Amy Schuard - Opera Arias
‘Where has this voice been all my life?’ people will be saying as they come upon it for the first time in this disc. And indeed others, for whom the voice was for so many years just around the corner and a few tube stops away, will wonder whether they appreciated it properly when it was part of more or less day-to-day experience. The impression here is magnificent: a tone as beautiful as, say, mid-period Tebaldi and a volume comparable to that of Shuard’s great teacher, Dame Eva Turner. The first phrase of all, the opening of ‘Ritorna vincitor’, could almost be mistaken for Dame Eva’s, every ‘r’ so resolutely rolled, and an expression severely that of the princess rather than the slave-girl. She softens in manner and volume for ‘Numi, pieta’, but on the whole this is an Aida in the heroic mould, and even in ‘O patria mia’ the mood is firmly regulated, the nostalgia kept within bounds. Turandot is also Turneresque, formidable in vocal demeanour, indomitable on high.
I have to pause and think back. Plenty of critical opinion – and Alan Blyth’s notes quote Harold Rosenthal, Philip Hope-Wallace and Andrew Porter – can be adduced to confirm from live experience the superb impression created by these records. But in all honesty I do not remember it quite so. Take it up at the comparison with Eva Turner: what I principally remember with Turner is the (frankly) surprised delight on finding that her tone was absolutely pure, translucent, without surface-scratch, wear or any other alloy, whereas Shuard’s voice never impressed me in that way. It did in others, principally in strength and reliability. She was a genuinely distinguished operatic artist, and in international casts (as in Un ballo in maschera) clearly earned her place. Her Turandot was a solid achievement; yet, in beauty or appeal of tone-quality, I remember preferring (for instance) Gertrud Grob-Prandl and Sylvia Fisher.
Where the record accords with memory is primarily in some of its more negative elements – the somewhat unvarying countenance and a sense of limited responsiveness (she knows when to soften, as she does, beautifully, in Tatyana’s Letter scene, but doesn’t enter into the development of feeling towards that point). It does, however, revive also a memory of her warm, moving and very accomplished singing of the Ballo aria, and it kindles a wish that we could have heard her in Andrea Chenier. The gift and accomplishment put on record here remain outstanding, as is the quality of transfer.'