Emma Calvé - Complete 1902 G&T, 1920 Pathé and "Mapleson Cylinder" Recordings

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Emma Calvé - Complete 1902 G&T, 1920 Pathé and "Mapleson Cylinder" Recordings

  • Carmen, L'amour est un oiseau rebelle (Habanera)
  • Magali
  • Enchantement
  • Sérénade de Zanetto
  • Carmen, ~, Près des remparts de Séville (Seguédille)
  • Carmen, ~, Près des remparts de Séville (Seguédille)
  • Cavalleria rusticana, Voi lo sapete
  • (Le) nozze di Figaro, '(The) Marriage of Figaro', Voi che sapete
  • Carmen, L'amour est un oiseau rebelle (Habanera)
  • Carmen, ~, Les tringles des sistres (Gypsy Song)
  • Carmen, ~, En vain, pour éviter
  • Cavalleria rusticana, Voi lo sapete
  • (Les) Contes d'Hoffmann, '(The) Tales of Hoffmann', Belle nuit, ô nuit d'amour (Barcarolle)
  • Sérénade
  • (La) Perle du Brésil, Charmant oiseau
  • Norma, ~, Casta diva
  • In questa tomba oscura
  • (La) Périchole, O mon cher amant, je te jure
  • Sapho, Pendant un an je fus ta femme
  • Amadis, Amour, que veux-tu de moi?
  • Quand on aime
  • Clavelitos
  • Barcarola
  • Coplas andaluz
  • Old folks at home
  • Dixie Land
  • By the Waters of Minnetonka (Moon Deer)
  • Mary Rose
  • Comin' thro' the Rye
  • Ma voisine
  • Rondel de l'adieu
  • National Anthems, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The star-spangled banner Smith/Key)
  • (L') Heure exquise
  • Dernier voeu
  • Faust, ~, Ah! je ris (Jewel Song)
  • Faust, ~, Anges purs
  • Carmen
  • Cavalleria rusticana
  • Carmen
  • Sapho, Pendant un an je fus ta femme
  • Galathée, Quelle couleur! C'est blonde et vermeille (Air d)
  • Dinorah, '(Le) pardon de Ploërmel', Ombre légère (Shadow Song)
  • (Le) Pré aux Clercs, Jours de mon enfance
  • (Le) Domino noir, '(The) Black domino', Qui je suis? Une fée, un bon ange
  • Manon, ~, Allons! Il le faut pour lui-même
  • Manon, ~, Adieu, notre petite table
  • Hamlet, ~, Pâle et blonde
  • Manon
  • Galathée, Quelle couleur! C'est blonde et vermeille (Air d)
  • Mignon, ~, Je suis Titania (Polonaise)
  • Mireille, Heureux petit berger
  • Mireille, O Magali, ma bien-aimée
  • Philémon et Baucis, Ah! si je redevenais belle! (Rêverie)
  • Philémon et Baucis, O riante nature
  • Roméo et Juliette, 'Romeo and Juliet', Je veux vivre (Waltz)

In the alphabetical index of great singers, Calve follows Callas, and the sequence is suggestive. Both were actress-singers who brought revelations of opera-as-theatre to the audiences of their time; both acted with the voice (as contemporary accounts of Calve tell and as we know to be so with Callas); and both were strong personalities among the most famous women in the world. One sad and striking difference is that Callas’s recordings testify amply to this, while Calve’s are inadequate in repertoire as well as technical conditions to do her justice. Yet much is caught, right from those extraordinary cylinders made at performances in the Metropolitan in 1902 where, among all that is lost, her high-notes can be heard ringing out well into the house above the orchestra, with a tone sufficiently distinctive for us to associate it with the studio recordings made later that same year. They in turn are reinforced by the amazingly vivid series made for Pathe in 1920, by which year the singer was in her early sixties.
This two-CD set complements the earlier issue on Romophone (6/97) of Calve’s Victor recordings and the ‘death-bed speech’ or message supreme. Together they supersede the Pearl edition (two discs, 11/91) at least in terms of completeness (among the Pathes not included by Pearl are an interestingly wayward Clavelitos and, a real gem, three unaccompanied folk-songs, Coplas andaluz). Opinions may differ on the question of speeds-and-pitches. Marston places the first studio recording, Carmen’s Habanera, a semitone above score-pitch, and the rest of the playing-speeds correspond, so that Magali has a magical quatrieme voix high B flat at the end. The producer’s note makes it clear that this is deliberate but does not explain the grounds of the decision. The quality of copies used and results obtained is fine, though Pearl’s transfers mastered by Colin Attwell stand up very creditably in comparisons.
There is a second singer in this new issue, however, and her presence adds greatly to its attractions. Cecile Merguillier recorded for Pathe and Edison in 1904 and 1905 when virtually in retirement though only in her early forties, and still singing with fresh voice, assured technique and captivating style. A light soprano, she was singing Philine in Mignon (an energetic performance of the Polonaise is among her records) in 1887, the night the old Opera-Comique burnt down. Her solos from Mireille and Philemon et Baucis are especially delightful, and as far as I know this is the first time a full sequence of her records has been collected on disc. The issue is finely presented, with informative notes and some excellent photographs.'

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