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Magda Olivero (soprano)
Arrigo BOITO (1842-1918)

Mefistofele: L altra notte in fondo al mare [4:28]
Francesco CILEA (1866-1950)

Adriana Lecouvreur: mi son umile ancella [2:57]
Adriana Lecouvreur: Proveri fiori [3:18]
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)

L Amico Fritz: Suzel, buon di [9:02]
Iris: Un di, ero piccina [3:19]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

La Traviata: E strano.... Ah, fors e lui [8:31]
La Traviata: Amamai Alfrado [1:55]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Tosca: Vissi d arte, vissi d amore [3:11]
La Boheme: Si, mi chiamano Mimi [4:40]
Manon Lescaut: in quelle trine morbide [2:29]
Manon Lescaut: Sola perduta, abbandonata [4:32]
Suor Angelica: Senza mamma, o bimbo tu sei morta [4:17]
La Boheme: Donde lieta usci [3:16]
Gianni Schicchi: O mio babbino caro [2:18]
Franco ALFANO (1875-1954)

Resurrezione:Dio pietoso [4:15]
Gustave CHARPENTIER (1860-1956)

Louise: Da quel giorno [4:31]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Manon: Addio, o nostro picciol desco [3:47]
Alfredo CATALANI (1854-1893)

Loreley: Amor, celeste ebbrezza [2:57]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)

La Procession [2:18]+
Magda Olivero (soprano)
Orchestras conducted by Ugo Tansini,
With Armando La Rosa Parodi, Alfredo Simonetto, Arturo Basile
Ermelinda Magnetti (piano) +
PREISER 89612 [78.16]


Magda Olivero suffered a crushing verdict at her audition by Ugo Tansini in Turin; "the girl has neither a voice, nor musicality, nor personality. She has nothing." Either Tansini was having a bad day or Olivero’s subsequent teacher Luigi Gerussi did something astonishing with her, other than insisting she "sustain, sustain!" The results, as this disc demonstrate, show her to have been a consistently impressive musician whose sole complete commercial recording, of Turandot in 1938, surely deserved to be augmented. Partly this may have had to do with a premature retirement in 1941 but it doesn’t explain why, a decade later on her return to increasingly wide appreciation, she wasn’t taken into the recording studios with at least some degree of frequency.

Olivero was born near Turin in 1910; she became better known in the 1950s constantly adding roles to her repertoire and making her New York Met debut as late as 1975, and giving her last stage performance (Poulenc) in 1981, at the age of seventy-one. She contained to give recitals however. What one hears in these discs, made between 1939 and 1953 and all for Cetra, is a very individual voice with a most unusual, though not always evident, fluttery vibrato. Her Boito illustrates it well – an insistent, tightly controlled and dramatic approach in which the flutter distracts but doesn’t destroy the expressive component. In her Cilea we find equal amounts of power and characterisation – she’s a really strong personality, dramatic and seemingly unconcerned by studio limitations – as well as a real ability to convey power but in a properly (vocally, theatrically) controlled way. It’s a fine line and she has the measure of it.

Her Tosca is sensitive, elegant, and technically impressive and her Mimi surely gives the lie to the earlier aspersions as to her musicality; she colours consonants supremely well and she abjures pile-driving theatrics in favour of a tremendous refinement. In Suor Angelica we can hear the intrusive flutter once more, but one should note that, for all its idiosyncrasy, her sound is essentially chaste. Her Alfano has real declamatory power and her French repertoire sees the vibrato put to devilishly charming effect. One of the surest examples of her effortless way with floating the voice is her Catalini Loreley of 1953 – tremendous.

Throughout the accompaniments are accomplished, not least from one Ugo Tansini who had clearly repented of his earlier judgement enough to conduct the Turin radio orchestra for her in 1939 and 1940. One hopes he felt thoroughly chastened. Transfers are good from clean and clear sounding Cetra originals, the biographical note is packed with detail, and this is another in Preiser’s long line of enviably successful single artist discs.

Jonathan Woolf

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