They do think up some very provoking titles for these things. What is this one supposed to mean? Are we to think that 1964 (date of the earliest recording included) to 1991 (that of the latest) is a span of years comparable to from here to eternity? Or that the celebrated soprano has been with us so long that it seems like eternity? Or that her place in the eternal hierarchy is assured—in which case it is as well to remember that Eternity has a way of making up its own mind, often with unanticipated results. None of these tetchy thoughts would have surfaced if a slightly more sensible, less euphoric, title had been found.
That Caballe will be able, when the lamented time comes, to knock with confidence on the doors of the Hall of Song can hardly be doubted, and it is probable that she will pack some of these very recordings into her portfolio. On the other hand, the 1991 series of recordings new to the UK should probably not be among them: there are plenty of better operatic recordings to choose from, and the songs are not of the sort one takes into Eternity. Enthusiasm for the song called Hijo de la luna has led the compilers, ill-advisedly I would have thought, to open the collection with it and to repeat it, in French, at the end. Moreover, an unpromising first page of the sheet-music is reproduced in the booklet, an artistically-placed rose preventing full inspection. Jose-Maria Cano, who composed and now conducts it, also had a hand in the arrangement, during which the banal little melody, pleasant enough when it began in modest fashion with voice, flute and piano, is inflated till it approaches bursting-point, when it suddenly goes down again and is over at last. That at least leaves an impression. Not the ghost of a memory of the song from The Phantom of the Opera can I raise now, an hour or so after hearing it.
The more valuable part of the set originates in recordings made between 1964 and 1974. These include some of the best in the whole of Caballe's output. Finest of all, I would say, are the excerpts from Le siege de Corinthe and Roberto Devereux: these show the voice at its most beautiful, expressive too in the warmth or sadness of its usage. There are some fine and special touches in Violetta's solo as well, taken from the complete Traviata with Carlo Bergonzi as the unacknowledged Alfredo. Hear, for instance, the wondering, wistfully faint hope of the last phrase of recitative before ''Ah, fors' e lui', and then the impulsive shading of ''croce e delizia'' in the first verse. When it comes to items from the recital records of 1974, hearing these again reminded me of the contentions they aroused on their release, I cannot remember what I thought of the Adriana Lecouvreur aria then (I find it abominable now), but the Trovatore aria, which I defended in first review, still strikes me as having much that is uncommonly lovely about it. ''Depuis le jour'', which starts rapturously, becomes almost grotesque in its exaggerations. But that is nothing to the new (1991) ''Mon coeur s'ouvre''. It starts slowly and gets slower... and slower, and slower. James Joyce in Ulysses uses the word ''stogged'', and ''stogged'' is what this is.'