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Jonathan Woolf
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Opera Recital
Jarmila Novotná (soprano) with accompaniments as below
Full track-listing below
rec. 1930-56
No texts
SUPRAPHON SU4158-2 [79:02]

At first sight the cover proves deceptive. Without fanfare it announces merely ‘Opera Recital’ but it’s only when one surveys the track-listing that one sees that, according to the booklet documentation, there are nine pieces attaining first-ever CD release. That said, Supraphon celebrated Jarmila Novotná’s art well on LP, and whilst it’s justified to celebrate the silver disc incarnation of so many pieces, the Novotná admirer may possibly wonder why the Czech company was so late with this release, especially given that many of her Met broadcast performances have appeared on CD.
Still, there are some treasures here. The Rossini Barber of Seville extract is a real rarity, at least to me, and comes from a Czechoslovakian film of 1933 with an anonymous – or at least unknown – orchestra and conductor, wisely really as they are very ropey. Her voice is attractively forward and well caught by the microphone, revealing the vivacity of her singing in her native Czech. The famed Toscanini-conducted 1937 The Magic Flute is represented by her Ach, ich fühl's, es ist verschwunden though the harsh off-air recording quality does nobody any favours. There are a couple of finely sung extracts from the Met’s The Marriage of Figaro directed by the very competent Paul Breisach in 1943, though the orchestra is very recessed in the balance. Bruno Walter’s 1942 Met Don Giovanni, reissued several times, is here, where she shares disc space with Pinza and Kipnis. All four of the Mozart arias show her adorable tonal qualities even in sometimes compromised sound.
There are four separate extracts from Les contes d'Hoffmann. The earliest, making its first appearance on CD, comes from a 1930 Berlin film and is the earliest recording in this disc. Her tone is very light and immediately attractive. Again the orchestra and conductor are, alike, unknown though much better than their Prague brethren, and the recording technicians in the thriving Berlin studios of the late 1920s and 1930s prove effortlessly superior to the Czech ones. Both the Victor Orchestra arias with hard-working Frieder Weissmann – showing her pleasing style in this repertoire - come from Victor 78s made in February 1945. I was surprised to see that the Act IV extract with Raoul Jobin and Beecham conducting the Met Orchestra in February 1944 was making its first CD appearance. Here one finds that her tone is beginning to darken. There are also four extracts from La Traviata, to help flesh out her Italian repertoire. Only one has apparently appeared on CD - Ah, fors' è lui with Panizza directing at the Met in 1911. The three other conductors are Morton Gould (1943), Maurice Abravanel (1940) and Frank Black (1950). The Gould-conducted extract offers only the verse, alas, but all these examples are very welcome and the sound, whilst variable, is undistracting. The 1943 Si, mi chiamano Mimì shows her to have been a convincing exponent of the role, but is vitiated by rough sound and an echo. By common consent she was at her greatest in Czech repertoire and fortunately we hear three examples, all famous. Her Bartered Bride aria comes from the Met in 1942, Alfred Wallenstein conducting, whilst the Weissmann-directed Kiss aria is from a commercial Victor 78, and much loved by her many admirers. By 1956 she had retired but the private recording of O Silver Moon (in Czech) with pianist Gibner King – it appeared in a terrific gatefold Pearl LP with the Lidice songs – shows the voice still rich and agile.
There is an adequate booklet note, and no texts. The transfers are largely successful. There are certainly sufficiently rare items, and a more-than-sufficient number of CD premieres, to tempt the vocal collector.
Jonathan Woolf
Full track-listing
1. Gioachino ROSSINI Il barbiere di Siviglia: Una voce poco fa...Io sono dolcile
Unknown performers, soundtrack from 1933 film
2. Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Die Zauberflöte, K 620: Ach, ich fühl's, es ist verschwunden
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Arturo Toscanini, rec. July 1937, Salzburg
3. Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Le nozze di Figaro, K 492: Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra/Paul Breisach, rec. 17 April 1943, Met, NYC  
4. Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Le nozze di Figaro, K 492: Voi che sapete che cosa è amor
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra/Paul Breisach, rec. 17 April 1943, Met, NYC  
5. Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Don Giovanni, K 527: Ah, chi mi dice mai Ezio Pinza (baritone)/Alexander Kipnis (bass)/Metropolitan Opera Orchestra/Bruno Walter, rec. 7 March 1942
6. Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Don Giovanni, K 527: Ah, fuggi il traditor
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra/Bruno Walter, rec. 7 March 1942
7. Jacques OFFENBACH Les contes d'Hoffmann: Les oiseaux dans la charmille
Unknown performers, soundtrack from 1930 film
8. Jacques OFFENBACH Les contes d'Hoffmann: Belle nuit, o nuit d'amour
Victor Orchestra/Frieder Weissmann, rec. 16 February 1942, NYC
9. Jacques OFFENBACH Les contes d'Hoffmann: Elle a fui, la tourterelle!
Victor Orchestra/Frieder Weissmann, rec. 16 February 1942, NYC
10. Jacques OFFENBACH Les contes d'Hoffmann: Voyez L'etrange fantasie!
Raoul Jobin (tenor)/Metropolitan Opera Orchestra/ Thomas Beecham, rec. 26 February 1944, Met, NYC
11. Giuseppe VERDI La traviata: Tra voi
Orchestra/Morton Gould, rec. 1943, NYC 
12. Giuseppe VERDI La traviata: Ah, fors' è lui
Jan Peerce (tenor)/ Metropolitan Opera Orchestra/Ettore Panizza, rec. 29 November 1941, Met, NYC
13. Giuseppe VERDI La traviata: Addio del passato 
Orchestra/Maurice Abravanel, rec. 25 August 1940
14. Giuseppe VERDI La traviata: Alfredo! Ah, tu il vedesti! Parigi, o cara
James Melton (tenor)/Unknown orchestra/Frank Black, rec. 22 January 1950 
15. Giacomo PUCCINI La Bohème: Si, mi chiamano Mimì
Unknown orchestra/Alfred Wallenstein, rec. 13 March 1943
16. Giacomo PUCCINI La Bohème: Mimi! Speravo di trovarvi qui
Martial Singher (baritone)/Unknown orchestra/Donald Vorhees, rec. 29 April 1946
17. Giacomo PUCCINI Tosca: Vissi d'arte, vissi d'amore by 
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra/Wilfred Pelletier, rec. 10 December 1944, Met, NYC
18. Bedrich SMETANA Bartered Bride, B 143/T 93: O what grief!
Unknown orchestra/Alfred Wallenstein. Rec. 13 April 1942
19. Bedrich SMETANA The kiss, T 115: And you, my baby...A little white dove was flying
Victor Orchestra/Frieder Weissmann, rec. 18 October 1945
20. Antonín DVORAK Rusalka, Op. 114/B 203: "Song to the moon" 
Gibner King (piano), rec. 4 October 1956, NYC, private recording