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A Toast to Melba
Lorina Gore (soprano)
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/Marko Letonja
rec. 2017, Federation Concert Hall, Hobart
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
ABC CLASSICS 481 6297 [60:38]

Melba, who is toasted here, is of course the Australian soprano Nellie Melba (1861 – 1931), born Helen Porter Mitchell. She became one of the greatest operatic stars of the late 19th century and early 20th century and is still remembered as a legend, comparable to Caruso and a few others. She had a long career and as late as 1926, when she was 65, she gave her farewell concert at Covent Garden, which was recorded by HMV. A couple of years ago it was reissued on Eloquence (review), coupled with a number of earlier acoustic recordings (the farewell was recorded electrically). The tribute to Melba, recorded by her present day compatriot Lorina Gore, includes arias – and one mélodie – from Melba’s repertoire, and two of the arias are also on the Melba disc: the Jewel Song from Faust and the Sevillana from Massenet’s Don César de Bazan.

Lorina Gore wasn’t completely new to me. I have reviewed two issues with her previously: A disc with Yvonne Kenny singing Richard Strauss, where Ms Gore was Sophie in the trio and duet at the end of act III from Der Rosenkavalier (review), and a highlights disc from Handel’s Rodelinda (review), where she sang Unulfo. I wasn’t wholly satisfied with her in either recording. I was disturbed by her vibrato in Der Rosenkavalier and found that she executed the florid singing as Unulfo with promptitude, but her tone was sharp-edged. In the present programme we get a full-size picture of her art and the outcome of that is much more positive. There is a noticeable vibrato but it is generally well controlled, the tone is brilliant apart from the lowest register where the voice is weaker and the tone a little lustreless. Fortunately she doesn’t have to visit that part of the voice too often and there is a lot of compensation in her technical prowess which includes an admirable trill. Listen to Caro nome and the Jewel Song. The former is also sung with great feeling and exquisite nuances. The aria from Mireille, seldom heard out of the context, is prettily sung with warmth and involvement. Leïla’s aria from the second act of Les pêcheurs de perles is also beautiful and should be heard more frequently, especially when sung as lovely as here. The song of the Indian Guest from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sadko is originally a tenor aria and probably best known from Fritz Kreisler’s transcription for violin and piano.

The real oddity is the Sevillana from Massenet’s Don César de Bazan. Sevillana is a Spanish folk dance, derived from the Seguidilla. Don César de Bazan was Massenet’s first full-length opera, a 4-act opera comique (i.e. with spoken dialogue). It was premiered at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 30 November 1872. It is noteworthy that the role of Lazarille was sung by Célestine Galli-Marié, who three years later sang the title role at the premiere of Bizet’s Carmen. The opera wasn’t a success, and at a fire at the Salle Favart the parts were destroyed. Massenet managed to reconstruct the score and it could be played in several places but it never got a foothold in the repertoire and the only music that is performed is the Sevillana, as a show-piece for a coloratura soprano. And certainly it requires extraordinary virtuosity to manage the breakneck coloratura. The way Lorina Gore negotiates it is worth a bunch of roses and definitely adds an extra frisson to the recital.

The way the programme order is arranged is a bit haphazard, as far as I can see, but it gives variety, and the idea to split up the well-known ballet music from Faust in three sections and sprinkle them in as a kind of interludes between the vocal numbers is quite clever. The playing of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra is very satisfying.

Lorina Gore may not be the most obvious choice for “A Toast to Melba”, but considering her compatriotship with the subject for the homage, it is relevant, and by and large this is a worthy tribute to one of the legends from the Golden Age of Song still remembered – not only for Peach Melba!

Göran Forsling

Charles GOUNOD (1818 – 1893)
Roméo et Juliette:
1. Je veux vivre [3:38]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901)
2. Gualtier Maldè ... Caro nome [5:07]
Charles GOUNOD
Ballet Music
3. No. 1: Allegretto (Tempo di valse) [2:46]
4. No. 2: Adagio [3:51]
5. O Dieu! Que de bijoux! ... Ah, je ris de me voir si belle (Jewel Song) [4:53]
Jules MASSENET (1842 – 1912]
6. Obéissons quand leur voix appelle [3:07]
Charles GOUNOD
7. Heureux petit berger [2:24]
Ballet Music
8. No. 3: Allegretto [1:34]
9. No. 4: Moderato maestoso [1:41]
Georges BIZET (1838 – 1875)
The Pearl Fishers:
10. Me voilà seule dans la nuit … Comme autrefois dans la nuit sombre [6:20]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844 – 1908)
11. Song of the Indian Guest [3:47]
Ambroise THOMAS (1811 – 1896)
12. Oui, pour ce soir, je suis reine des fees … Je suis Titania [5:42]
Charles GOUNOD
Ballet Music
13. No. 5: Moderato con moto [2:39]
14. No. 6: Allegretto [1:59]
15. No. 7: Allegro vivo [2:53]
Henri DUPARC (1848 – 1933)
16. Chanson triste [3:22]
Don César de Bazan:
17. Sevillana [3:10]



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