LOLA ARTÔT DE PADILLA, BELLA ALTEN, LUISE PERARD-PETZL • Franz Egéniev (bar); Karl Jörn (ten); Björn Talén (ten); Various conductors and orchestras • PREISER 89735, mono (79:50)
Arias and duets by MOZART, THOMAS, HUMPERDINCK, VERDI, BIZET, PUCCINI, LEONCAVALLO
Preiser has reissued quite a few of the historical vocal LPs it released decades ago, and to its credit, with more selections by the featured artist or interesting fillerRead more from similar performers. The latter is the case here. Lola Artôt de Padilla recorded less than an hour’s worth of material, which allows us to hear on this CD from two other sopranos who also achieved prominent status in the German-language opera world of roughly 1910–20.
The biggest name is Padilla (1876–1933), and it’s not just her name, either. Her father was Mariano Padilla y Ramos, a celebrated Spanish baritone, and her mother, Désirée Artôt, was a famous soprano who was, for a while, informally engaged to Tchaikovsky. (She married Padilla in 1869 without first letting the composer in on the secret.) In addition, her godmother was her mother’s singing teacher, the polymath Pauline Viardot, so Lola came by her profession with a lot of family background. Her debut took place in 1902. Six years later, she was singing the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro at the Cologne Festival in a performance that also featured Frieda Hempel, Minne Nast, Paul Knüpfer, and Fritz Feinhals: all operatic stars, and every bit the Teutonic equivalent of the big names that regularly featured at the Met. The following year she was Zerlina in a Berlin Don Giovanni with Lilli Lehmann and Francesco d’Andrade, and Cherubino in Le nozze with Edyth Walker as the Countess. Berlin became an important hub for her performances, and she originated the city’s first Marshallin in Der Rosenkavalier, as well as its first Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos. A pair of 1909 Odeons is sadly recessed from the acoustic horn to prevent blasting or overpowering her thin-voiced duet partner, Franz Egéniev, but three selections from Humperdinck’s Königskinder (another Berlin first), recorded in 1911, are much better. They reveal a silvery, soubrettish sound, with an ability to soften and darken the tone that probably facilitated her performances as Mozart’s Countess. Close to the horn, her enunciation is excellent, and there’s a “live” aspect to her singing: a coloration of words that changes to match mood and context, as though she were giving a performance on stage.
It would be unfair to expect authentic Mozart here, but Padilla does a fine job of delivering Cherubino’s dizzy ecstasy in his pair of arias, recorded in 1915. “Non so più” unveils some wonderful soft tone as well, though “Voi che sapete” engages in an unpleasant transition into the chest. Four duets with the raw but bright-sounding Björn Talén from La Traviata, Carmen, and La Bohème, all recorded in 1922, again demonstrate lovely soft singing, as well as an ability to supply round phrases that Talén could and should have learned from.
The CD concludes with four selections each by Bella Alten (1877–1962) and Luise Perard-Petzl (1884–1936). Though she appeared as a minor figure in the German wing at the Met for a decade, Alten rose to greater prominence at the Hamberg Opera (1908–11) and the Vienna State Opera (1917–23). Interestingly, Perard-Petzl was among the brighter lights of the Hamburg Opera at roughly the same time as Alten, from 1907 through 1913; during the same period, she appeared frequently at Covent Garden. From 1913 to 1920 she was featured at the Munich Opera.
Alten’s Italianate phrasing stands her in good stead, and if she lacks the lightness for her “Stridono lassù,” she does sing out with an immediacy that recalls Destinn. It is the only cut on the album in (oddly accented) Italian, though the other side of the same 1909 Gramophone platter featured a German-language Butterfly with strong enunciation. The voice is a light dramatic soprano with a soaring upper register throughout “Un bel dì.” It’s easy to understand why she was so popular on the Hamburg and Vienna stages, if she performed before audiences with this kind of intensity.
But it’s Perard-Petzl’s dark, focused sound that impresses the most. Her voice was a mix of Italianate quick vibrato and “white” column, amply integrated and well supported throughout its range. There’s much to enjoy in her 1913 “Ach, ich fühls,” especially the way she bows selected phrases, though it’s clear she’s self-conscious before the horn. (Many hated it. A very few, like the Czech tenor Karel Burrian, responded to the terror of recording sessions by getting drunk beforehand.) Her diminuendos in “Ernani, involami” and “Tacea la notte placida” are genuinely accomplished, with good trills in the latter, and a well-sustained line despite stiff, overly fast accompaniment. The latter also shows her capable of singing high notes very softly then with exciting, full-throated commitment.
The sound of the Padilla material maintains Preiser’s usual standards: light treble filtering, excellent source material and editing, no rumble, ticks, or scratches. The Alten and Perard-Petzl are by contrast occasionally scarred with repeating scratches, and at more than one point with what sounds like “bubbles” caused by mismatched tape edits. As this was usually the case before digital software, I have to wonder whether Preiser was handed a fait accompli in the form of second-generation materials.
Be that as it may, all of this content is interesting. Padilla’s command, Alten’s vividness, and Perard-Petzl’s vocal distinction make this a release that opera collectors treading the byways of the acoustic period will certainly find enjoyable.
Königskinder: Ach, bin ich alleinby Engelbert Humperdinck Performer:
Lola Artôt de Padilla (Voice)
Period: Romantic Written: 1897 Date of Recording: 1911 Length: 3 Minutes 35 Secs.
Königskinder: Bin ein lustiger Jägersmannby Engelbert Humperdinck Performer:
Lola Artôt de Padilla (Voice),
Karl Jorn (Voice)
Period: Romantic Written: 1897 Date of Recording: 1911 Length: 7 Minutes 16 Secs.