LABELS: RCA Gold Seal
PERFORMER: Nellie Melba
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61412 2 ADD mono
That mining the archives can be immense fun is well illustrated by listening to French baritone Victor Maurel’s uproarious, though superbly articulated, 1907 rendering of ‘Quand’ero paggio’ (Falstaff ) on Nimbus’s The Era of Adelina Patti, with its stanzas interspersed with enthusiastic shouts and applause.
Nimbus brings the voice into immediate proximity via a technical process that works particularly well with acoustic recordings. Maurel (Verdi’s first Iago) rubs shoulders with Patti herself (frail but delicate), the astonishing 80-year-old Lucien Fugère (you’d never guess his age from his singing), and many others, including Nellie Melba.
The sum effect of RCA’s Melba disc is to explain her appeal, or at least as much of it as primitive sound allows. Her Verdi is crystalline, pure and touchingly characterised, her vocal attack keen. The musician in Melba informs her self-accompaniments to songs by Hahn and Debussy and renders her coloratura singing particularly attractive. American soprano Lily Pons charmed a later generation, but her singing had little of Melba’s charisma.