Fare thee well!
John Austin | Kangaroo Ground, Australia | 07/07/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Thanks to splendid reissues such as this, Dame Nellie Melba, once the most celebrated soprano in the world, is still a presence for C21st century listeners. Collected here, and completing the Naxos series reissuing her EMI recordings, is everything she recorded between 1921 and 1926. As is well known, the opportunity was taken, soon after the introduction of the electrical recording process, to record her farewell appearance at Covent Garden in June 1926. Two acts of "La Boheme"and the last act of "Otello" were performed. Of the many 78 sides made on location that proved to be technically acceptable, Melba would allow only three to be issued in her lifetime - one of which was her farewell speech. Well, they are all assembled here, allowing us to hear her with some of her younger compatriot Australians whose careers she promoted. Six months later, she initiated a final recording session to help forward the career of one of them, the 26 year old baritone John Brownlee. "It was for her a trying afternoon," wrote producer Fred Gaiberg in his memoirs. These final four sides are here too, Melba's only studio electrically recorded items, two of them in duet with John Brownlee. I urge all readers, even those who might have written Melba off as a famous singer stunning in performance but luckless in recording studios to go first to Track 17 on this CD. Hear the voice, rock steady, still able to provide dynamic contrasts and with an occasional gleam on it, in perfect ensemble with John Brownlee, and unimpeded by fierce surface hiss. For some reason the other three items from this final recording session are not nearly as vivid. Restoration engineer Ward Marston, with help from various sources, compiled this invaluable 70 minute CD."