bidú Sayão [0:57]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Le nozze di Figaro
Voi che sapete [2:55] (10 February, 1947)
Deh vieni, non tardar [4:39] (23 May, 1949)
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Guillaume Tell - Mathilde’s Romanza [5:55] (1 January, 1950)
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
La Bohéme
Mi chiamano Mimí [5:12] (10 December, 1947)
Addio, senza rancor [3:28] (10 December, 1947)
Oh! come é bello e morbido [1:48] (10 December, 1947)
Antonio Carlos GOMES
Romanza: Come serenamente il mar from the opera O Éscravo [5:07] (29 April, 1940)
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Romeo et Juliette - Je veux vivre [3:30] (2 November, 1947)
Léo DELIBES (1836-1891)
Les filles de Cadiz [3:33] (28 August, 1944)
Nicolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
The Nightingale and the Rose [2:54] (19 June, 1944)
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
The Swan [2:44] (14 September, 1953)
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Two Art Songs
Lundú da Marqueza de Santos [2:44] (1 October, 1945)
Nhapôpé [2:34] (18 February, 1946)
Narcisco SERRADEL SEVILLA (1843-1910)
La Golondrina [2:58] (17 September, 1951)
Liza LEHMANN (1862-1918)
The Cuckoo [2;10] (1 October, 1945)
The Last Rose of Summer [3:26] (5 February, 1945)
Hey Diddle Diddle [1:25] (19 June, 1944)
Ernest CHARLES (1895-1984)
When I have Sung my Songs to You [2:30] (1 October, 1945)
The History of Rats [2:09] (22 January, 1945)
Turn Ye to Me [3:43] (27 August, 1945)
Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918-1990)
Two Art Songs
I Hate Music [1:47] (30 September, 1946)
I Just Found Out Today [2:21] (18 February, 1946)
Long, Long Ago [4:25] (19 June, 1944)
Bidú Sayão (soprano)
Donald Voorhees conducting the Bell Telephone Orchestra (tracks: 2, 3, 10-16, 18-20, 22-24)
Gaetano Merola conducting the San Francisco Opera Orchestra (The Standard Hour) (tracks 4-7)
Joseph Stopak conducting the NBC Orchestra (track 8)
Paul Breisach conducting the San Francisco Opera Orchestra (track 9)
Howard Barlow conducting the Voice of Firestone Orchestra (track 17)
Howard Barlow conducting the Armed Forces Orchestra (track 21)
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD144 [75:06]

The inaugural disc in this Bidú Sayão series spans the years 1940 to 1953. It takes in standard operatic fare - arias from The Marriage of Figaro, William Tell, La Bohème and Romeo and Juliet - adds material both light and traditional, includes some possibly unexpected repertoire, and takes us to a satisfying seventy-five minute duration in well prepared transfers. The performances derive from a variety of sources. Collectors will note the name Donald Voorhees and correctly draw the conclusion that we’re talking of the Bell Telephone Hour broadcasts. There are however a number of things from The Standard Hour, with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra directed by Gaetano Merola. The Voice of Firestone broadcasts are also represented as well as a single track with the Armed Forces Orchestra and Howard Barlow. So this is a heterogeneous collection that avoids the commercial recordings that the lyric soprano made; though it’s my impression that she left behind all too few of those.

The disc has certainly been artfully programmed. The spicy fanfare with which it opens, retained from the vaults of the Bell Telephone ‘Encore’, was a kind of retrospective look back at the series of broadcasts and so is not contemporary with the tracks that follow. Voi che sapete derives from 1947 and is full of her tremendous charm and communicative spirit. The Rossini-Puccini sequence from San Francisco follows. It shows the coloratura fire of her Romanza from William Tell, her tonal shading, and commanding theatrical instincts. It also shows she was a first rate Puccini singer. All four arias were recorded on 10 December 1947.

It’s good though in this context to be reminded of her vivacity in other less travelled areas of the repertoire. Gomes’s Come serenamente il mar from the opera O Éscravo for instance opens out the sphere of reference nicely. Her Gounod is full of a similar charm - that word again - but it’s one predicated on a rock solid technique, a focused coloratura and excellent intonation. Such technical flourish can be best appreciated in Delibes’s Les filles de Cadiz which offers a panache-filled three and a half minutes, replete with bravura. The Swan is a rather unusual piece for her and she sounds unusually stentorian here with a little untidiness at the end. But we have a passionate and sweeping brace of Villa-Lobos songs to get more to the heart of her. Listen to the marvellously calibrated rubati in Lundú da Marqueza de Santos.

Her songs in English offer flashes of smile and sentiment, her accent stretching and elongating vowels with delicious results. Her cuckoo is ‘cukuuu’ in the Lehmann song, her Last Rose of Summer eminently sweet. She also takes on an odd one in the shape of Vene’s The History of Rats, about which I haven’t been able to find much. It’s not as good a song as it is a title. Turn Ye To Me is rather statuesque, it’s true, but the bracing Bernstein songs show up to date ears for 1946.

This is a fine start to the Sayão series. It has variety, and allure, and has been well transferred.

Jonathan Woolf

A fine start to the Sayão series: variety and allure, well transferred.… see Full Review