The superb artistry of Dorothy Kirsten
Robert Boyd | San Jose, CA | 07/01/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you like sopranos, especially the well-known greats like Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi, and Leontyne Price (just to name a few), then you must give your ears a delicious treat by listening to the superb artistry of Dorothy Kirsten. Get this CD, then go immediately to Track #11 - Io son l'umile ancella ("I am the humble handmaiden" - of the poet or playwright). The composer captured this humility in his poignant melodic phrasing and ends with: "Un soffio e la mia voce que al nuovo di morra" ("My voice is but a breath which will die at the dawning of a new day.") By the time they're ready for their "big note", too many prima donnas, having been servants just about as long as they can stand it, throw off their serving aprons and don their breast plates for a frontal attack, summoning all their strength in Wagnerian proportions to fill the rafters and bring the house down. Only a few, rare, gifted sopranos (like Magda Olivero and Dorothy Kirsten) delicately spin remarkable pianissimi, and hold those breathless flights of vocal purity till you honestly believe they will, in fact, die on the morrow. (I've never heard Monserrat Caballe in the role, but I imagine she would join the ranks of Kirsten and Olivero.Then it's back to the beginning and the haunting melody of Villa-Lobos. Kirsten sings the Brasileira flawlessly, with a certain mysterious elegance. Unfortunately, the sound editing of this CD is lacking. The dreaminess of Villa-Lobos is jarred by the harsh brassy sound of a track taken from a live recording. But soon, you've adjusted to the sound and you allow yourself to be entranced by a youthful, fun-loving courtesan who suddenly finds herself wondering if real love is really possible. Listening to Kirsten, you get a deep insight into Violetta's astonishment that someone might actually love her!As you listen to each selection on this marvelous collection, you hear a soprano whose artistry is superb while she lets her voice do the acting. For Kirsten, the Puccini heroines were her bread and butter and she perfected them like no other soprano (no, not even Callas or Tebaldi). When Kirsten sang, she entered into the character totally.I had the privilege of seeing her several times each in Manon Lescaut, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and La Fanciulla del West. It is the world's loss that she never made any commercial recordings of these operas. The Metropolitan Opera Record Club in the 1950's issued abridged versions of Tosca and Butterfly, both of which show the great artistry of that magnificent singing actress, but unfortunately we have only the Poker scene, with Mario Sereni, on The Voice of Firestone VHS release, to give us a hint as to the intensity she brought to the role of Minnie in La Fanciulla del West.So enjoy every note, every pause, every emotive shudder on this recording. And discover why even people like Frank Sinatra and Gordon Macrae chose Dorothy as their leading lady. See why Dorothy Kirsten was chosen to represent American Culture in Russia at the height of the cold war.Then, do yourself a favor and discover a priceless performance of Madama Butterfly, stumbled across by accident in the archives of the New Orleans opera."
Anthony Louis | USA | 01/20/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a delightful CD of live performances. The sound quality is decent but not outstanding, considering when it was recorded (live). If you like Dorothy Kirsten, you will enjoy this recording, especially the haunting Bachiana Brasileira No. 5. My only reservation is that the quality of the sound reproduction on some of the older recordings sounds rather flawed on a good modern music system, which reveals all its weaknesses."