Lucia Popp - Opera Arias
Recorded in June 1982, but never previously issued in the UK, this recital of arias finds the late, much-lamented Lucia Popp poised at that stage in her professional life when she abandoned the soubrette and coloratura roles of her youth. Instead of the Queen of Night, she is here Pamina; rather than Susanna, the Figaro Countess; and Agathe instead of Aennchen in Der Freischutz. Popp had one of the most individual, responsive voices, with its rapid vibrato, exquisitely poised high notes and forward, beautifully articulated diction. In the 1980s she tackled some of the big Strauss roles and at least two of the ‘lighter’ Wagner parts. Outside Germany, where her career was centred on the Cologne and Munich opera houses, she was seldom allowed to sing other than the German and Austrian repertory, but in 1972 she did essay Gilda in Rigoletto at Covent Garden. Her “Caro nome” here is taken quite slowly, with slightly careful scale passages, and a respectable trill towards the end. How many other Marschallins have there been since Margarethe Siems who could carry this off?
The big rarity here is the aria from Hermann Goetz’s Der Widerspanstigen Zahmung (“The Taming of the Shrew”). Composed between 1868 and 1874, it was the short-lived Goetz’s one big theatre success, admired by Bernard Shaw who hailed Goetz as one of the four true successors to Mozart (the others were Beethoven, Weber and Wagner). The reflective aria for Katherine in Act 4 finds her admitting to herself that she is tamed and in love.
Popp’s Manon and Louise are both fine versions of these much-recorded arias – I wonder if she ever sang the parts on stage? The recital ends with two arias in Czech, Marenka’s lament from Act 3 of The bartered bride, and then Rusalka’s “O silver moon”. Popp sang this at a gala at the Coliseum in the 1980s and stole the show. There are more typical recordings of Lucia Popp, but this is a touching souvenir of her later style; the recording has her voice well forward. No texts, translations or even synopses are included, just two paragraphs in praise of Popp’s “versatility, beauty and technical control” – no argument with that.'