EILEEN FARRELL Sings Opera Arias & Songs
GLUCK:  "DivinitÈs du Styx" from Alceste;  WEBER: " Ozean, du Ungerheuer" from Oberon;  VERDI:  "Sorta Ë la notte; Ernani!, involami" from Ernani;  PONCHIELLI:  "Suicidio!" from La Gioconda;  TCHAIKOVSKY:  "Adieu, forÈts" from Jeanne d'Arc; MASSENET: "Il est doux, il est bon" from HÈrodiade;  DEBUSSY:  "Azaël! pourquoi mas-tu quittÈe" from L'Enfant prodigue; MENOTTI:  "To this we've com" from The Consul.  Songs of Gershwin, Arlen, Nordoff, Sargent, Homer, Youmans, Rachmaninoff & Grieg.
Eileen Farrell, soprano; Philharmonia Orch/Thomas Schippers, cond.  George Trovillo, pianist

TESTAMENT  SBT 1073 (F) (ADD)  TT:  76:32

Arias and duets from Simon Boccanegra, Aida, Il trovatore, Don Carlo, Otello, La forza del destino and Un ballo en maschera
Eileen Farrell, soprano; Richard Tucker, tenor; Columbia Symphony Orch/Max Rudolf and Fausto Cleva/cond.


Eileen Farrell with 8-member jazz ensemble; arrangements by pianist Loonis McGlohon


Connecticut-born Eileen Farrell was born Feb. 13. 1920 into an Irish family of vaudeville performers. Soon it was obvious she had a very special quality to her voice and after a period of study became a member of a CBS radio chorus. With her distinctive sound and power, she quickly became a solo singer on a series called "Songs of the Centuries."  For seven years she had a weekly radio show on CBS in which she sang a mixture of serious and popular music.  When she sang Wagner with the CBS Symphony conducted by Bernard Herrmann she attracted even more attention and was chosen by Dimitri Mitropoulos to sing Marie in his concert performances of Berg's Wozzeck with the New York Philharmonic in 1950 (available on Sony  62759). In 1955 she sang a concert performance of Cherubini's Medea, excerpts from which were recorded by CBS.  Farrell sang often with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, in 1961 recording Wagner (Immolation Scene/Wesendonck Lieder) once issued on Sony in their Bernstein CD "Royal Edition" (SMK 47644) now deleted.  Her magnificent recording of the Wesendonck Lieder made in 1947 with Leopold Stokowski and a studio orchestra was issued on LP, never on CD and master tapes remain in RCA's archives.  Now that RCA/BMG has cut back on the classics, perhaps it will stay there along with many other mono treasures. 

Eileen Farrell was married to a New York City policeman and they had two children.  She never let her professional career interfere with her private family life. In spite of the enormous success of her regular radio programs, opera continued to play an important part in Farrell's life although not as much as her many admirers wanted.  In 1956 she sang Leonora in Il trovatore in San Francisco, and the title role in La Gioconda with the Chicago Lyric Opera.  Beginning in 1960 she sang 44 performances with the Metropolitan Opera -- but she preferred to sing concerts and do radio work.  She raised some eyebrows when she recorded an LP for Columbia called "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues,"  which upset some "serious" listeners who about a decade earlier had criticized Helen Traubel for her forays into "pop" music and night-club singing.  In 1991 Sony issued this on CD (MDK 47255) long out-of-print.

The Testament reissue of Farrell's 1957/58 EMI recordings is a major release, their first appearance on CD. The soprano was in her absolute prime at the time.  What a pleasure to hear this rich, intense sound so generously displayed.  There is the famous story that at a rehearsal of Gioconda Farrell "let loose" and her Enzo, Franco Corelli, came running off stage "in fright" screaming, "But who is this woman, she has deafened me!"   Some of this power can be heard on this CD. The high point is Magda Sorel's impassioned  "To This We've Come," from The Consul by Menotti.  At the conclusion Farrell's huge voice soars over the orchestra to stunning effect.  The CD contains everything from the original LP and is filled out with about a half-hour of selections from a recital CD Farrell made for EMI at the same time.  Although recorded several years into the stereo era, all are mono recordings sounding better than the LP issues but still surprisingly dry for productions by Walter Legge.  

Sony's CD features arias of Verdi recorded in 1960 and duets from three of the same composer's operas with Richard Tucker made the following year.  It is extraordinary singing of quality and beauty seldom heard  today.  Stereo sound here is outstanding giving us the opportunity to hear Farrell's voice in its full richness and beauty.  It is strange Sony has yet to release Farrell's Puccini arias on CD; they would be more than welcome.

Farrell always loved popular music and jazz  -- fortunately J. Tamblyn Henderson, Jr. of Reference Recordings, a great fan of Farrell's,  was able to coax her out of semi-retirement in 1988 to record  a CD of Rodgers & Hart  and one of songs of Harold Arlen (RR 30), assisted by a jazz ensemble headed by pianist Loonis McGlohon, who also made the special "cabaret" arrangements.  The series continued with CDs devoted to Alec Wilder (RR 36), Johnny Mercer (RR 44), a collection of "torch songs," (RR 34) and two CDs of "pop" songs with Robert Farnon conducting (RR 42 and 46).  There also is a "Producer's Choice" CD of excerpts from all seven CDs.  Throughout the series elegance is the keymark, with a perfect balance, the soloist not too close --  sonics intimate and pure.  The only possible drawback to the series is that playing time is rather limited, less than an hour on each, only 42:06 for RR-32.  But this really doesn't matter.  These CDs represent the genre at its finest.

All of these CDs are highly recommended.  It is remarkable that "pirate" versions have yet to appear of highlights from Farrell's countless radio concerts. She sang at least one aria on each program and recorded only a few commercially. We can hope!

R.E.B. (Jan. 2001)