Miliza Korjus (1912-1980) - I

Author: 
Alan Blyth

Miliza Korjus (1912-1980) - I

  • (Die) Zauberflöte, '(The) Magic Flute', Der Hölle Rache
  • (Le) Toréador, Ah, vous dirai-je, maman
  • (La) Zingara
  • Lucia di Lammermoor, '(The) Bride of Lammermoor', ~, Il dolce suono
  • Ernani, ~, Ernani!, Ernani involami
  • Rigoletto, ~, Caro nome
  • (I) Vespri siciliani, '(The) Sicilian Vespers', Mercè, dilette amiche (Bolero)
  • Mireille, O légère hirondelle (Waltz Song).
  • Dinorah, '(Le) pardon de Ploërmel', Ombre légère (Shadow Song)
  • (Les) Contes d'Hoffmann, '(The) Tales of Hoffmann', Les oiseaux dans la charmille (Doll's Song)
  • Lakmé, ~, Blanche Dourga
  • Lakmé, ~, Où va la jeune indoue (Bell Song)
  • (The) Tsar's Bride, ~, In Novgorod (Martha's air)
  • Sadko, Song of the Indian Guest (Chant hindou)
  • (The) Golden Cockerel, '(Le) Coq d'Or', Hymn to the Sun
  • Deh! torna mio bene (Air and Variations)

How odd that Korjus appears in neither The New Grove Dictionary of Opera (Macmillan: 1992) nor the new Oxford Dictionary of Opera (OUP: 1992) yet she was briefly a much-prized star of the Berlin State Opera, then of films. How ephemeral fame can be! Her light, vulnerable voice flashed across the skies in the 1930s like a comet and was as quickly extinguished. Here she can be heard in many of her most notable recordings, which display her light, airy, infinitely flexible but somewhat shallow soprano to good effect—if you care for that sort of voice. I find it wholly unsuitable for the set-pieces of the Donizetti and Verdi heroines—the tone is simply too insubstantial for the tasks in hand. Besides, the music sounds wrong sung in German; and when Korjus essays Italian, as in Lucia's Mad scene, the results are wholly unidiomatic. But give her a piece such as Dinorah's Shadow aria, Olympia's mechanical couplets or Lakme's Bell song and she's off on aerial flights to match those of, say, Galli-Curd and Pons in the same pieces, though it must be said that the notes in alt are squeaky compared with those of her rivals.
Her art is heard at its most convincing in the three Rimsky items—The Tsar's Bride, Sadko and The Golden Cockerel even though these are given in German. Here her tone takes on a plaintive, sweeter character—it's also to be heard in Lakme's lovely ''Blanche Dourga''—and the phrasing in music that comes close to her motherland (literally, her mother being a Polish-Russian aristocrat) seems more authentic in style. I particularly liked the Queen of Shemakhan's aria (The Golden Cockerel). Try that or the Delibes items from Lakme and you may be persuaded to buy this disc; but be warned, they are not quite typical of the whole.'

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