The Era of Adelina Patti - artists born 1834–1865
CD 1:
1. Victor Maurel (1848-1923)
Falstaff, Verdi, Quand' ero paggio [2.09]
2. Pol Plançon (1851-1914)
Don Carlos, Verdi, Oui, je suis ... Je dormirai dans mon manteau régal [4.01]
3. Emma Eames (1865-1952)
Tosti, Dopo [4.08]
4. Lucien Fugère (1848-1935)
Rameau, Le tambourin [2.04]
5. Lucien Fugère (1848-1935)
Les pèlerins de la Mecque C'est un torrent impétueux ... Un ruisselet bien clair [3.28]
6. Adelina Patti (1843-1919)
Yradier, La Calesera [2.58] with Alfredo Barili piano
7. Francisco Vignas (1863-1933)
Le prophète, Meyerbeer, Sopra Berta l'amor mio [2.12 ]
8. Emma Calvé (1858-1942)
Carmen, Bizet, L'amour est un oiseau rebelle (Habanera) [3.06]
9. Maurice Renaud (1861-1933)
Hérodiade, Massenet, Vision fugitive [4.21]
10. Fernando De Lucia (1860-1925)
Manon, Massenet, Il sogno (En fermant les yeux) [3.08]
11. Francesco Tamagno (1850-1905)
Hérodiade, Massenet, Quand nos jours [2.02]
12. Nellie Melba (1861-1931)
Hamlet, Thomas, Des larmes de la nuit ... Pâle et blonde [4.51]
13. Pol Plançon
Le Chalet, Adam, Arrêtons-nous ici [3.17]
14. Félia Litvinne (1861-1936)
Lohengrin, Wagner, Einsam in trüben Tagen (Elsa's Dream) [3.10]
15. Wilhelm Hesch (1860-1908)
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Wagner, Das schöne Fest [4.12]
16. Lillian Nordica (1857-1914)
Hunyadi László, Erkel, Ah rebéges [3.06]
17. Mario Ancona (1860-1931)
La favorita, Donizetti, A tanto amor [3.56]
18. Victor Maurel
Don Giovanni, Mozart, Deh, vieni alla finestra [2.13]
19. Adelina Patti
Don Giovanni, Mozart, Batti batti, o bel Masetto [3.34] with Landon Ronald piano
CD 2:
1. Adelina Patti
Le nozze di Figaro, Mozart, Voi che sapete [3.20] with Landon Ronald piano
2. Edouard De Reszke (1853-1917)
Martha, Flotow, Chi mi dirà (Porter Song) [2.21]
3. Marcella Sembrich (1858-1935)
I puritani, Bellini, Qui la voce sua soave [4.48]
4. Francesco Marconi (1853-1916)
Lucrezia Borgia, Donizetti, Di pescatore ignobile [3.00]
5. Adelina Patti
La sonnambula, Bellini, Ah, non credea mirarti [3.25]
6. Fernando De Lucia, Josefina Huguet (soprano), Antonio Pini-Corsi (baritone)
Il barbiere di Siviglia, Rossini, Ah! qual colpo [3.24]
7. Mattia Battistini (1856-1928)
Don Giovanni, Mozart, Fin ch'han dal vino [2.43]
8. Mattia Battistini
Ernani, Verdi, Oh, de' verd' anni miei [3.11]
9. Nellie Melba
Lucia di Lammermoor, Donizetti, Ardon gl'incensi [5.07]
10. Mario Ancona
Otello, Verdi, Era la notte [3.24]
11. Lilli Lehmann (1848-1929)
Le nozze di Figaro, Mozart, Heil'ge quelle [3.28]
12. Maurice Renaud
Gounod, Le soir [3.23]
13. Lillian Nordica
R. Strauss, Serenade [3.10]
14. Mattia Battistini
Il Guarany, Gomes, Senza tetto, Senza cuna [3.36]
15. Sir Charles Santley (1834-1922)
Hatton, Simon the cellarer [3.22]
16. Adelina Patti
Hook, ’Twas within a mile o’ Edinboro’ town [2.38] with Alfredo Barili piano
17. Adelina Patti
Bishop, Home sweet home [3.41] with Landon Ronald piano
Victor Maurel (baritone), Pol Plançon (bass), Emma Eames (soprano), Lucien Fugère (baritone), Adelina Patti (soprano), Francisco Viñas (tenor), Emma Calvé (soprano), Maurice Renaud (baritone), Fernando De Lucia (tenor), Francesco Tamagno (tenor), Nellie Melba (soprano), Félia Litvinne (soprano), Wilhelm Hesch (bass), Lillian Nordica (soprano), Mario Ancona (baritone), Edouard De Reszke (bass), Marcella Sembrich (soprano), Francesco Marconi (tenor), Josefina Huguet (soprano), Antonio Pini-Corsi (baritone), Mattia Battistini (baritone), Lilli Lehmann (soprano), Sir Charles Santley (baritone).
rec. 1902 – 1928. AAD
NIMBUS PRIMA VOCE NI 7840/1 [62:16 + 58:01]
As much as I applaud this compilation – now almost twenty years old and as such something of a “classic” for anyone interested in the history of the recorded operatic voice - I urge any prospective buyer to take a deep breath before purchasing and do a little self-evaluation regarding tolerance levels using two criteria: 1) quality of sound 2) the ability to indulge some singers who were being given their first chance to commit their voices to posterity while very much in their twilight years.
Old Prima Voce hands will know what to expect: all but two of the recordings here are pre-electric acoustic and, amusingly, those two electric recordings were made by the oldest singer recorded here: French baritone Lucien Fugère, sounding extraordinarily spry and musical at 80 years old. Next comes another famous baritone, Sir Charles Santley, who, incredibly, made his debut in the year of birth of the next oldest singer, Mattia Battistini, recording here in 1924, when he was 72 years old. Remarkably little allowance has to be made for these three gentlemen, all celebrated for the longevity of their careers; would that the same could be said of the soprano who gives her name to this recital.
It must be admitted that although the faithful may hear remnants of greatness, by the time this undisputed 19th Century “Queen of Song” made the six recordings she is granted here, in 1905 and 1906 she has the voice of an elderly and formerly distinguished singer. Patti was in her sixties and although you can hear the traces of a great technique in her intact trill and remarkably delicate, expressive inflection of words, her tone is worn and wobbly and she cannot sustain notes, being short of breath. John Steane is gracious towards her in his accompanying essay but don’t expect too much. The Patti recording which gives greatest pleasure is her vibrant, uninhibited delivery of the Spanish folksong “La Calesera” complete with whoops and cries sufficient to persuade her embarrassed Spanish nobleman husband to ask for its withdrawal.
A surprising feature of this anthology is the complete absence of mezzo-sopranos and contraltos. We hear eight sopranos, seven baritones, three basses and four tenors – but sadly no Jean De Reszke, against whom Caruso was measured in his early years and whose voice was never satisfactorily captured, even on wax cylinder.
They are all testimony to the thoroughness with which they were trained in solid bel canto technique before the demands of verismo and bigger auditoriums demanded more overt, voluminous and perhaps destructive vocalisation.
I have no hesitation in stating that for me the most impressive voices here are the basses, though that probably has as much to do with their suitability to the primitive recording medium as their undoubted intrinsic quality. Pol Plançon is mightily impressive singing King Philip’s aria in the original French; only Marcel Journet approaches him for sheer sonority but he does not feature here. Another bass who does is Wilhelm Hesch, steady and opulent of tone in a favourite role as Pogner, coping easily with the high tessitura without wobbling, barking or losing quality. The final bass in the great trio here is Edouard, the brother of the absent tenor Jean.
I shall not comment on every singer and recording but obviously they all hold interest from both an historical and an artistic point of view. It is interesting to hear those earlier, patrician-voiced tenors in that one can understand why the advent of more clarion-voiced successors was excoriated as vulgar, yet also why their arrival was so thrilling compared with their aristocratic predecessors. Typical of their refinement is De Lucia’s gorgeous “Il sogno” and a stunningly virtuosic performance of an aria from Rossini’s “Il barbiere di Siviglia”, both of which are on the Prima Voce issue devoted solely to him and which I have recently reviewed. The exception to that restraint was the penetrating, stentorian sound of Tamagno, the creator of Verdi’s Otello, here heard singing strongly in a Massenet aria.
The opening item provides a charming and amusing little vignette of the recording “studio” of the time: Victor Maurel – Tamagno’s co-singer as Iago in the “Otello” premiere - regales us with a witty account in Italian of Falstaff’s arioso “Quand’ero paggio”, responding to vociferous applause from whoever the handful of bystanders or technicians were by repeating it with embellishments then giving it to us yet again in French – a triple-whammy and great fun.
Many of the singers here had such long careers that they were still singing after the introduction of electric technology but obviously few recorded that late. The greatest survivor would seem to be Battistini, “The King of Baritones” who in 1924 and 1928 sounds very little altered from his heyday in the first decade of the 1900s, a period very well represented here by two of his most famous recordings, showcasing his legendary elegant legato and mellow tone.
The sopranos are a starry bunch indeed; in addition to Patti, no history of singing would omit mention of Lilli Lehmann, Emma Eames or Nelly Melba, although the other four are marginally less celebrated today. This double-disc set provides a wonderful survey of a vanished age, happily preserved, however crudely, for our delight.
Ralph Moore
A wonderful survey of a vanished age, happily preserved, however, crudely, for our delight.