Music from Puccini's Tosca, Meyerbeer's L'Africana, Verdi's La forza del destino and Gounod's Faust  (with Grace Moore, soprano; Donald Dickson, baritone and the General Motors Symphony Orch/Erno Rapee, recorded December 5, 1937).  Music from Gounod's Faust and St. Cecilia Mass, Massenet's Manon, and Richard Strauss's Cäcilie (with Ford Motor Symphony Chorus/Orch/José Iturbi, rec. November 13, 1938). Bizet:  "Flower Song" from Carmen (with Hilversum Orch/Frieder Weissman, rec. June 8, 1939). Rossini: La Danza;  Denza: Funicul“, Funiculˆ;  Bartlett:  A Dream (with Ford Motor Symphony Orch/Eugene Ormandy, rec. December 8, 1940).  Puccini: "Nessun dorma" from Turandot (with Stockholm Radio Orch/Sixten Ehrling, rec. June 1943). GRUBER:  Silent Night (with Anna-Lisa Bjoerling, soprano/NBC StudioOrch/no cond. listed, rec. Nov. 22, 1945). "Miserere" from  Verdi's Il trovatore (with Eleanor Steber, soprano/Voice of Firestone Orch/Howard Barlow, rec. January 21. 1946). GOUNOD: O Divine Redeemer (with Voice of Firestone Orch/Howard Barlow, rec. April 15, 1946). MORGAN:  Clorinda.  LEONCAVALLO:  Mattinata (with Bell Telephone Hour Orch/Donald Vorhees, rec. Mar. 15, 1948).  GLOVER:  The Rose of Tralee;  VERDI:  "Celeste Aida" from Aida (Bell Telephone Hour Orch/Donald Vorhees, rec. March 12, 1951). ALFVƒN:  At last our people stand united (Band of the Royal Svea Life Guards/Ille Gustafsson, rec. Swedish Flag Day in Stockholm June 6, 1953).

GIUSEPPE DI STEFANO with BIDU SAYAO, RENATA TEBALDI and LILY PONS, NBC Standard Hour broadcasts of October 1950
ROSSINI:  "Selva opaca, deserta bruchiera" from William Tell (Sayao); GOUNOD: "Salut! demeure chaste et pure" from Faust; MOZART:  "Non so piœ dove son" from The Marriage of Figaro (Sayao); FLOTOW:  "M'appari" from Marta; PUCCINI:  "Che gelida manina," S“ mi chiamano Mim“" and "O soave fanciulla" from La Bohème (with Tebaldi);  BOITO: "L'altra notte in fondo al mare" from Mefistofele; MASSENET:  "Ah! tout est bien..fini" from Le Cid; GIORDANO:  "La mamma morta" from Andrea Chénier (TEBALDI); VERDI:  "Parmi veder le lagrime" from Rigoletto; PUCCINI:  "Viene la sera" from Madama Butterfly (with TEBALDI); PONCHIELLI:  "Cielo e mar" from La Gioconda; PUCCINI:  "E lucevan le stelle" from Tosca; DONIZETTI:  "Sulla tomba che rinserra" from Lucia di Lammermoor (LILY PONS); San Francisco Opera Association Orch. cond. by Gaetano Merola

URANIA  URN 22.161 (2 CDs) (F) (ADD) TT:  71:39 & 60:24


Both of these are valuable issues for admirers of  Jussi Bjoerling and Giuseppe di Stefano, two of the finest tenors of the past century. Both are heard  here  in their absolute prime—and the singing is glorious.  The Bjoerling CD contains four works never issued before, recorded during a Nov. 13, 1938 broadcast conducted by José Iturbi. Other highlights include the final trio from Faust recorded the previous year with soprano Grace Moore and Donald Dickson, and three selections from a broadcast Dec. 8, 1940 conducted by Eugene Ormandy who had just two years earlier been appointed music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra.  Sound is typical broadcast quality, although it does seem as if a tad too much noise-reduction was used; still the distinctive Bjoerling sound is clearly heard.

Di Stefano made his La Scala debut in 1947, his Met debut in 1948.  Just a few years later his voice showed signs of decline brought on by an indulgent life-style and ill-chosen dramatic roles that taxed his resources. However what is heard on these recordings is from his "golden period," three Standard Hour broadcasts from October 1950 in which he is joined in duets by Bidu Sayão (La Bohème), Renata Tebaldi (Madama Butterfly), and Lily Pons (Lucia di Lammermoor).  The three sopranos sing arias as listed above, and accompaniments are provided by the San Francisco Opera Orchestra conducted by Gaetano Merola.  All of the singing could not fit onto a single CD so producers have filled out the set with orchestral music from the broadcasts, hardly distinctive additions but at least purchasers will hear more of the original concerts.  Transfers are quite good, and this is another opportunity to di Stefano's most famous interpretation of the aria from Faust. Rudolf  Bing said di Stefano's reduction of the high C at the end of this aria, from a forte to a mere whisper was the single most beautiful moment he experienced in the opera house.  If you don't already own this essential performance, here's another opportunity to do so.

R.E.B. (Dec/ 2000)