Victoria de los Angeles Early Recordings
In the 1950s and early 1960s, EMI's recitals and opera were dominated by three superb sopranos. We went to Callas for dramatic conviction and vocal excitement, to Schwarzkopf for silvery beauty and for searching interpretative insights—and to los Angeles for warmth of heart and beauty of tone and expression. Everything she did seemed innate and natural: it came from and went to the heart. Nowhere was that more evident than in her 1954 operatic recital, made in Rome, here happily revived. She was then, at 31, in her vocal prime, singing with an inimitable freshness and ease much material that she never repeated, not least Desdemona's Fourth Act scene from Otello, which has seldom if ever been sung with such a sense of vulnerability and plangency: note the catch in the voice on the second ''tanto'' of the phrase ''son mesto, tanto, tanto'', and the long, effortless phrasing of the ''Ave Maria'', the floated A flat at the end perfectly poised.
Elvira in Ernani isn't a role she could have sustained on stage, but her reading of Elvira's aria and cabaletta here can rival most others in vocal security, the fioriture easily accomplished. Margherita's ''L'altra notte'' has a Muzio-like accent, as does Wally's lovely solo. If anything, Mimi's and Santuzza's solos are more poignantly etched in the mind than those on her complete sets of Cavalleria and
The remainder of the items come from los Angeles's 78rpm records made in 1949–50. ''Porgi amor'' is a surprisingly off-colour performance: I recalled it being more flowing. The rest are all admirable. Elisabeth's joy and Elsa's dreamy longing are both ideally caught and the characters sound as youthful as on any versions, even if the German isn't wholly idiomatic. Her Manon at Covent Garden is one of my most cherished memories. Here ''Adieu, notre petite table'' adumbrates all Manon's sorrow at leaving her beloved Des Grieux: it is also exquisitely phrased. By the way this is the 1949 performance and not taken from the Monteux set as the booklet has it, a serious error of attribution that should be corrected. The Jewel song from Faust captures that irresistible smile the soprano could get into her tone and it is fabulously phrased. These two French items, the one melancholic, the other joyous, representing the two sides of los Angeles's character, might well be the examples of this artist's work in opera that I would take to a desert island. Susskind conducts them both with a special brio. The excellent transfers preserve the forward, open sound of the originals.'