WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Lebendige Vergangenheit - Margaret Sheridan

Sheridan,Margaret / Wagner / Verdi / Puccini
Release Date: 03/08/2011 
Label:  Preiser Records   Catalog #: 89745   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Richard WagnerGiuseppe VerdiUmberto GiordanoGiacomo Puccini,   ... 
Performer:  Margaret Burke SheridanRenato ZanelliAureliano PertileLionello Cecil,   ... 
Conductor:  Mr. BloisCarlo SabajnoSir Eugene Goossens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  OrchestraMilan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
On sale! $22.98
CD:  $18.99
In Stock



Notes and Editorial Reviews



MARGARET SHERIDAN Margaret Sheridan (sop); Various. PREISER 89745, mono (75:05)


Arias, songs, and duets by PUCCINI, VERDI, WAGNER, GIORDANO, MOORE, ANON


If the end of the career of Margaret Sheridan (1889–1958) is often conveyed in the tones of Technicolor hearsay, it’s perhaps understandable, given the earlier facts about her life. With both parents dead when she was four, Sheridan was raised in an orphanage. The promise of her early voice was such that Read more local sponsors took up a fund for her studies. She was sent to Rome in 1914, and offered a chance five years later to replace an ailing Lucrezia Bori as Mimì. Her debut was a triumph that just happened to be witnessed by Admiral John Jellicoe, who wired that fact via his flagship back to London. This led to an invitation to the newcomer from Covent Garden, where she sang Mimì two months later. MGM or Warner Brothers could have filmed this sort of iconic rags-to-riches story—and often did. But in Sheridan’s case, it was all true, as were her subsequent successes in Iris, La Wally, Belfagor, Andrea Chenier , and especially Madama Butterfly.


Sheridan spent most of her professional time in Italy, where her progress was one of triumph after triumph. She was requested repeatedly for special revivals by both Puccini and Mascagni, who admired her art. Then in 1931, she suddenly stopped singing in public. The usual reason, also offered in the liner notes to this release, is that she was much affected by the suicide of a would-be lover, leading to a vocal “crack” on stage. The facts are more mundane. Sheridan underwent an operation on her vocal cords in 1931, and discovered afterward that her voice could no longer adequately handle the strain required for the stage roles she sang. That she still could sing in shorter, less strenuous bursts is documented both by the private recollections of friends, and a pair of Irish folk songs recorded in 1944.


Unfortunately, these are not included on this release. Preiser does provide a good selection of representative items, however. They reveal a bright lyric soprano, with very forward placement. There’s a fine act IV duet from Andrea Chenier , Aureliano Pertile as the poet on excellent behavior, the two incandescent despite heavy cuts. If her “Si, mi chiamano Mimì” from 1926 is for the most part sung at a single dynamic level, the line “Mi piaccion quelle cose” demonstrates a fine legato, and “Il perché non so” is nicely turned, while “Non vado sempre a messa / ma prego assai il Signore” perfectly reflects the sudden change of manner indicated in the words. That La Bohème excerpt makes the voice sound tight and poorly supported from the chest, but this certainly isn’t the case in “Viene la sera” from her complete 1929 recording of Madama Butterfly . It’s full and rich, with a vivid theatrical dimension. The same is true of her “Un bel di vedremo,” once again from 1926. Not ideally placed for the microphone to grasp the warmth of Sheridan’s voice, it yet catches her no-holds-barred, Italianate interpretation.


Sheridan had only a dozen or so roles in her repertoire, and her operatic recordings outside it don’t convey any sense that she was a quick study. So it proves in the love duet from Otello where Renato Zanelli shows why he was considered the greatest exponent of the Moor in his time, before cancer took him away at his height. There’s the close attention to the lyrical values of the opening lines, the rising sweep of “se dopo l’ira immensa,” with a diminuendo on the last syllable, and the way he applies color and breath throughout to suggest shifting emotions. Sheridan is sadly not his match. She does not soften at “quanti mesti sospiri e,” as the score states, much less further still at “quanta speme.” Nor is “te ne rammenti!” approached with a faraway tone. Her sound is lovely, but it is given to us full throttle, well phrased but utterly devoid of character. This is not Desdemona, the caring friend and sweet lover, but an assertive soprano whose angry exchange with Toscanini at one stage rehearsal led to a well-publicized professional break between the two for five years—during which time she referred to him in public as “The Whip,” and he to her as “l’imperatrice d’Irlanda.”


Irish folk songs are another matter. Whether or not Sheridan knew these in her younger days, she did offer them as encores. To be sure, the pair she recorded in 1928 supply operatic folk singing, but the slow, conversational progress of “The Meeting of the Waters” allows her endearingly lazy Irish diphthongs to blossom beautifully. “The Lover’s Curse” must be ranked up there alongside the complete Madama Butterfly for sheer immediacy, with two melting diminuendos and a wealth of color. If these are the kind of performances she gave on stage, it’s no wonder she held Italian audiences in the palm of her hand.


Preiser’s transfers are clean, save for that excerpt from the HMV Madama Butterfly, which suffers from a fair amount of distortion at loud levels. Treble filtering is light, and there are no thumping, pitch issues, or obvious edits.


This album’s a mixed recommendation, then. Sheridan clearly gave of her voice unsparingly on records, but individual studio sessions reflect anything from emotional disengagement to passionate involvement in what she’s singing. At best, these 78s can’t conceal a temperament and voice that held the attention of Italy’s foremost composers, and made Maggie of Mayo, as her audiences called her, one of the greatest operatic stars in Italy.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Lohengrin: Einsam in trüben Tagen "Elsa's dream" by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Margaret Burke Sheridan (Soprano)
Conductor:  Mr. Blois
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1847; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/24/1926 
Language: Italian 
2. Otello: Già nella notte densa by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Margaret Burke Sheridan (Soprano), Renato Zanelli (Tenor)
Conductor:  Carlo Sabajno
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; Italy 
Date of Recording: 12/13/1929 
3. Otello: Piangea cantando...Ave Maria by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Margaret Burke Sheridan (Soprano)
Conductor:  Mr. Blois
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; Italy 
Date of Recording: 11/01/1926 
4. Andrea Chénier: Vicino a te by Umberto Giordano
Performer:  Margaret Burke Sheridan (Soprano), Aureliano Pertile (Tenor)
Conductor:  Carlo Sabajno
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Italy 
Date of Recording: 04/29/1929 
5. Manon Lescaut: Tu, tu, amore, tu? by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Margaret Burke Sheridan (Soprano), Aureliano Pertile (Tenor)
Conductor:  Carlo Sabajno
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Italy 
Date of Recording: 04/24/1929 
6. La Bohème: Si, mi chiamano Mimì by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Margaret Burke Sheridan (Soprano)
Conductor:  Mr. Blois
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Italy 
Date of Recording: 11/24/1926 
7. Madama Butterfly: Quanto Cielo!...Ancora un passo or via by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Margaret Burke Sheridan (Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir Eugene Goossens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1904; Italy 
Date of Recording: 07/07/1927 
8. Madama Butterfly: Viene la sera...Bimba dagli occhi pieni by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Margaret Burke Sheridan (Soprano), Lionello Cecil (Tenor), Ida Mannerini (Voice)
Conductor:  Carlo Sabajno
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1904; Italy 
Date of Recording: 11/1929 
9. Madama Butterfly: Un bel dì vedremo by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Margaret Burke Sheridan (Soprano)
Conductor:  Mr. Blois
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1904; Italy 
Date of Recording: 11/24/1926 
10. Madama Butterfly: Con onor muore by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Margaret Burke Sheridan (Soprano), Browning Mummery (Tenor)
Conductor:  Sir Eugene Goossens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1904; Italy 
Date of Recording: 07/07/1927 
11. The Meeting of the Waters by Traditional
Performer:  Margaret Burke Sheridan (Soprano), Gerald Moore (Piano)
Written: Ireland 
Date of Recording: 1928 
12. Lover's curse by Traditional
Performer:  Margaret Burke Sheridan (Soprano), Gerald Moore (Piano)
Written: England 
Date of Recording: 1928 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title
Review This Title Share on Facebook