A glance at the list of legendary singers, all caught on film, in this incredible, magical collection is impressive enough. Add crisp DVD images and miraculous clarity of sound considering the age of some of the clips, plus commentaries by such luminaries as Kirk Browning, Thomas Hampson, Giovanni Martinelli, Magda Olivero, Risë Stevens and Jon Vickers - plus an eloquent, erudite booklet article by Gramophone's John Steane, and you have a package that is quite simply irresistible!
Cleverly, the collection begins and ends with images of the two most famous operatic idols of the 20th century - Caruso and Callas. Clearly Caruso appeared only in silent films but an impression of the intensity of his acting and singing comesRead more over very well in a film of I Pagliacci and you can guess at the beauty and power of his voice. Similarly, Callas's passion is fervently projected in her most famous film appearance as Tosca singing 'Visi d'arte'. Interestingly a line up of five singers with Caruso: Daddi, Journet, Scotti, Sembrich and Severina are seen miming to a 1908 recording of the Sextet from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor.
If I were to comment on all the 34 excerpts on this DVD this review would stretch ad infinitum; so, with great difficulty I will restrict myself to commenting on just a few. Giovanni Martinelli, contributes a commentary about the difficulties facing singers in the early days of the 'talkies' (the excerpts he stars in are from 1930 and 1931), and sings 'Celeste Aida'. He then appears as a spirited gondolier singing 'Torna a Surriento' - filmed in 1930 and 1931 respectively. The great Gigli is filmed recording Handel's 'Largo'; and there is the beautiful pianissimo singing and superb articulation of tenor Tito Schipa. The lovely larghetto of baritone Giuseppe De Lucca is caught; brilliantly lucid and eloquent in his portrayal of Figaro in 'Largo al factotum' from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Rare 1932 footage of Luisa Tetrazzini shows her listening to, and accompanying a recording of Caruso singing 'M'appari' from Flotow's Martha. MGM screen tests of the stunningly beautiful Rosa Ponselle singing arias from Carmen are included and Richard Tauber acts as Franz Schubert and sings that composer's 'Ständchen' from the 1933 production of Lilac Time. Two famous strong Wagnerian singers appear: Kirsten Flagstad singing 'Hojotohal' from Die Walküre (amazingly introduced by Bob Hope) and Lauritz Melchior sings 'Winterstürme' again from Die Walküre in front of an adoring Jane Powell from the 1948 MGM musical Luxury Liner. One of the most arresting images is of the charismatic bass Fyodor Chaliapin singing Ibert's 'Chanson du duc' from Pabst's Don Quichotte.
Rugged sex appeal is exuded by Franco Corelli singing 'Non piangere Liù' from Puccini's Turandot (and yet we learn how we was torn with pre-performance nerves) and the dashing Fairbanks-like Lawrence Tibbett sings 'Chanson du Toréador' from Carmen. Then there is the fine colaratura singing of Joan Sutherland as she surmounts, with élan, all the tongue-tripping difficulties of Meyerbeer's 'O beau pays' from Les Hugenots. Colour spectacle is supplied when Ezio Pinza sings in the Coronation Scene from Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov. One of the two most substantial excerpts in the programme comes from Boris Godunov - the Death Scene with the another great bass, Boris Christoff. The other is the Final Scene of Act I of La bohème with the great Jussi Björling and the warm, beautiful singing of Renata Tebaldi. I cannot finish without mentioning the absorbing reminiscences of Magda Olivero, now in her eighties, about the older generations of singers. Incredibly Olivero was summoned to New York's Metropolitan for her debut at the age of sixty-three! And we see her singing Visi d'arte in Turin in 1960.
I cannot recommend this absorbing compilation too highly.
– Ian Lace, MusicWeb International
Many illustrious opera stars of the twentieth century are featured in sound and vision in rare footage, much of it previously unavailable.
Running Time: 116 minutes
Color: Color/ Black and White
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Japanese
and Jon Vickers Read less
Works on This Recording
Work(s)by Various Performer:
Rosa Ponselle (Soprano),
Ezio Pinza (Bass),
Jon Vickers (Tenor),
Feodor Chaliapin (Bass),
Jussi Björling (Tenor),
Enrico Caruso (Tenor),
Fritz Wunderlich (Tenor),
Tito Schipa (Tenor),
Leontyne Price (Soprano),
Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano),
Beniamino Gigli (Tenor)
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
This collection is a treasure!June 14, 2017By Philip S. (Austin, TX)See All My Reviews"An amazing collections of videos of the great singers go the earliest two thirds of the 20th century. This begins with Caruso who not only a marvelous singer, but also was technologically adventurous. The quality of the recording is laughably primitive, but still interesting to watch. Among the best - Bjorling and Tebaldi doing the 1st act duet in Boheme and Tibbett doing the Toreador scene in Carmen were particularly delightful."Report Abuse
The Art of Singing lives on!April 28, 2012By Ross L. (Eastwood, Nsw)See All My Reviews"There is much to enjoy in this highly recommended compilation. The footage of the twenty-nine great singers, if you count brief appearances by Tito Gobbi and Alfredo Kraus partnering Callas, spans more than 60 years of the 20th century. There is so much wonderful singing here and some extraordinary acting. Conchita Supervia uses her joyful vivacity and vibrato to full effect in Musettas waltz song. Rosa Ponselle shows glimpses of the rich velvety darkness of her voice, but Carmen really doesnt seem to suit her. Flagstad as Brunnhilde demonstrates her vocal power and shows the great Wagnerian that she was. You have Bjorling, Tebaldi and De Los Angeles in their prime. Sutherlands coloratura is dazzling and seemingly effortless as she sails through the cabaletta of O beau pays. A youthful Leontyne Price is outstanding with the opulence and beauty of her voice in O patria mia. The dim black and white footage of Callas in the extract from the 1958 Lisbon Traviata is tantalisingly brief. Jon Vickers is riveting as Florestan. Listen to the despair in his voice as he sings Freiheit! Freiheit!. It is an amazing and moving example of vocal acting of the highest order. The best extract however is the death scene from Boris Godunov with Boris Christoff in his late 30s. He is unbelievable in the way that he uses his voice, face and body to convey fear, sickness, madness and remorse. This is surely one of the greatest operatic performances ever captured on film. It is worth purchasing the DVD for this extract alone."Report Abuse