DAME EVA TURNER -- The Collected Recordings
Arias from Aida, La Gioconda, Cavalleria Rusticana, Tosca, Turandot, Il trovatore, Tannhäuser, Madama Butterfly, La Boh╦me; songs of D'Hardelot, Ronald, Tosti, Grieg, Del Riego and Bull; VAUGHAN WILLIAMS:  Serenade to Music
Eva Turner, soprano; Orch/Lorenzo Malajoli, Stanford Robinson, Sir Thomas Beecham, Joseph Batten, Sir John Barbirolli and Sir Henry Wood
PEARL  GEMS 0094 (3 CDs) (F) (ADD)  TT:  73:51 / 72:59 / 53:54M


Eva Turner (1892-1990) was born March 10 in Oldham, England.  After initial studies, she sang in an opera chorus, took over small roles and became a leading singer with the Carl Rosa Company. In 1920 she sang Santuzza at Covent Garden and four years later, at the suggestion of  Arturo Toscanini, made her debut at La Scala as Freia in Das Rheingold. She appeared with great success in many Italian opera houses, becoming well-known for her Turandot. She also sang in Berlin, Dresden, and Munich as well as in the U.S. For some reason she never sang at the Met, but she appeared often in Chicago.  Turner was a great favorite with audiences—for good reason.  Her voice was huge, totally controlled and brilliant.  She was fearless in her attack on high notes, and her voice apparently projected over orchestra and chorus with thrilling effect. She sang the lighter Wagner roles (Elisabeth, Elsa and Sieglinde) as well as the Siegfried Brünnhilde, along with Verdi, Mascagni, Ponchielli and Puccini. Her voice lost some of its power and stability in the late '30s and she officially retired in 1948. However this was the beginning of a remarkable career in public service and teaching.  She became Visiting Professor of Voice at Oklahoma University where she remained for ten years. After this she became Professor of Singing at the Royal Academy of Music, with countless private students many of whom could not cope with her demand for hard work. Turner also served on over 30 committees, was a judge at vocal competitions all over the world, and lectured. In 1962 she was made a Dame of the British Empire. She died June 16, 1990, at the age of 98.

This Pearl 3-CD set contains virtually all known recordings by Eva Turner. She worked with some of the best-known conductors of the time including Sir Thomas Beecham, Sir John Barbirolli and Lorenzo Malajoli. Her voice recorded quite well even in the first batch made from 1926/28, and all  performances display her youthful exuberance.  No problems whatever for her in that climactic high C towards the end of "O patria mia," and her 1926 recording of Tosti's Goodbye rivals Rosa Ponselle's recording of the following year. Many of the recordings on these CDs were previously unpublished.

 Another major blunder in the classical music recording industry was that Eva Turner never had the opportunity to record a complete opera. However, two performances of Turandot were recorded live at Covent Garden in May 1937, the first more or less an acoustic test, the second apparently satisfactory in every way, and another performance was recorded in October of the same year. Excerpts from both once were issued on EMI (761074), long discontinued. "In questa reggia" and the riddle scene from both performances are included in this fine new Pearl set. It is thrilling to hear Turner's voice soaring above full orchestra and chorus. Giovanni Martinelli is the Calaf, at the very end of his career and hard-pressed to say the least. And the prompter is all too audible. However, these are valuable documents of operatic history. Perhaps one of the complete performances eventually will be issued.e

The set also includes excerpts from Madame Butterfly, La Bohème and Turandot from a BBC broadcast of November 1937. Signs of vocal decline are apparent, but the performances are of interest as is a stunning live recording of Bull's God Save the King recorded at the Royal Opera House on the night of the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, with the Opera House Chorus and the London Philharmonic conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. It must be heard to be believed. The set ends with Vaughan Williams' Serenade to Music written for the Jubilee of Sir Henry Wood, first performed at Royal Albert Hall October 5, 1938 featuring sixteen prominent British  singers. The recording made a few days later, ends this superb collection. The highest recommendation!!

R.E.B. (March 2000)