Vivian Liff’s Les Huguenots – Prima puntata

Dopo il concerto meyerbeeriano delle 75.000 entrate Il Corriere della Grisi torna ancora su Les Huguenots e Meyerbeer e lo fa proponendo un prezioso articolo (tradotto in italiano) di Mr Vivian Liff, uno dei più autorevoli e rinomati collezionisti ed esperti di dischi antichi e dei loro esecutori, ideatore e curatore dei primi due volumi di The Record of Singing, per i quali ha messo a disposizione di tutti anche i dischi, presi dalla prestigiosa collezione Stuart-Liff. Mr Liff fu uno dei Direttori artistici della London Opera Society negli anni ’60, allorquando venne allestita in forma semiscenica l’edizione di Les Huguenots della Royal Albert Hall, con Joan Sutherland, Anastasios Vrenios, Martina Arroyo e Richard Bonynge (1968). A quella produzione seguì, l’anno successivo, la famosa produzione della Semiramide Sutherland Horne Bonynge.
Siamo perciò onorati di aver ricevuto il permesso di Mr Liff alla pubblicazione del suo articolo, in cui ha esaminato in maniera meticolosa tutta la discografia de Les Huguenots, attento ad individuare quali degli interpreti, anche e soprattutto i grandissimi, siano attenti alle indicazioni dell’autore presenti nello spartito. Un’analisi meticolosa che può essere considerata un vero esempio di filologia della prassi esecutiva del Grand-Opéra e del Belcanto.
Qui trovate la traduzione.
Buona lettura. Enjoy!

Vivian Liff

After spending ten years in Italy learning his craft, Meyerbeer settled in Paris in 1824. It was here that he found his ideal collaborator in Eugène Scribe, a highly successful playwright of the day. Their first work for the Paris Opéra, Robert le Diable, was presented to the public in 1831 and proved the greatest success in its history, establishing Meyerbeer immediately as one of the most celebrated composers in Europe. Combining spectacle, novel instrumentation, striking dramatic effects, unbounded romanticism and memorable melodic inspiration, it arrived at precisely the right moment to meet the needs of an audience already captivated by such operas as Masaniello, Zampa and Guillaume Tell.

With his characteristic, obsessive fear of failure, Meyerbeer took his time over his next offering. Scribe chose as the basis for its libretto a story by Prosper Merimée Chronicles of the Time of Charles IX and five years after the sensational first night of Robert le Diable the Opéra again witnessed the success of another work from Meyerbeer’s pen – Les Huguenots. Oddly enough, despite the brilliant cast and settings, the work initially proved only moderately successful compared with the furore which had greeted its predecessor. Subsequent performances confirmed its great superiority and it soon became one of the most performed operas in all the principal opera houses of the world. In the age of the prima donna it established itself as the perfect vehicle, not just to display the talents of two or three great singers of the day but also to provide stellar roles for no less than seven. The public got its money’s worth in no uncertain fashion.

More than any other composer before him, Meyerbeer was meticulous in the notation of his scores. Every member of the cast, from chorus to orchestral player, was given precise instructions concerning phrasing, the use of portamento, dynamic levels and so forth, leaving little to chance or the personal idiosyncrasies of wilful opera stars. Thus the study of a Meyerbeer score, while not providing the complete answer to the performing style of his day, does allow us to form a far better idea of it than is possible from perusing the scores of his predecessors.

It is a sad fact that the slow but steady decline in Meyerbeer’s once formidable reputation had already started by the final quarter of the last century. Many famous musicians including Wagner and Schumann were not slow in criticizing a composer whose meteoric and unabated success must have proved somewhat galling. As Michael Scott perceptively wrote in his brief monograph on the composer: ‘The trouble with these attacks was not that they were not true but that they were not relevant. None of Meyerbeer’s critics sympathized with his methods or appreciated his objectives. Even now we are still living in the wake of their prejudices. The German ideal, in the music of Wagner, has triumphed; taking its cue from Bayreuth, the opera house has ceased to be principally a place of entertainment and instead become a temple of enlightenment, with the composer as high priest where formerly the prima donna had been mistress of ceremonies. It is hardly surprising therefore that Grand Opera, epitomized in the works of Meyerbeer and his librettist Scribe, has become a pejorative term; a catch-all cliché used to damn a brilliantly successful type of music drama which did not, as modern taste would have it, put depth of characterization or psychological consistency before sheer entertainment value. Its aim may not have been elevating but its achievements within its chosen terms of reference – which are the only ones by which any work of art should be judged – were considerable.’ Although most of Meyerbeer’s works were still in the repertories of the major opera companies up to the turn of the century, thereafter they were gradually dropped until by the 1920s it was only pre-Hitler Germany and Austria that staged them with any degree of regularity.

This decline is exactly mirrored in the recording history of his operas and it is therefore scarcely surprising that by far the largest group of recordings from Les Huguenots was made in the early years of the gramophone at the beginning of the last century. This in itself has a value. It is true that the gramophone cannot be said to have preserved Meyerbeer’s own performing style in the way that it has captured that of composers such as Richard Strauss, Stravinsky, Falla, Britten, Poulenc, Vaughan Williams etc. However it is probably fair to claim that it has preserved a Meyerbeer tradition almost in the same way as it has preserved that of Verdi. Problems of performing style are most acute when the operas of a composer are revived after being absent from the repertory for many years. In the case of the operas of Meyerbeer and Verdi it can at least be said that all the singers of the first quarter of this century were part of a continuous performing tradition. Although the stage works of Meyerbeer belong to an earlier generation than those of Verdi, it is nevertheless likely that in the most classically correct of the early recordings we can hear something that is close to the performing style of Meyerbeer’s own time.

Inevitably it would seem that the passage of years results in a gradual corruption of the original performing style and thus the basis taken for criticism and evaluation of the performances which follow has been the score and in particular the dynamic markings of the composer. The experience of listening to more than sixty versions of ‘Plus blanche que la blanche ermine’ and almost as many of ‘Nobles Seigneurs’ or ‘O beau pays’ has convincingly demonstrated that when the composer’s own markings are strictly observed (particularly the piano markings on top notes) the maximum dramatic effect is achieved, as well as a natural increase in delicacy. Moreover, although it may be currently fashionable to dismiss Meyerbeer’s fioriture as merely meretricious or empty pyrotechnics, there is a noticeable increase in expressive feeling when a singer is able to encompass these effortlessly.

The possibility of reviewing every single recording made from Les Huguenots is remote. In the 24 years that have elapsed since this task was attempted in Opera on Record Volume 2, Editor, Alan Blyth, some new material has been traced, so it is to be hoped that there are now few major omissions from this discography. Understandably the greater portion of the recordings are on the old 78 rpm format, and it has thus seemed sensible to review these first, leaving the smaller group recorded since the advent of the long playing disc, CDs and DVDs to the end of this survey.

Raoul’s entrance ‘Sous Ie beau ciel’ is the first aria in the opera. Of the eight versions heard (Enrico Caruso: Pat M 84006; HLM 7030; Leo Slezak: G&T 3-43202; GV47; Marius Corpait; Od. 97348; GV 82: Agustarello Affre: Pat M3509; (Club 99-59) Pierre Cornubert: Od. 56047;Ignacy Dygas:. Syrena 837; Ottokar Marak: GC 4-42074; Hermann Jadlowker: Od. 99926) the finest is undoubtedly the Jadlowker while those by Corpait, Dygas, Affre and Cornubert run it a close second. Jadlowker deals with every technical aspect of the air superbly, producing exemplary singing which immediately conveys the importance and breeding of the character entirely through the music. Corpait displays an attractive voice with a fast, controlled vibrato and sings with great finish. His recording is further enhanced by the singing of Dinh Gilly as Nevers. Affre sings with fine style, observes the score meticulously and sounds important – as indeed do Dygas and Cornubert in their equally commanding versions. In comparison Caruso’s version, which dates from his very first recording session in 1900 or 1901, is both clumsy and unidiomatic (although there are moments when the young Caruso’s magnificent voice carries all before it), while the Slezak and Marak versions sound slightly coarse and lacking in poetry. However, the power of Marak’s high notes is most exciting.

One of the deservedly most frequently recorded excerpts from the opera is Raoul’s ‘Plus blanche que la blanche ermine’ – in fact Slezak recorded this no less than eight times! The four so far heard (G&T 2~42501; G&T 342922: CO 309; ad. 5497; Col. D 536) are all typically virile performances, but as in so many of Slezak’s operatic recordings there is little nuance – this Raoul is not quite the gentleman. Other versions that can be speedily dismissed are those by Njcolai Figner, the idol of Tchaikovsky (G&T 22594 and G&T 02200) both effortful and eccentric performances although forgivable since made perforce in his declining years; Leon Lafitte (Zono 2177; Rubini RS304) sings in an unremitting forte with no light or shade; Lev KIementieff (Amour 022130; USSR D 014921/2) has a few rather fine touches but he is tonally unsteady; Carlo Albani (PatM 4904; Club 99.113) sings with some sensitivity but sounds generally depressed. He also simplifies the cadenza in a most unstylish fashion; Florencio Constantino (Columbia A 5204) is beset with intonation problems, choppy phrasing and the lack of legato; Enzo Leliva (Fono. 39926; Muza XL 0109) is below form and singularly lacking in distinction; Jose Mojica (Edison 82347; Club 99.23) is pleasant but far too lightweight; Georges Thill (LFX 111; C 061-12154) starts well, but tires badly before the end of the aria; Paul Franz (HMV 032268) sings beautifully but stolidly; Helge Rosvaenge (Decca Poly. LY 6027 and Telef. SK 1272; Top Classic TC 9042) has great intensity but is unable to disguise the effort involved – of his two versions, the Decca Polydor, which is without the recitative, is much the better; Cesar Vezzani (Disque W 1087; Rococo 5234) starts with attractive ardour but coarsens progressively until the cadenza is really painful; Antonio Paoli (DB 470; Club 99.1) also begins sensitively but later lacks charm and nuance; Hipolito Lazaro (Coi. D 18008; GV 506) displays a ludicrously lachrymose style liberally sprinkled with intrusive ‘h’s; Louis Morrison (HMV AT 11; C 051-23276) brings unlovely tone and short phrasing but does manage a reasonably accurate cadenza. He also sounds over-parted although his repertoire included many dramatic roles; Werner Alberti (Od. 50271) sings with ugly constricted tone and is totally unstylish; Andreas Dippel (IRCC 136) like Alberti, seems to combine all the least attractive qualities of the German Heldentenor of his time and has a most unpleasing vocal quality; Ivan Gritchenko (Extrafon 24302) the leading tenor of the Odessa opera in the early years of this century, displays an attractive lyric voice, here over-parted; Basil Sevastianov (Syrena 10348), his contemporary, has an excellent and powerful voice producing clean, stylish singing but is not really in the top class; Mario Gilion (Fono. 92685; GV 96) offers unattractive constricted tone which severely restricts his interpretative possibilities – a drastically curtailed cadenza is also a debit. Costa Milona’s version (Vox H 010218; Sunday Opera SY02) suffers this last fault also, although his attractive voice, which so resembles that of Caruso, makes much of the opening measures. Unfortunately he later becomes plaintive and loses momentum; Koloman von Pataky (Poly. 95375; LV 54) has to resort to much faking to guide his light lyric voice through the aria but at least produces attractive tone and clean singing in the Patzak mould, although his more famous contemporary is unlikely to have abridged the cadenza. Visually Johannes Sembach (Gramm. 3-42968; CO 404) must have been one of the most convincing Wagnerian heroes ever to have graced the lyric stage but his rendition is totally prosaic, lacking poetry , minus cadenza and surprises with a totally unexpected choral conclusion. In a class of his own is John O’Sullivan (CoI. 12459; Club 99.6). He was James Joyce’s favourite tenor (and also the Raoul of the notorious 1927 performance at Covent Garden) but he sings so appallingly that he would have shattered the reputation of a greater composer than Meyerbeer!

Recommendable versions include Giovanni Zenatello (Fono. 92779; CO 357) who gives a generally sensitive rendering marred only by one or two lachrymose moments and an abridged cadenza; Sirotini (Zono. 092000; OASI 615), thought by some to be a pseudonymous Gerson Sirota but here revealing a far lighter vocal timbre than heard on any of the famous cantor’s other recordings, demonstrates a mastery of legato and the florid style even if this latter quality must be assessed from a slightly abridged cadenza; Andrei Labinsky (Amour GC 2-:22775) cleverly disguises the fact that his voice is insufficiently heroic and sings with style even though he simplifies the final cadenza, offering an almost endless high note in compensation; Karl J6rn (G&T 2-42546 and G&T 3-42779) sings attractively in fine style and gives much pleasure despite a basically lyric tenor voice; Andre d’Arkor (Col. RFX 22; 1A 153-52641) is impressive with a fine sense of line but he ultimately lacks finesse; Rudolf Gerlach-Rusnak (HMV EG 2698; LV 71) has a most attractive voice and his singing is very much in the Wittrisch mould. This is a sensitive and enjoyable version lacking perhaps the ultimate distinction; Fritz Krauss (Od. 0-11058; LV 158) sings with great fervour and is remarkably score attentive throughout. Only the final note of a well-executed cadenza takes him to the limit of his capabilities, and it is not a pleasant sound; Jacques Urlus (Musica H 22008; GV 67) sings with great authority, but of all the European languages surely the most damaging to a legato line, at least to foreign ears, must be the Dutch; Tino Pattiera (Od. 80808;RLS 743, LV61) again sounding curiously like Caruso, sings sensitively, but his highest notes are not without effort; Marius Corpait (Od. 97660) also sings attractively and gives a stylish performance which is only marred by a simplified cadenza. For a less than immaculate attempt at this same cadenza Ivan Erschov (G&T 022011; RLS7706) must be excluded from the very finest renderings; Agustarello Affre (Zono. 2026, G&T 2-32685, Od. 36413; Club 99.90 and Pat. M 3496) also forfeits inclusion in this category since, although his versions have much to recommend them, there is a significant lack of light and shade in nearly all. The Odeon perhaps catches him at his finest – an impressive and important sounding Raoul; Pierre Cornubert (Fono 39275; IRCC L7023) reveals a ringing voice with tremendous top notes, but though he observes most of the dynamic markings this version is not quite in the top class; Serge Lemeshev (DSSR2131l; GV 36) produces some fine touches but his basically appealing voice has become unsteady in its middle range. Interpretatively it is in the Labinsky manner but he does attempt a full cadenza; Giacomo Lauri-Volpi (HMV AGSB 57; OASI 549, Discophilia DIS 258) gives one of his finest performances on record. It must remain a mystery as to why this recording was not issued at the same time as his other excellent discs of the early thirties. It is a fine, heroic performance acutely sensitive to all the dynamic markings and which, had he not drastically curtailed the cadenza, would have qualified for the highest class. It has to be admitted that both Caruso versions are oddly disappointing. The first and more admired attempt made in 1905 (G&T 052088;ORL 303) finds him in really luscious voice, but it is an unidiomatic essay, not because it is sung in Italian, but because he sounds both lachrymose and depressed. The 1909 recording (HMV 2-052008; RL 13373) is in better style but unfortunately the tenor is in much poorer voice. Neither version, however, can be lightly dismissed – both have the stamp of Caruso’s immense authority upon them.

Three tenors are in a category apart. Fernando De Lucia (Phonotype M 1812), even though at the very end of his career when he made this recording, displays a complete mastery of the style – perhaps better than any other tenor, he observes Meyerbeer’s direction to open the aria con delicatezza and the cadenza holds no terrors for this master of the florid style. His virtues are emulated by Jadlowker in his two recordings (Gramm. 032295; C0388 in French; and Od. JXX 81007 in German). Some may find the actual vocal timbre of De Lucia and Jadlowker displeasing but they undoubtedly possessed techniques that place them among the very greatest singing artists. Their attention to dynamic markings is scrupulous, their piano top notes are ravishing and the general elegance of their versions is most striking. Additionally Jadlowker concludes with a cadenza of great brilliance containing a long trill on, a high G sharp from which he rises to the final A in one breath. It should be emphasized that it is primarily the elegance and finish of these performances which makes them outdistance so many rivals, not just the pyrotechnics. These superb versions are perhaps surpassed by those of Dmitri Smirnov (HMV 022338, 2681c and 2688c) all sung in Russian. Smirnov’s voice is arguably a more attractive instrument and his versions include all the others’ virtues (though without Jadlowker’s interpolated trill) and even elaborate on the cadenza to thrilling effect. Of the three attempts, that on 2688c (GV 74) seems marginally the finest, being slightly more relaxed and poetic than the issued one while that on 2681c is marred slightly by faulty playing from the viola d’amore. All these versions seem little short of ideal. It should be mentioned in passing that none of the recordings of this aria includes the second, written verse which contains a cadenza requiring incredible virtuosity. , One may speculate whether this is indicative of a decline in the technical proficiency of tenors by the turn of the century or simply the inability of the old records to accommodate the extra music.

The basses take charge for the next two arias and it must be confessed× that as a group they do much better than their tenor colleagues. The first aria ‘Seigneur, rampart et seul soutien’ is well sung by Ivar Andresen (HMV EH 227 and Col. LX 13; LV 45) but he does not sound involved. This same criticism can be levelled at Armand Narçon (Col. RFX 7; Club 99.115) whose soft-grained voice encounters problems with the lowest tones. Adamo Didur (Fono. 92003; CO 360) and Paul Aumonier (Pathe P 0302; Club 99.107) and Paul Knüpfer (Gramm. 4-42567; CQ 304) display their magnificent voices to fine effect and are excellent by any standards. Wilhelm Hesch (G&T 3-42397 and Od. 38019) is similarly imposing, but the G&T version is to be preferred for the Odeon reveals a quite uncharacteristic sense of strain on his lowest notes. Lev Sibiriakov (RAOG 8291), the Italian-trained Russian bass, has no trouble at all in the lower register but his bland version is short-phrased and lacking in momentum, as is that by Walter Soomer (Vox 03038; CO 400) though marginally less bland. Finer versions are provided by Andreas de Segurola (G&T 52634 and PD 2-32634) in Italian and Alexander Kipnis (Homokord B8276;Club 99.55) in German, in which both singers obey the dynamic markings perfectly, so that the second strophe is sung with an interior, hushed quality which is most moving and conveys the religious quality of the music. However it is the Russians again who have the last word and Vladimir Kastorsky (G&T 3-,-22860) and Kapitan Zaporozhetz (Syrena 10021) provide versions which are well nigh perfect. Kastorsky’s opening is absolutely’ electrifying and his singing throughout is exemplary while the Zaporozhetz, possibly the finest version on record, reveals an enormous voice of stunning quality. He sings with varied nuance and has the impressive ability to colour his voice as required by the music. The lowest notes are taken with staggering ease. One curious feature of all these versions is that none of the basses attempt the marked trills. This is strange when it is known that the technical armoury of several of them, Hesch and Zaporozhetz for instance, included this vocal grace.

Versions of Marcel’s second aria ‘Piff,paff, pouff’ that can be speedily passed over include those by Luciano Neroni (Parlo. R 30026), which is dull and unsteady singing; Armand Narçon (Col. RFX 7; Club 99.115), which lacks attack; Jose Mardones (Col. A5192; GV 44) which is ruined by a very ugly final note; Virgilio Lazzari (a ‘private’ disc), which is quite eccentric and only sketchily conforms to the written notes; David Ney (Favorite 1-29503; Hungaroton LPX 11310) whose voice is of provincial quality (he turns the aria into something resembling a Hungarian folk song); Lev Sibiriakov (RAOG 829Q) , who sings only one verse and treats the score in cavalier, fashion and Marius Cambon (Zonofono 2088; Rococo 5347) which has nothing to recommend it, save rarity.

Acceptable renderings include those by Paul Payan (HMVP 529 and Od. 123657) of which the Odeon is marginally to be preferred, although both provide fine examples of his attractive and well-schooled voice; Leon Rothier (Col.A5876),.which is also good, straightforward singing; Leon Rains (Od; 99527; IRCCL 7023) which includes ,the written trills and is exemplary singing from a bass who lacks a really first-class voice; Marcel Journet (DB 307; Discophilia DIS 371) which is marvellously expressive but kept from the highest class by a slight loss of quality on the lowest notes and less than perfect runs; VIadimir Kastorsky (G&T 3-22826) also reveals some uneasiness on the low notes but his is nevertheless a fine interpretation of great authority and the trills, though sketchy, are attempted. Finally Knüpfer (Gramm’4-425?8;~9 304) provides reliable, firm-voiced singing in an interpretation which misses greatness by a hair’s breadth and Ivar Andresen (Nordisk P61yphon SX 42184; IC 153 35350) also impresses with vigorous, venomous, large-scale singing. Ten versions are particularly fine. Paul Aumonier (Pat M 0120 and Pat MP 0302; Club 99.107) is both vigorous and agile, displaying a rich, black, .velvet voice but of his two recordings, the earlier is much to be preferred. Paul Seebach (Edison cylinder 26123) also impresses by the sheer size and range of the voice which, like Aumonier’s, responds easily to all the demands made upon it. Sibiriakov’s second version (Syrena 12855; Club 99.504) is possibly still a little cavalier in style, but expressively it is magnificent. His perfect vocal control makes it unkind to fault him for certain rhythmical liberties. Adamo Didur (Fono. 39489; CO 360) is also impressive with even tone throughout and all the awkward intervals and runs managed with consummate ease in an intense performance. Journet’s Victor recording (V. 74156; RS 320) is without the faults of his HMV version and he gives a compelling and venomous account in which the low notes are .firm and the runs exemplary. Hesch (Od. 38005; CO 300) astonishes by the sheer weight of solid bass tone produced yet, despite the size of the voice, vocalizes the aria with skill and precision. Dmitri Buchtoyarov (Zonophone X 2-62552), like Hesch, surprises with the voluminous majesty of his voice. He provides a vigorous and spirited rendition calculated to make the listener quail. As a frequent member of the Metropolitan’s ‘Seven Star’ casts, Pol Plançon’s records (Zono, X 2061 and G&T 2-2661; GV 76) are of special interest. His singing is superb in almost every respect, from the vocal agility in the florid sections to the ease of the low Es and Fs. Only a low emotional temperature (especially in the Zonophone version) vitiates against the perfection which may perhaps be claimed for the recording by Zaporozhetz (Syrena 10021; USSR D02627), which is positively thrilling. His voice has a richness, weight and solidity rare even among Russian basses and it encompasses all the florid music in a virtuoso performance of real venom. Whereas some of the above singers attempt the written trills, Zaporozhetz is one of the few to accomplish them with any ease.

Urbain’s first aria ‘Nobles Seigneurs, salut’ is something of a puzzle. Despite the really tremendous technical accomplishment of many of the versions, it must be confessed that only two approach the ideal. None of the ladies, whether singing in the soprano or contralto key, really brings off the aria with the lightness of touch and the smile in the, voice that it needs – would that either Yvonne Printemps or Conchita Supervia had recorded it. Disappointing versions are those by Frieda Hempel (unpublished HMV) which is curiously uncertain for her; Marion Beeley (Col. 694) sounds infantile and lacks the necessary technique; Armida Parsi-Pettinella (Fono. 39645; Club 99.106) is gusty with such inferior coloratura that she omits both the cadenza and trill; Xenia Belmas (Poly. 66715; LV 79) is rushed and unstylish; Hedwig Jungkurth (Decca Poly. LY 6027) displays an unattractive voice and poor technique; Hermine Bosetti (Od. XX 76348) obviously hit a bad day, most of her recorded output is far finer than this perfunctory offering; Jane Laval (Col. LFX 4) is bright in timbre but lacks finish; Lucette Korsoff (Disque W 224) provides a correctly sung and reasonably accurate rendering totally devoid of charm or brio; Claudine Armeliny (G&T 33634) offers more in the way of charm but, astonishingly for the period, is without a trill and her technical accomplishment is tame in the extreme; the great Selma Kurz (Zono. X 23014) reveals intonation problems, and in this version omits the entire central section and cadenza – doubtless due to the exigencies of the available recording time at this early date, but how it must have pained her to lose such a chance for display; Mabel Garrison (HMVAGSB 70; Club 99.48) is musicianly and quite stylish but lacks any memorable quality; Alice Williams (Zono. X 83166) offers an uncharacteristically poor effort from a leading soprano .at the Nice Opera House; Eugenia Mantelli (Zono. 12590; Club 99.71), who sang Urbain in performances that included Nordica, Sembrich, Jean and Edouard de Reszke, Plançon and Maurel, is a particular disappointment. The voice is even-scaled and attractive; her technique is serviceable if not brilliant, but she phrases poorly and sounds totally uninvolved; Adelaide Andrejewa von Skilondz (Parlo. P. 1384) astonishes with the agility and fleetness of her scale passages but her conclusion is tame; Antoinette Laute-Brun (Apollon 2078) sings clumsily and without charm, a verdict which must also be registered against Lise Landouzy (Od. 56110); finally Benthe Kiurina (Zono. X23321; LV91) produces her only really poor recorded performance – totally lacklustre, indifferent singing. Among the contralto versions Margarete Matzenauer (Vic. 6471) is much too rushed even though the technical excellence of the singing is remarkable; Louise Homer (DB 665) is matronly; Zara Dolukhanova (USSR D 3265; GV 9) opens the air with enormous authority, but aspirated runs and lack of tonal variety bring eventual disappointment; Carolina Lazzari (Edison82567) is dull, while even the mighty Sigrid Onegin (DB 1290; LV 7) sounds staid – though her cadenza and trill in the central section are to be wondered at. This version, whatever its faults, should be in every collection.

Among the finest of the soprano versions is another by Kurz (HMV 043 Z32; CO 324) who offers graceful highly decorated singing – possibly over-decorated for some tastes. Her version includes a cadenza with two superb trills and a staggering glissando which is great even by her own standards (her third recording of the aria on Polydor 72847 is much inferior to the HMV) ; Katherine Arkandy (Poly. 65698), the successor to Maria Ivogün in Munich, has nearly all her predecessor’s virtues including a voice of singularly attractive timbre. Her decorations are both accomplished and tasteful including a well-judged series of rising trills in the final cadenza; Aurelie Revy (G&T 43824) displays the voice of a typical soubrette but it could be that of a mischievous boy, so is not entirely inappropriate. She later surprises with a virtuoso cadenza and caps the air with a Kurz-type trill; Minnie Nast (GC 2-43285; CO 405), the original Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier, provides a sensitive, responsive account which she finishes with a fine flourish. The lovely, even quality of her voice is an added bonus. Much the same can be said of the version by Grete Forst (G&T 43362) who displays a first-rate florid technique and a particularly well-knit trill; Lotte Schone (Vox 176A) offers a wonderfully judged central section in which the rubato is cunningly applied, but unfortunately the aria as a whole lacks brio, confirming the view that this exquisite singer is at her best in tragic roles; Jose Grayville (Coi. 30114) has a bright voice, an even scale, considerable charm and sings with much accomplishment; Maria Ivogün (Poly. 85312; LV 69 and Od. LXX 76997; LV 68) contributes lovely singing of great finish and elegance – especially on the Odeon disc; Elise Elizza (G&T043001) also offers a most satisfying attempt, the voice even and of warm quality, the tempi well judged and the whole aria crowned by an elaborate yet totally stylish cadenza; Adelaide Andrejewa von Skilondz (Gramm. 043233) improves markedly upon her Parlophon effort; Gabrielle Ritter-Ciampi (Pat M 0404; Club 99.9 and Pat M X7193) provides what is probably the most correctly sung of all the versions – the, later, electrical recording, is marginally to be preferred; Emmy Bettendorf (Od. XXB 6772) surprises with fleet, alert singing from a normally lethargic singer – this is a most charming record with the smooth and attractive vocal quality also in its favour. Adele Kern (Poly. 66946; LV 57) and Fritzi Jokl (Parlo. E 10362; LV 138) come near to being ideal. Both combine technical excellence and a real sense of style with considerable charm and Jokl includes a most elaborate cadenza. Of all the recordings in the contralto key, the two most pleasing are those by Eleanora de Cisneros (Col. A. 5626) and Homer (Vie. 15~1011, Vic. 1519; Rococo 5258). The former is in the best style while Homer improves remarkably on her HMV version: although still slightly lacking in sparkle, she introduces delightfully imaginative rubato touches.

Introduzione di Adolphe Nourrit
Traduzione di Antonio Tamburini

Gli ascolti

Meyerbeer – Les Huguenots

Acte I

Sous le beau cielEnrico Caruso (1901), Leo Slezak (1905)

Plus blanche que la blanche hermineEnrico Caruso (1905), Leo Slezak (1907), Hermann Jadlowker (1913), André d’Arkor (1931),

Seigneur, rempart et seul soutienWilhelm Hesch (1906)

Piff, paffAdamo Didur (1908)

Nobles seigneurs, salutSelma Kurz (1912), Zara Dolukhanova

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