The 1903 Grand Opera Series

Release Date: 2/3/2015
Label: Sony
Catalog Number: SONY 62334
Number of Discs: 2

Physical Format:

CD
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$33.99
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Veteran collectors will recall that the 1903 Columbia Grand Opera Series (recorded 1902-03) was first reissued on LP by Columbia in 1963, in a magnificently produced box set that included a facsimile of the original sales brochure for the series. It was a model historical release for the time, but it has been surpassed in almost every way in its new incarnation on Sony's Masterworks Heritage series. Everything that was on the LP set is present, including the facsimile brochure, but there is much new material, including alternate takes as well as some intriguing recordings made through 1907.

Although the LP set was very well transferred for the time (using as was then the norm, discreet reverb), it has all been newly transferred by Seth B. Winner and remastered by Dawn Frank so that the old recordings yield up sound that was previously obscured. According to the producer, Dennis D. Rooney, Sony achieved an unprecedented 8,000 hz on Marcel Journet's 1905 “Infelice! E tu credevi,“ by using a mint set of metal parts. To hear this level of fidelity from an acoustic and not an electric, and with such sharply etched sibilants, is uncanny. What a testament to those pioneering inventors! The rest of the material, the majority taken from the New York Public Library's pristine copies of salesmen's samples, is mostly at a less spectacular, but still impressive, 4,000-4,500 hz. Winner has been very discreet in his filtering, but the surface noise is rarely intrusive and the voices in these old recordings emerge with a startling immediacy.

The set's cover bills it as “the first recordings of opera in America,“ not accurately, since Bettini was offering his cylinders of top opera stars in the 1880s, and the first commercially produced opera record was made by Berliner in Philadelphia by the tenor Ferruccio Giannini in 1896. However, the Columbias are likely the first flat discs of celebrity opera singers to have been made here and, more importantly, they offer performances of the highest artistic and historic significance.

First and foremost are the three records by bass Edouard de Reszke, the only ones he would ever make. The premiere bass of the last quarter of the nineteenth century, a far bigger star than his great contemporary, Pol Plançon, Edouard with his brother, the tenor Jean de Reszke (who, alas, had his record masters destroyed), ruled the opera world like kings. Edouard's three recordings, “Infelice! E tu credevi,“ the “Porterlied,“ and “Don Juan's Serenade,“ are sung with a uniquely cultivated tone and style. Although the bass was forty-nine at the time of these recordings, and his once mighty voice had no doubt considerably lightened, all three, but particularly the Ernani selection, relay the impression of unmistakable greatness and magisterial authority.

Except for the one surviving Bettini cylinder of Marcella Sembrich, these Columbias find her voice in its freshest state. She was regarded as the finest Violetta of the time and her “Ah, fors' è lui“ is passionately sung, and with a rich tone that is less apparent on her Victors. The same can be said of Schumann-Heink's selections: although technically less impressive than her Victors, these are dazzling enough, and her unsurpassed contralto has a depth in “Der Tod und das Mädchen“ that is soul stirring. The baritones, Antonio Scotti, Giuseppe Campanari, and Charles Gilbert (a bass-baritone), are fabulous sounding on these Columbias; Scotti and Campanari are especially exuberant and unrestrained, with rousing “Toreador Song“s the like of which we don't hear anymore.

Although she is scarcely remembered anymore, the American soprano Suzanne Adams, a pupil of Mathilde Marchesi, was a superb singer with a luscious soprano voice bearing a remarkable resemblance to Patti's in the middle register. During her brief career, Adams was a first-rank star, a favorite of Gounod, and her recordings of the Roméo “Waltz“ and Faust “Jewel Song“ are not approached by modern interpreters. Another forgotten, but exquisite-voiced soprano was Lillian Blauvelt, whose pinpoint trills (real ones, not phony martello) in “Les filles de Cadix“ are eye-opening. There is a welcome Schubert selection by the famous Wagnerian bass-baritone Anton van Rooy, a singer who did not generally fare well on recordings, but is impressive in “Die beiden Grenadiere.“

Beautifully packaged, this is one of the great historic releases of the CD era.

-- James Camner, FANFARE [1/1997]
Works on This Recording
1. Faust: Avant de quitter ces lieux by Charles Gounod
Performer: Giuseppe Campanari (Baritone), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1859 ; France
2. Serenata by Armando Seppilli
Performer: Giuseppe Campanari (Baritone), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Romantic
3. Carmen: Votre toast je peu vous le rendre "Toreador Song" by Georges Bizet
Performer: Antonio Scotti (Baritone), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1873-1874 ; France
4. L'Africaine: Hola! Matelots by Giacomo Meyerbeer
Performer: Giuseppe Campanari (Baritone), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1865 ; Germany
5. Ernani: Ernani, involami by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer: Marcella Sembrich (Soprano), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1844 ; Italy
6. Frühlingsstimmen, Op. 410 by Johann Strauss Jr.
Performer: Marcella Sembrich (Soprano), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Romantic
Written: by 1883 ; Vienna, Austria
7. La traviata: Ah, fors' è lui by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer: Marcella Sembrich (Soprano), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1853 ; Italy
8. Ernani: Infelice! e tu credevi by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer: Marcel Journet (Bass)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1844 ; Italy
9. Martha: Lasst mich euch fragen "Porter's Song" by Friedrich von Flotow
Performer: Edouard De Reszke (Bass), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1847 ; Germany
10. Songs (6), Op. 38: no 1, Don Juan's serenade by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer: Edouard De Reszke (Bass), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1878 ; Russia
11. Clari: Home, Sweet Home by Henry Bishop
Performer: Suzanne Adams (Soprano), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1823 ; England
12. Printemps nouveau by Paul Vidal
Performer: Suzanne Adams (Soprano), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Romantic
13. Obstination by Nicholas de Fontenailles
Performer: Charles Gilibert (Baritone), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Romantic
14. Roméo et Juliette: Je veux vivre dans le rêve "Waltz Song" by Charles Gounod
Performer: Suzanne Adams (Soprano), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1867 ; France
15. Faust: Ah! je ris de me voir si belle "Jewel Song" by Charles Gounod
Performer: Suzanne Adams (Soprano), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1859 ; France
16. La Vierge à la crèche by Albert Périlhou
Performer: Charles Adams Prince (Piano), Charles Gilibert (Baritone)
Period: Romantic
17. Chanson de l'adieu by Francesco Paolo Tosti
Performer: Charles Adams Prince (Piano), Charles Gilibert (Baritone)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1898 ;
18. Sonates en trio (6), Op. 2: no 1 - Finale, Menuet by André-Joseph Exaudet
Performer: Charles Adams Prince (Piano), Charles Gilibert (Baritone)
Period: Baroque
Written: by 1751 ; France
19. Colin et Colinette by Traditional
Performer: Gabrielle Gilibert (Mezzo Soprano), Charles Adams Prince (Piano), Charles Gilibert (Baritone)
20. Le Prophète: Ah, mon fils! by Giacomo Meyerbeer
Period: Romantic
Written: 1849 ; Germany
21. Lucrezia Borgia: Il segreto per esser felice "Brindisi" by Gaetano Donizetti
Period: Romantic
Written: 1833 ; Italy
22. Samson et Dalila, Op. 47: Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix by Camille Saint-Saëns
Period: Romantic
Written: 1877 ; France
23. Leggero invisible "Bolero" by Luigi Arditi
Period: Romantic
24. Der Tod und das Mädchen, D 531/Op. 7 no 3 by Franz Schubert
Period: Romantic
Written: 1817 ; Vienna, Austria
25. Don Giovanni, K 527: Deh vieni alla finestra [Serenade] by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer: Charles Gilibert (Baritone)
Period: Classical
Written: 1787 ; Prague, Czech Republ
26. Don Giovanni, K 527: Finch' han dal vino [Brindisi] by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer: Antonio Scotti (Baritone), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Classical
Written: 1787 ; Prague, Czech Republ
27. Les Filles de Cadiz "Chanson Espagnole" by Léo Delibes
Performer: Lillian Blauvelt (Soprano), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Romantic
28. Martha: Ach, so fromm by Friedrich von Flotow
Performer: Francisco "Augustin" Nuibo (Tenor)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1847 ; Germany
29. Roméo et Juliette: Ah! lève-toi, soleil by Charles Gounod
Performer: Francisco "Augustin" Nuibo (Tenor)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1867 ; France
30. La sonnambula: Vi ravviso, o luoghi ameni by Vincenzo Bellini
Performer: Marcel Journet (Bass)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1831 ; Italy
31. Margaton by Traditional
Performer: Charles Gilibert (Baritone)
32. Romances and Ballades ii, Op. 49: no 1, Die beiden Grenadiere by Robert Schumann
Performer: Anton Van Rooy (Baritone)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1840 ; Germany
33. Mia sposa sarà mia bandiera by Augusto Rotoli
Performer: Vittorio Arimondi (Bass)
Period: Romantic
34. Aprite la finestra by Francesco Cimmino
Performer: Edoardo Castellano (Tenor)
Period: Romantic
35. Tosca: Recondita armonia by Giacomo Puccini
Performer: Edoardo Castellano (Tenor)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1900 ; Italy
36. I Pagliacci: Sì può? [Prologue] by Ruggero Leoncavallo
Performer: Antonio Scotti (Baritone), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1892 ; Italy
37. Coquette by Leo [Composer] Stern
Performer: Suzanne Adams (Soprano), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Romantic
38. Sunbeams by Landon Ronald
Performer: Charles Adams Prince (Piano), Suzanne Adams (Soprano)
Period: 20th Century
39. Il barbiere di Siviglia: Largo al factotum by Gioachino Rossini
Performer: Giuseppe Campanari (Baritone), Charles Adams Prince (Piano)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1816 ; Italy
40. Les rameaux by Jean-Baptiste Fauré
Performer: Charles Adams Prince (Piano), Charles Gilibert (Baritone)
Period: Romantic
Customer Reviews