Margherita Carosio-The Early Recordings
“Undeniably a clever coloratura soprano. Yet her voice sounds hard, glottic, and at times even unsympathetic. Everything is bright, glittering, mechanical. As I have remarked before, Italian teachers appear to be encouraging the cultivation of this type of florid singer; and, frankly speaking, it affords me no enjoyment to listen to these throaty acrobatics. They are wondrously rapid and dazzling, like the tricks of a gymnast in a circus, but you fear every moment lest they should terminate in a debacle.”
That is how it appeared to a contemporary: Herman Klein writing in The Gramophone in August 1930 (and we remember he was a man of vaunted experience, his tastes having been formed in the age of Patti). He was reviewing two of the items included in this new collection, the Polonaise from Mignon and the last part of Lucia’s Mad scene, on Parlophone E11024. That record has now become a rarity, as indeed have all of them. So, in a sense, we are lucky to be hearing them at all. Yet I’m not so sure. My own memory of Carosio on record derives principally from a number of post-war issues, in which the voice, hardening a little shrilly on the louder high notes, was generally an instrument of considerable beauty, expressively used and often mellow in timbre. Klein was somewhat unlucky in the particular record that lay before him, and if certain others, such as “Qui la voce” (Puritani) or “Ah, non credea mirarti” (Sonnambula) had come his way he might have withdrawn the “mechanical”. If he had heard the “Brahma” solo from Les pecheurs de perles he might have reconsidered the “hard”, and I cannot think that the Fra Diavolo would have given him any grounds for expecting a debacle. But the reaction he experienced was essentially like my own, which (I must add) was arrived at quite independently of his.
The recording of that period has probably exaggerated the bright, “even unsympathetic” quality, and the transfers probably maximize the brightness of the originals, but whatever musical pleasure the sound affords is of a severely specialized nature. Stylistic merit also has to be sought out among a variety of offences, such as the repeated violation of legato in Bellini, the ignoring of the carefully written grace-notes in Juliette’s waltz, and the substitution of a flutter for a trill in Lucia di Lammermoor. If the bird song written by Natalie Carosio, Margherita’s mother and teacher, was intended for her daughter it suggests the perilous exploitation of a young voice; the other songs included here have a passing attractiveness, especially in the accomplished 1930s-style piano playing of Enrico Bormioli.'