Collection: The Unknown Supervia

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COMPOSERS: Grignon,Longas,Manén,Mompou,Nebra
LABELS: Pearl
WORKS: Folk songs and extracts from Zarzuela
PERFORMER: Conchita Supervia
CATALOGUE NO: GEMM CD 9969 AAD

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The Catalan soprano Conchita Supervia (c.1895-1936) had a voice of irresistible warmth, range and, with its distinctive ‘rattle’, style. This disc, unfortunately, fails to live up to expectation. The voice is still magnificent, but not so great as to transcend the appalling surface noise (for which there is no excuse in this age of frequency detectors and obliterators) and she is ill-served by the material on offer.

This is an esoteric selection of (mostly) folk songs in Catalan, Spanish, Italian and French, recorded in the late Twenties and Thirties, most of which, unreassuringly, failed even to find their way on to 78. Only the lyrically melancholic ‘El cant dels ocells’ is really well known and that suffers from ear-splitting distortion of the high notes. Historically, though, this is a worthwhile issue, providing an insight into the breadth of her repertoire and evidence of an intimate and less histrionic style of singing than in her opera performances.

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It also affords three opportunities to hear her speaking voice — in the introduction to two songs taken from a cycle written by Gennai and dedicated to Supervia’s son, Giorgino, born when she was 23 and whose father she refused to marry; and most arrestingly in an excerpt from Evensong, a film based loosely on the life of Nellie Melba, made in 1934, written by Melba’s private secretary, Beverley Nichols, and starring Supervia, Evelyn Laye and Fritz Kortner. Claire Wrathall