Engaging, lyrical performances
Robert S. Lai | Syracuse, New York United States | 11/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I actually came to own this CD because I'm a big fan of Charlie Chaplin. In particular, his tender masterpiece: City Lights. Charlie Chaplin wrote all of the music in that move with one exception - Jose Padilla's "La Violetera". This song Chaplin used as the theme for his blind flower girl. The melody is so beautiful and haunting, that I had to hear the entire song. It turns out that there are very few releases of this song available now. This disk is the only one with a recording from the time when Chaplin was filming his movie. I love Bori's rendition - I can't stop listening to it over and over and over again. The lyrics are those of a flower girl in Madrid, imploring young men passing by to purchase a violet for their girl. Beauty and love may be expressed for so little a sum through a flower....
Let me back up a bit and discuss this CD itself. You have to realize that this is vintage material from the late 1920s and the 1930s. The producers had a dilemma. They could try to suppress all of the hiss and surface noise of the 78 rpm records. But, in the process you would also lose the high notes of the soprano. Wisely, they chose to leave the high frequencies alone. If you want to suppress them, virtually all playback systems have a "treble" control, if not a full equalizer, so this is no disadvantage. Luckily, there is no detectable wow and flutter from warped disks.
About Bori's singing. It's musical, and tastefully done. It's not overblown with excessive vocal theatrics, or sentimentality as some of the early 1900s singers were prone to. She is an excellent musician. Yet, there is a detectable accent. In Hoffman's Barcarolle, which is sung in English, you've got to listen carefully to make out the words. But then, Lawrence Tibbett also is sometimes hard to make out. It may be their operatic technique of the time as well as the limited frequency response of the recording system. Tibbett seems to be a bass or baritone, and in combination with a soprano, a wide frequency response is needed.
Ironically, even though Bori was born in Spain, when I asked my Spanish speaking friends about the lyrics of "La Violetera", they noted that the Spanish was pronounced with a heavy accent also. Perhaps people knowledgable in Italian can tell us about her Italian pronounciation.
A word about the Italian opera snippets. I'm a nut about Puccini, especially Madame Butterfly. Un bel di is so critical to this opera, that it has to be done right. I'm stuck on Renata Tebaldi's rendition, which to my mind is the gold standard. Bori has a different view, which may take some getting used to. The notes do say that she rarely performed Butterfly in the USA, and so perhaps she was aware of her own problems with this aria. Tebaldi brings out the anguish and makes you cry. Bori seems a little more perfunctory.
Overall, this is quite a fun, musical CD with material that is not often heard today. I really enjoy this one."