For the next couple of OTF posts, I plan not to propose a “full length” opera but rather a set of excerpts from podcasts that bring to light Great Voices from the Past. These podcasts are taken from the “filler material” host Sean Bianco uses in hius Friday Night at the Opera/At the Opera weekly programs which he dubs “Opera Potpourri”.

Today, I will be featuring three such podcast clips, from 2011 and 2012 where Sean discusses and shares recordings of the Nimbus “Viva Voce” series dedicated to vintage acoustic and electrical recordings of some of the great singers of the early 20rth century. All of the recordings featured today are from before 1939 (the “youngest” being from 1938, I believe).

It’s a treat to not oinly discover some of these singers – some of them recognizable names, others less – which I cam safely say none of us have heard in person (or even on television or film). I also take particular delight in Mr. Bianco’s commentary – he is a true connoisseur, and describes his impressions with such sincerity and true enthusiasm!

Here are some very short notes about the singers featured in these audio clippings:

Rosa Ponselle (1897 –1981), was a first-generation Italian-American operatic soprano with a large, opulent voice. She sang mainly at the New York Metropolitan Opera and is generally considered by music critics to have been one of the greatest sopranos of the past 100 years.
Giuseppe De Luca (1876 –1950), was a famous Italian baritone who achieved his greatest triumphs at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. He notably created roles in the world premieres of two operas by Giacomo Puccini: Sharpless in Madama Butterfly (at La Scala, Milan, 1904) and the title role in Gianni Schicchi (Metropolitan Opera, 1918).
Lauritz Melchior (1890 –1973) was a Danish and later American opera singer. He was the pre-eminent Wagnerian tenor of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, and has since come to be considered the quintessence of his voice type.
Johan Jonatan "Jussi" Björling (1911 –1960) was a Swedish tenor and one of the leading operatic singers of the 20th century, appearing for many years at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and less frequently at the major European opera houses, including the Royal Opera House in London and La Scala in Milan.

When putting these clips together, I retained Sean’s commentary “unedited” – there may be some artifacts related to these being “air checks” – technical snafus, several seconds of dead air, etc.), but I wanted to keep as much of the content “intact” – that’s just my way of not “editing out” the essence of his message.

Happy Listening!

13 May 2011
Excerpts from “Jussi Björling Vol.2”, Nimbus: NI7842
LA BELLE HÉLÈNE (J. Offenbach), Au mont Ida trois déesses [Sung in Swedish]
Rec: 31 May 1938 Matrix: OSB 755-1 HMV Cat: X 6090
DER ZIGEUNERBARON ( J. Strauss II), Wer uns getraut? [Sung in Swedish]
with Hjördis Schymberg (soprano), Rec: 28 April 1938 Matrix: OSB 741-5 HMV Cat: X 6146
DER BETTELSTUDENT (C. Millöcker), Ich hab' kein Geld, bin vogelfrei [Sung in Swedish]
Rec: 28 April 1938 Matrix: OSB 743-4 HMV Cat: X 6090

20 Oct 2012
Excerpts from “Jussi Bjorling - The First Ten Years”, Nimbus: NI7835
L'AFRICANA (G. Meyerbeer), O Paradiso
Rec: 4 September 1937 Matrix: 2SB 573-2 HMV Cat: DB 3302
LA GIOCONDA (A. Ponchielli), Cielo e mar
Rec: 3 September 1937 Matrix: 2SB 570-2 HMV Cat: DB 3302
LA BOHÈME (G. Puccini), Che gelida manina
Rec: 4 December 1936 Matrix: 2SB 439-2 HMV Cat: DB 3049
MANON (J. Massenet), Il sogno (En fermant les yeux)
Rec: 10 August 1938 Matrix: 2SB 779-2 HMV Cat: DB 3603
G. Rossini, Cujus animam from “Stabat Mater” (1842),
Rec: 12 October 1938 Matrix: 2SB 823-3 HMV Cat: DB 3665
IL TROVATORE (G. Verdi), Di quella pira [Sung in Swedish]
Rec: 3 March 1934 Matrix: OPA 235-2 HMV Cat: X 4265

1 april 2011
Excerpts from “Rosa Ponselle Vol.3”, Nimbus: NI7878
IL TROVATORE, Tacea la notte placida
Rec: 16 Nov 1922 Mat: 98051-1 Columbia Cat: 68036D Romano Romani conductor
LA FORZA DEL DESTINO (G. Verdi), Pace, pace mio Dio
Rec: 11 Dec 1923 Mat: C29060-4 Victor Unpublished Rosario Bourdon conductor

Excerpts from “Giuseppe de Luca”, Nimbus: NI7815
LA GIOCONDA, Enzo Grimaldo, Principe di Santafior
with Beniamino Gigli (tenor), Rec: Nov 1927 Matrix: 41072 Victor Cat: 8084B
RIGOLETTO (G. Verdi), Piangi, fanciulla
with Amelita Galli-Curci (soprano) Rec: 1927 Matrix: A 41236 Victor Cat: 3051
IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA (G. Rossini), Largo al factotum
Rec: 1917 Matrix: 19163 Victor Cat: 6077

Excerpts from “Rosa Ponselle Vol.3”, Nimbus: NI7878
S. Foster, Old Folks at Home (also known as Swanee River, 1851)
Rec: 4 June 1925 Mat: CVE 32865-3 Victor (Unpublished) Pasternack conductor

Excerpts from “Lauritz Melchior”, Nimbus: NI7816
DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG (R. Wagner), Morgenlich leuchtend im rosigen Schein ('Prize Song')
Recorded 1924-1939 Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy, Conductor

Internet Archive URL - https://archive.org/details/03OperaPotpourri110401