Arias from Norma, Il trovatore, La forza del destino, Aida, La Gioconda and Cavalleria Rusticana.
Zinka Milanov, soprano; various orchestras and conductors
PREISER 89593 (F) (ADD) TT: 71:57

SIBELIUS: Höstkväll, Op. 38 No. 1, Soluppgang, Op. 37 No. 2, Se'n har jag ej fragat mera, Op. 17 No. 1, Arioso, Op. 3, Varen flyktar hastigt, Op. 13 No. 4, Luonnotar, Op. 70, Sancta Maria, mild och naderik, Den judiska flickans sang, Op. 51 No. 2b; GRIEG: Solveigs sang, Op. 23 No. 19, Solveigs vuggesang, Op. 23 No. 26, Fra Monte Pincio, Op. 39, No. 1, En svane, Op. 25 No. 2, Varen, Op. 33 No. 2, Det forste mode, Op. 21 No. 1.
Karita Mattila, soprano; City of Birmingham Symphony Orch/Sakari Oramo, cond.
WARNER CLASSICS 80243 (F) (DDD) TT: 58:22

CANTELOUBE: Chants de la France
Lucie Daullene, soprano; Joseph Canteloube, pianist

BENIAMINO GIGLI - Music of Bizet, Ponchielli, Donizetti, Verdi, Mascagni, Thomas, Meyerbeer and De Curtis
NAXOS 8.110266 (B) (ADD) TT: 79:07

DELIBES: Excerpts from Lakmé
Mado Robin, soprano; Agnes Disney, mezzo-soprano; Libero de Luca, tenor; Jean Borthayre, baritone; Paris Opéra-Comique Chorus and Orch/Georges Sébastian, cond.

Croatian soprano Zinka Milanov (b. Zinka Kunc in Zagreb May 17, 1906; in 1937 she married theatrical director Predog Milanov and even after their separation kept her married name). Also in 1937 she made a last-minute debut in Aida at the Vienna State Opera, the turning point in a career that officially had begun with a performance of Leonora in Il trovatore in 1927 in Ljubljana. Bruno Walter, who conducted the Vienna Aida , knew Toscanini needed a soprano for a Salzburg production of Verdi's Requiem in 1937, and suggested Milanov. After an audition with Toscanini, she was signed for the performance which was a great success. Milanov made her Met debut in Il trovatore in 1937 and continued to perform there for a quarter-century singing more than 400 performances including 75 of Aida. She also sang other Verdi heroines, and was known for her Norma, Gioconda, Santuzza, Maddalena and Tosca. In April 1966 she gave her farewell appearance at the Met. Although she had appeared successfully in other major opera houses, she always considered the Met to be her home. She died in New York May 30, 1998. Her voice was extraordinary in its richness and control, and when Mme. Milanov rolled an "r" it stayed rolled. As there are relatively few Milanov recordings currently available, this Preiser CD of commercial recordings made from 1945-1953 is of great importance. This is great Verdi singing indeed—how fortunate audiences were during Milanov's regime. Preiser's transfers are excellent. A matronly, stately women, Milanov obviously did not have a sense of humor. Many years ago when comedienne Lily Tomlin was giving a one-woman show in New York, she listed on the program that her understudy was Zinka Milanov, who did not find it amusing—she sued and apparently was awarded $5,000 for the "insult."

Karita Mattila's recording of songs of Grieg and Sibelius is absolutely magnificent in every way. The voice is rich, big, controlled and sensitive. What a pleasure to hear Mattila's extraordinary Luonnotar. And her vivid singing of Sancta Maria, mild och naderik suggests she may be the Brünnhilde of the future, as she is, to many, the Salome of the present. These recordings were made October/November 2001 in Birmingham's Symphony Hall. Mattila has been recorded a touch too close, but otherwise sonically everything is all one could wish—although producers surely could have included a few more songs: 58:22 is rather short playing time. Complete texts and translations are included.

The many admirers of Joseph Canteloube's arrangements of Songs of the Auvergne surely will wish to investigate the Haydn House private issue of a collection of songs of France harmonized by Canteloube that, to my knowledge, are not available elsewhere. These are taken from a pristine copy of a rare London L'Oiseau-Lyre Edition mono LP (OL 50047). The soprano, Lucie Daullene, sounds as if she is barely a teenager, with a youthful innocent quality that adds enchanting freshness to this wonderful, charming music. Included are two lullabys, a spinning song, songs of the shepherdess, and folk songs. Joseph Canteloube is at the piano, and the CD includes his program notes from the original LP in which he describes each of the fourteen songs. As usual with Haydn House, the transfer is superb. This CD is essential for those who love Canteloube's familiar Songs of the Auvergne, which have been recorded often by leading sopranos including Victoria de los Angeles, Kiri Te Kanawa, Frederica von Stade and Netania Davrath (the latter just reissued on Vanguard). This new CD contains what was on the original LP, playing time is only 32:47, but the price is modest, musical interest extraordinary. We're fortunate to have a treasure like this available! You can get it from Haydn House: (SEE ADDENDUM BELOW)

Naxos continues their fine series of recordings of tenor Beniamino Gigli with Volume 5 containing Camden and New York recordings dating from 1927-28, his song and aria recordings not issued as part of complete opera sets, including collaborations with other leading singers of the time: Amelita Galli-Curci, Louise Homer, Giuseppe De Luca and Ezio Pinza. Mark Obert-Thorn, who produced a fine (and expensive!) earlier version of these recordings for the now defunct Romophone label, has redone them—although they sounded just fine before. Complete recording information is provided, but no texts. This is a quality series, even more attractive at budget price.

Decca's 1952 monophonic recording of excerpts from Delibes' Lakmé, taken from their complete recording, is of limited interest. This mid-price CD has the same cover as the original LP issue (LXT 5018) along with a reduction of original LP jacket notes, so small they are virtually illegible; fortunately the back cover includes track information that can be read. Doubtless the justification for this recording was participation of Mado Robin (1918-1960), who had a rather remarkable career in stratospheric coloratura display roles, to which she extended the range upward and added her own ornamentation. Other than her ability to sing notes so high that "only a dog could hear them," her voice is decidedly second-rate. Only for the curious.

R.E.B. (December 2004)

NOTE: A reader, Denys Potts, wrote with the following information regarding the Canteloube CD reviewed above:

I have read with great interest your review of the Haydn House CD of Canteloube's Chants de la France, especially your comment that Lucie Daullene "sounds as if she is barely a teenager". This is because she was indeed only fifteen when she recorded the songs. I know this because at the time (late 1949 and early 1950) I was living in Paris and used to listen to Canteloube rehearsing with her in the Paris apartment of J.B. Hanson, the managing director of Oiseau Lyre, then an independent company, whom I had known in England. Some friends of Canteloube had discovered her in an Auvergne village, and she was always chaperoned by her mother, a silent figure (she probably only spoke Auvergnat) dressed entirely in black. Canteloube, whom I got to know well, despite some 40 years of difference in age, and with whom I corresponded up to his death in 1957, thought she was the ideal singer for his songs. "That's how French folk songs should be sung", he once wrote to me, "much better than la Grey (Madeleine Grey, who made the first recordings, with orchestra, around 1930)". I would have attended the recording in the Studio des Champs-Elysees, but the removal men couldn't get Canteloube's piano up the stairs (there is now a lift!) and I had another appointment to keep. He had to use the studio piano which accounts for the sound on the record. The first records to be issued were two 78s with, as I remember, seven of the songs. The others were first issued on the LP. They made another record together, Selmer LPG 8220 ( I never knew the contents of the Selmer disc), which won the Grand Prix de l'Academie du Disque in 1952, but foolishly I never acquired it, and I have never seen a copy. My memory (not 100% reliable) is that the last seven of the fourteen songs on the LP are those originally issued on the two 78s. The first seven were taped at the time but not to my knowledge issued until the LP. However, I remember very clearly some of them being rehearsed when I was present, notably the lullaby Som-Som and Se lo voy, which I found quite thrilling when I first heard it in the Hansons' salon, and about which Canteloube loved telling how he had heard a shepherd and shepherdess sing it to one another across a valley in the Quercy. Som-Som and Se lo voy were, of course, among the titles actually issued on 78s. I can't now be sure whether I heard the artists rehearse any of the first seven on the LP, though I think they did do Il y a rien de si charmant. The two 78s were on sale just before I left Paris which was in July 1950. I suspect they continued to record items up until later that year, but I know that no more 78s were issued (Oiseau Lyre had begun experimenting with LPs by then -- I remember going to their demonstration for the Paris record trade around Easter 1950 at which the representative of La Boite a Musique commented to me "this will never come to anything"!) I imagine that the LP was made from an amalgam of the master tapes of the unissued and the already issued items.

In a letter dated 13 January 1954, Canteloube uses the spelling Lucie Dolène, which shows that the change of name had already taken place. In the same letter he says that a record of the Chants d'Auvergne with orchestra was in prospect with Lucie Dolène and Camille Mauranne, "magnifique chanteur". If only this had materialised! I have only recently realised what happened to Lucie Daullene who, when I last spoke to her all those years ago, told me shyly that Maitre Canteloube was going to get her a place in the chorus of the Opera Comique. She went on to have a career in musical comedy under the name Lucie Dolene (there is a recording of her in The Land of Smiles), and to dub Snow White and other roles for Disney films. In 1996 she got a sum of money from the Disney Corporation for unpaid royalties.

I hope this is of some interest -- otherwise, please forgive the nostalgic ramblings of an 82 year old! What memories your review has called back for me. O les beaux jours!