Caruso and colleagues, 1914-1916.
John Austin | Kangaroo Ground, Australia | 03/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm not sure if Caruso admirers will rush to secure a copy of this ninth volume in the complete Naxos reissue series, but I can report that there are many great recordings here and not a few rarities. One of the latter is the so-called "Coat Song" from Puccini's "La Boheme". According to one of the great stories in the annals of opera performance, Caruso agreed to sing this two minute piece in Act Four for his bass colleague whose voice had by then petered out during a performance at Philadelphia. With the bass miming and Caruso with his back to the audience the trick was successful. Caruso agreed to sing it again for a recording soon after, not for general issue but for distribution amongst friends. Another rarity is a "Carmen" duet he recorded in 1914 with Francis Alda. Two takes are here: one issued for the first time, the other not issued until the 1960s. John McCormack was meanwhile achieving great sales with recordings in which he teamed with the violinist Fritz Kreisler. Two tracks here, featuring rare items not attempted by McCormack and Kreisler, have Caruso teamed with violinist Mischa Elman. As for the great recordings, I would opt for the Verdi Requiem excerpt, and the wonderful aria from Gounod's "La Reine de Saba". The latter, as with many other items here, is sung in French. A disappointment is the "La Traviata" Brindisi. Perhaps Caruso and Alma Gluck had been drinking too much instead of singing about it."