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Glenda Raymond, soprano, 1922-2003
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

Il barbiere di Siviglia ‘Una voce poco fa’; ‘Dunque io son’ (Geoffrey Chard, bar.) #
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)

Les Contes d’Hoffman, ‘Les oiseaux dans les charmille’; ‘Belle nuit, o nuit d’amour’ (John Lanigan, ten.); ‘Elle a fui, la tourterelle’ #
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

La Boheme, ‘O soave fanciulla’ (John Lanigan, ten.) #
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)

Hamlet, ‘Pâle et blonde’
Mignon, ‘Je suis Tatania’
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Rigoletto, ‘Tutte le Feste’ #
Georges Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)

Faust, ‘Alerte! Ou vous êtes perdus!’ (John Lanigan, ten. and David Allen, bar.) #
Mireille, ‘Valse ariette: O légère hirondelle’
Romeo et Juliette, ‘Où suis-je?’ (John Lanigan, ten.) #
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1868)

La figlia del reggimento, ‘Ah bruit de la guerre’ (David Allen, bar.) #
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Cosi fan tutte, ‘Ah guarda, sorella’ (Sylvia McPherson, mezzo) #
Heinrich PROCH (1809-1878)

‘Deh, torna mio bene’
Friedrich von FLOTOW (1812-1883)

Martha, ‘Letzte Rose’ (John Lanigan, ten.) #
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1858-1919)

Pagliacci, ‘Hui! Stridono lassú’ #
Robert BURNS (1759-1796)

‘Comin thro’ the rye’ #
Francesco Paolo TOSTI (1846-1916)

‘Goodbye’ #
Australian Symphony Orchestra/Hector Crawford
(except tr. 2 ‘Dunque io son’ and tr. 14 ‘Deh, torna mio bene’, where orchestra and conductor unknown)
Recorded 1946-? Sourced from Australian National Screen and Sound Archive.
Some derived from episodes of a radio biography of Dame Nellie Melba 1946-1948.
Items indicated # are sung in English
ABC CLASSICS Australian Heritage Series 472 689 2 [73.46]

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Glenda Raymond shot to fame when, at age 24, as an unknown and untrained singer, she was selected by Hector Crawford, a pioneer of Australian Radio and Television, to replicate Melba’s voice in the 52 radio hours of ‘The Melba Story’. Many of the tracks included here are derived from those broadcasts. Raymond’s instant fame meant pop-star-like following but also some vocal training in Italy and later London. In London she auditioned for Basil Cameron and featured with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and on the BBC. She didn’t pursue offers of work by Beecham, marrying Crawford instead. She continued to sing in her own country for the infant ‘Trust Opera Company’ where her roles included Rosina (1958), Gilda (1960) and The Queen of the Night.

The varied and interesting programme on this disc includes arias and duets etc sung in English and the original language. The Hoffmann ‘Barcarolle’ (tr. 4) sung, unusually with a tenor as the muse Nicklause, the Hamlet (tr. 7) and Mireille’s aria (tr. 12) - all come from the earliest, 1946, sessions of the ‘Melba Story’. They show a very light flexible and agile voice, rather lacking in colour or variety of tone. She sings both Olympia’s and Antonia’s arias from Hoffmann (trs. 3 and 5), and this lack of weight and colour is a serious drawback for the latter whilst her sketchy trill and sliding between notes is a weakness in the former, although the high note at 4:35 is secure. The smudged roulades and runs in the Hamlet aria quickly improved after Raymond’s lessons, particularly with Lina Pagliughi in Italy and Dino Borgioli in London. The upshot is a rather mixed bag in conveying Raymond’s particular skills as a light-toned lyric coloratura soprano. John Lanigan, an Australian tenor who made a considerable career at Covent Garden, particularly in ‘character’ roles, is an agreeable partner vocally as is Geoffrey Chard, another name that will be recognised in the UK. Less successful is David Allen, a characterless baritone Mephisto in the final trio from Faust (tr. 9). Overall the recording quality is bright and clear with the voices well forward. The presence of an audience is sometimes indicated by applause at the conclusion of a track (7).

In the accompanying biographical details, John Cargher claims that mid-20th Century Australians knew more about opera than the English and that this was a direct consequence of Dame Nellie Melba having been born in that country. Somewhat contradictorily he also states that whilst every soprano became an instant celebrity many a good tenor or baritone ‘happily basted in obscurity’. Well, I don’t know about happy obscurity any more than I accept his basic premise. If the Aussies were so knowledgeable why was not the country renowned for its opera houses? Sydney was not even a nightmare in an architect’s eye at this period, and why had so many singers from that country to make their way to the UK to establish a worthwhile career. Two supporting singers on this disc will be readily recognised by UK operagoers at Covent Garden and Sadlers Wells in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. To give Cargher credit he does give some recognition to these facts later in his article (p.13)

The diversity of the content makes for an interesting collection and with many of the tracks sung in English it will appeal to those who prefer their opera that way.

Robert J Farr

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