This excellent Lucia Popp (1939-93) release on BR Klassik forms part of their ‘Great Singers Live’ series. The tracks are taken from radio recordings made at a series of ‘Sunday Concerts’ in Munich. Initiated by Alfred Schröter head of light classics at Bavarian Broadcasting these live radio concerts were first broadcast in 1952 the same year as the Münchner Rundfunkorchester was founded. The same series also includes releases showcasing Margaret Price; Nicolai Ghiaurov and Mirella Freni.
The death of soprano Lucia Popp aged only fifty-three at Munich was a cause of great sadness. Popp is especially esteemed for her versatility and wide range of repertoireRead more owing to her linguistic aptitude and ability to adapt her style. In addition, her acting prowess was highly regarded because as a young woman prior to taking up singing Popp had appeared in several films. Born in 1939 in Slovakia Popp’s big break came early before she had really established herself on the opera stage when aged twenty-three she was hired by the influential EMI record producer Walter Legge. From her debut at the Vienna State Opera, Popp went onto perform in the world’s major opera houses. Both on stage and in the recording studio I will long remember Popp singing Mozart; especially Blonde in Mozart's
Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Susanna and Countess Almaviva in
Le nozze di Figaro, Zerlina and Donna Anna in
Don Giovanni, Despina and Fiordiligi in
Così fan tutte and, Pamina and the Queen of the Night in
The Magic Flute. Richard Strauss was also a speciality of hers most notably as the Marschallin in
Der Rosenkavalier, the title role in
Arabella and the Countess in
There are fourteen tracks on this BR Klassik release. It makes for a satisfying mix of opera and operetta selected from five of Popp’s live Sunday concerts held at the Congress Hall, Deutsche Museum, Munich between 1968/82. I noticed that the tracks have been positioned from the oldest concert to the most recent; a small detail that is typical of this excellent series. Sadly there are no Richard Strauss items.
All the tracks are well sung and display Popp’s voice to splendid advantage; however there are several songs that I especially enjoyed: From Lehár’s
Paganini Anna Elisa’s waltz song from act II:
Ich kann es nicht fassen is a fine example of Popp’s assured handling of light music. In Aennchen’s arietta
Kommt ein schlanker Bursch gegangen from
Der Freischutz I was struck her wonderful diction and expressive qualities. Sung in German from Handel’s
Julius Caesar Cleopatra’s act II aria
Ich lieb euch, ihr Augen Popp spends considerable time in the high registers showing her exceptional vocal fluidity. Popp reveals her soft and tender side in Susanna’s act IV aria
Deh vieni non tardar from Mozart’s
Le nozze di Figaro allowing her to display her creamy timbre.
Rosina’s lengthy cavatina
Una voce poco fa from act 1 of Rossini’s
Il barbiere di Siviglia is a splendid vehicle for Popp’s impressive coloratura. She navigates the difficult vocal demands with assurance. In
Wie fremd und tot ist alles umher from act III of Smetana’s
The Bartered Bride Popp maintains a high dramatic tension demonstrating the amplitude of her voice. I relished her glorious and highly reverential singing in the
Laudate Dominum from Mozart’s
Vesperae solennes de Confessore. Again the power of her voice is evident and the long vocal lines show remarkable breath control. Also of note here is the impressive contribution from the Regensburg Cathedral Choir.
Under the direction of several conductors the orchestra is on splendid form. This first class orchestra provide sensitive and steadfast accompaniment throughout. From the early 1968 concert the sound is not brilliant but is certainly acceptable. The quality improves considerably for the concerts given over the 1972/82 period. Also provided are adequate booklet notes but sadly there are no sung texts.
I have been delighted with all four releases in the BR Klassik series ‘Great Singers Live’ and found this Lucia Popp collection enjoyable and compelling.
-- Michael Cookson, MusicWeb International Read less