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Christine Schafer Sings Melodies: Chausson, Debussy

Schafer,Christine
Release Date: 09/04/2012 
Label:  Eloquence   Catalog #: 4805769   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ernest ChaussonClaude Debussy
Performer:  Irwin GageChristine SchäferStella Doufexis
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 16 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



THE VOICE OF ELENA SOULIOTIS Elena Souliotis (sop); Lamberto Gardelli, cond; 1 Oliviero de Fabritiis, cond; 2 Silvio Varviso, cond; 3 Vienna St Op O; Rome Op O; Rome O DECCA ELOQUENCE 4805369 (74:57)


VERDI 1 Nabucco: Ben io t’invenni…Anch’io dischiuso. Read more 2 Macbeth: Nel di della vittoria…Vieni! t’affretta! 2 Luisa Miller: Nu punscimi, o Signore…A brani. a brani, o perfido. 2 Un ballo in maschera: Morrò, ma prima in grazia; 3 Ecco l’orrido campo…Ma dall’arido stelo. 3 La forza del destino: Pace, pace mio Dio. DONIZETTI 2 Anna Bolena: Piangete voi?…Al dolce guidami. MASCAGNI 3 Cavalleria rusticana: Voi lo sapete. PONCHIELLI 3 La Gioconda: Suicidio!


To turn one’s attention from the mush-mouthed, lachrymose mooings of Joan Sutherland to the dead-on-the-money dramatics of Elena Souliotis is like adjusting the focus of one’s binoculars from blurred to razor sharpness. There was no comparison: had Souliotis not worn holes in her voice by 1973, hers, rather than Sutherland’s, would have been the voice you would have wanted to hear in Ballo in maschera, Il trovatore, and even (maybe especially) Anna Bolena . Souliotis was so good during her brief prime that there was a worldwide sense of mourning among opera lovers when the voice finally gave out.


This disc covers only the first two years of Souliotis’s international career, 1965-66, but those were the golden years. Sometimes I wonder if her teacher heard that her voice was far too open at the top, knew that it would blow out in about six years, and warned her? If so, she had two choices: keep doing what she was doing, be the most exciting soprano in the world for a few years, and then say adieu to her professional career (which is what happened), or choose to cover the tones, be rather less exciting, but last longer. We all know what actually happened, but one can always speculate.


The Nabucco scene comes from the magnificent complete recording which still stands—nearly a half-century later (oh wow! Was 1965 really a half-century ago?)—as the greatest recording of this opera ever made. Of course, its success had as much to do with the first-class conducting of Lamberto Gardelli (I believe this was the first of his long series of Verdi opera recordings, which he later completed for Philips) and the singing-acting of baritone Tito Gobbi, bass Carlo Cava, and tenor Bruno Prevedi (a very underrated singer in his day) as with Souliotis, but there’s no question that she was the glue that held that performance together. No one, not even Callas or the even more golden-voiced Anita Cerquetti, ever dared to accost Abigaille’s music this way, but this is how you have to sing it to make an effect. (Historical footnote: Giuseppina Strepponi, Verdi’s second wife and the creator of the role of Abigaille when she was 27 years old, also blew out her voice by age 30 and was forced to retire at age 31.) The remainder of this CD is taken from a recital album Souliotis recorded in September 1966, using two excellent and experienced conductors, Oliviero de Fabritiis and Silvio Varviso, and again she is in excellent voice. Every performance is a gem; not one lacks in dramatic conviction, musicality, or aliveness to the text. Pride of place goes to the extended (20-minute) scene from Anna Bolena, a rather mediocre Donizetti potboiler which no one else (save Callas, in one live performance of tremendous vitality) ever sang nearly as well.


This disc, with its extra selections and more generous playing time, supplants the cheapo 39-minute reissue of the 1966 LP recital that Decca released in 2004. It might be noted that Giovanni Foiani, who sings roughly two lines as the High Priest on the Nabucco scene, and Anna di Stasio, who sings the line or two of Mamma Lucia during “Voi lo sapete,” are identified in the booklet, but the various singers (including a fine tenor who sounds a little like Prevedi) in the Anna Bolena final scene remain anonymous. I checked online, even found a copy of the original Decca LP selling on eBay and a CD reissue of same selling on ArkivMusic, but still no singers were identified. I even e-mailed a friend of mine who has the largest vocal record collection I’ve ever known, and has everything in it cross-referenced by accompanying singers, and even he didn’t have them listed, so this may be one of those cases where the sessions were hastily arranged and Decca failed to catalog the other artists.


Of course, your proclivity to purchase this CD will hinge on your love of 19th-century Italian opera, but if this material is your meat and potatoes, Souliotis will certainly deliver the reddest of meat. Since I already have a CD of highlights from the complete Nabucco, I’ll be keeping it for the Luisa Miller, which no one ever sang as well (I don’t think Callas ever performed the role), the Ballo in Maschera arias which only Maria Caniglia ever sang with as much fire (nope, not even Callas matches her in these), and especially that Anna Bolena scene. Souliotis was one of a kind. You simply cannot overestimate the importance of a recording like this.


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1.
Mélodies (2), Op. 36: no 2, Dans la forêt du charme et de l'enchantement by Ernest Chausson
Performer:  Irwin Gage (Piano), Christine Schäfer ()
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1898; France 
Date of Recording: 06/1999 
Venue:  Teldec-Studio, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 2 Minutes 56 Secs. 
2.
Mélodies (4), Op. 13 by Ernest Chausson
Performer:  Irwin Gage (Piano), Christine Schäfer ()
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; France 
Date of Recording: 06/1999 
Venue:  Teldec-Studio, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 9 Minutes 21 Secs. 
3.
Poème de l'amour et de la mer, Op. 19: no 3b, Le temps de lilas by Ernest Chausson
Performer:  Christine Schäfer (), Irwin Gage (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1882-1890; France 
Date of Recording: 06/1999 
Venue:  Teldec-Studio, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 4 Minutes 43 Secs. 
4.
Fêtes galantes, Set 1 by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Irwin Gage (Piano), Christine Schäfer ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1891; France 
Date of Recording: 06/1999 
Venue:  Teldec-Studio, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 8 Minutes 11 Secs. 
5.
Proses lyriques (4), song collection for voice & piano, L. 84 by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Irwin Gage (Piano), Christine Schäfer ()
Period: Modern 
Written: 1892-1893; France 
Date of Recording: 06/1999 
Venue:  Teldec-Studio, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 21 Minutes 24 Secs. 
6.
Nuits blanches by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Christine Schäfer (), Irwin Gage (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1898; France 
Date of Recording: 06/1999 
Venue:  Teldec-Studio, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 2 Minutes 25 Secs. 
7.
Mélodies (7), Op. 2 by Ernest Chausson
Performer:  Christine Schäfer (), Irwin Gage (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1882; France 
Date of Recording: 06/1999 
Venue:  Teldec-Studio, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 5 Minutes 57 Secs. 
8.
Mélodies (4), Op. 8 by Ernest Chausson
Performer:  Christine Schäfer (), Irwin Gage (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1882-1888; France 
Date of Recording: 06/1999 
Venue:  Teldec-Studio, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 6 Minutes 45 Secs. 
9.
Duets (2), Op. 11 by Ernest Chausson
Performer:  Christine Schäfer (), Stella Doufexis (), Irwin Gage (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883; France 
Date of Recording: 06/1999 
Venue:  Teldec-Studio, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 7 Minutes 54 Secs. 

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