Lucrezia Bori Victor Recordings 1925-37
Until Romophone brought out the complete run of her Victor recordings, Bori looked like becoming the forgotten prima donna. Vol. 1 (3/96) was welcomed in these pages as reintroducing “one of the most adorable and fascinating of singers on records”, and its successor now follows her from the heyday of her career to the time of her last recordings, some 18 months after her official retirement. She was then 50 years of age and for the rest of her life remained active on behalf of the Metropolitan Opera, for which, in the period of the Depression, she had worked as hard and effectively as any individual to save it from financial ruin and possible closure. Since then her own fate has been a strange tale of posthumous neglect, for though she won the affection and respect of colleagues, critics and the public alike, and though (more to the immediate point) she made some most delightful recordings, there was nevertheless something in sound or ‘image’ that prevented her from joining others among her contemporaries who have benefited from a revival of appreciation on LP and CD.
As far as the sound is concerned, Bori’s records can never have been heard to better advantage than they are here. The originals were often issued on noisy shellac, and at 78rpm most played above the correct pitch. In these conditions the voice could sound thin, and the ‘image’ (if that overused word be permitted) suffered accordingly. The repertoire of songs may not have helped: perhaps in its time Ciribiribin and so forth were welcomed as a form of ‘crossover’, but even now, at this distance in time, from behind the sweetly tweet-a-tweeting singer, Groucho has only to lift an eyebrow or Harpo to turn down his nether lip, and the bird-song takes a perilously farcical flight.
Fortunately we are just sufficiently far away to detach the records from impediments of this kind. The complete edition, which these two volumes comprise, returns the singer to us as new, and even collectors who possess or know most of the originals will find the set well worth their while to acquire. Among the recordings said to be previously unpublished, best are two songs by Nin, dating from the singer’s last session, at the end of 1937. There are also some alternative takes (all good), and the two 1925 duets with McCormack. A great pleasure lies in the discovery (or maybe confirmation) that the 1937 recordings show only slight deterioration of voice and have such vividness of character. Best remain well-known things such as Mimi’s narrative, Musetta’s waltz-song (sung as though it were Mimi’s also), the Mignon solos and some of the Spanish songs such as the Malaguena by Don Pagans. Personally, andin the present mood, I find she can sing whatever she likes and I’ll love it for her sake. The most commonplace, trivial or exasperatingly ‘pretty’ banalities endear themselves if they provide an additional opportunity to hear this exquisite, highly individual, stylistically patrician and totally lovable artist.'