Eidé Norena (1884-1968)
Norena was a Norwegian who spent a good deal of her time in France, and so sings her Die Zauberflote and Rigoletto in French. She came to Covent Garden in 1924, as Gilda and Violetta then again in several seasons up to 1931, when she sang Liu, and finally in 1937 to sing Desdemona in that fabled end-of-season extra performance of Otello with Martinelli and Tibbett, Beecham conducting. Martinelli was then 'the veteran tenor', but I don't know whether anybody at the time observed that the Desdemona was, officially at any rate, a year older: she was born in 1884, making her 53 in 1937 and already 45 when she recorded the Rigoletto. Her voice remained quite remarkably young and fresh, just slightly betraying its years by 1938 but still perfectly firm and seemingly unworn.
Nimbus have recently released a Norena disc and a good selection of her earlier recordings was issued on a Club 99 LP, no doubt soon to be available on CD. Meanwhile, here are samples of her deeply felt and tonally very apt portrayal of Liu, her Micaela, Gilda and Desdemona, a sensitive account of Pamina's lament (with the modest and rather lovely cadenza also used by Lily Pons origin to me unknown), and a rare recording, both accomplished and poetic, of the Queen's aria in Les huguenots. The original copy of this has a light swish at the start, soon lost. Generally the transfers are fine, but listening to the Hamlet Mad scene made me think how I would like to hear it on an original, then to remember that I had it, and eventually to play it—and 78s are best.'