Maria Jeritza (1887-1982)
It is a pity Jeritza did not sing in the age of video opera. As all accounts and photographs testify, she was stunningly beautiful to behold, and her acting (we are sometimes told) was not all stunts (like her roll down the church-steps in Cavalleria rusticana, and her prone ''Vissi d'arte'' in which Geraldine Farrar saw only ''the questionable flaunting of a well-cushioned and obvious posterior''). Herman Klein, Gramophone's veteran critic to whom most of these records here came for first review, fell a willing victim to the visual charms and, more than that, in her work on stage he discerned ''sheer genius'', her voice having much greater fullness and beauty than the records had ever led him to expect. And of course there must have been something special beyond a serviceable voice, a bit of temperament and a pretty face, when composers, Richard Strauss repeatedly, were so anxious to obtain her services for their premieres. On records, she is generally one of the dullest singers of her age or any other.
The Freischutz aria is fairly representative, devoid of poetry, dramatic imagination or musical interest in phrasing. Her Senta lacks both the heroic and the more ethereal vocal qualities needed. Her Isolde is non-existent as a character and her singing of ''Traume'' (Wesendonk Lieder), sometimes a shade flat, is no more than businesslike. The French and Italian arias are unidiomatic and the ''Vissi d'arte'' suggests that in 1914 she may have been sight-reading it, rather badly at that. But, thank heaven, the gramophone does not entirely fail us, and this disc comes up with a gem in her solos from Goldmark's Das Heimchen am Herd (''The Cricket on the Hearth''). This is another 1914 Odeon and it genuinely catches the beauty of voice, a good house-filling volume and a sense of personality. These early recordings (a fine Ariadne auf Naxos aria is among them but not included here) present her much more convincingly than the Victors in the boxy dryness of their studio. The best of those is ''Pleurez, mes yeux'' (Le Cid), finely transferred from a rare and beautiful copy.'