COMPOSERS: Conchita Supervia
LABELS: Nimbus Prima Voce
WORKS: Arias and songs
PERFORMER: Various orchestras, conductors and accompanists
CATALOGUE NO: NI7836/7 ADD mono
If the recent Pearl issue of Supervia singing folksongs and zarzuela (reviewed last month) did the great Catalan mezzo no favours – much of the material was substandard and the sound was abominable – then this is the disc to redress the balance.
Supervia’s was a voice of distinctive character with its aspirated, almost guttural vibrato. But what she lacked in pure tonal beauty is more than made up for in vocal agility – her range extended from low G to high B and – and vibrant colour. Her coloratura, particularly on the Rossini arias here (from L’italiana in Algeri, Il barbiere and Cenerentola), may lack refinement and be marked by a certain vehemence, but in terms of passion and excitement, there is little that can touch it.
This set also includes excerpts from Samson et Dalila, Mignon and a ravishing ‘Il était un roi de Thule’ from Faust, as well as almost 40 minutes from her justly celebrated Carmen.
The real highlight, however, is the inclusion of Falla’s Siete canciones. These seven short folk songs provide evidence of all Supervia’s dazzling vocal style: a sublime rhythmic sense, passion, drama, melancholic lyricism and, above all, an irresistible sense of Spain. Despite having been taken from 78s recorded between 1927 and 1932, the sound on these discs is close to exemplary: what surface noise exists is barely perceptible and in no way obtrusive. Often the problem with historical recordings is the way the orchestra is inclined to sound distant and the singer isolated. In this case, however, it is a positive advantage, allowing the listener to concentrate on Supervia’s voice in all its magnificence. Claire Wrathall