COMPOSERS: Balfe,Gounod,Massenet,Puccini,Saint-Saëns et al,Schumann,Verdi
ALBUM TITLE: From Melba to Sutherland: Australian Singers on Record
WORKS: Songs and arias by Gounod, Puccini, Massenet, Verdi, Balfe, Schumann, Saint-Saëns et al
PERFORMER: Nellie Melba, Joan Sutherland, Gertrude Johnson, Frances Alda , Eileen Boyd, John Brownlee et al
CATALOGUE NO: 482 5892
Many familiar singers are from the Commonwealth, Australia and New Zealand in particular. Not just stars like Nellie Melba, Joan Sutherland, Kiri te Kanawa and June Bronhill, but those sturdy performers who became mainstays of all our opera companies throughout the last century. At that time, of course, to complete their studies and make a living, they usually came to Europe. Many, like ‘Melba’ (Helen Mitchell) and ‘Margherita Grandi’ (Margaret Gard) took cod-European stage names, although sometimes, like Florence Austral and Elsa Stralia, with cheeky giveaways.
This set gives an invaluable historical cross-section of Antipodean singers in both commercial and rare archive recordings, from grand-operatic voices like Albert Lance and Yvonne Minton to more popular artists like Bronhill, Peter Dawson and the magnificent bass Malcolm McEachern, famous as ‘Flotsam’; and even music-hall figures like Florrie Forde. It reminds us of some whose international careers were tragically cut short – Marjorie Lawrence, Marie Collier, Deborah Riedel. That said, it can’t be called exhaustive, with some curious inclusions and exclusions – if Hunter, why not Alberto Remedios? The title may annoy New Zealanders, appropriating some on the basis of various Australian links – Frances Alda, Heather Begg, Rosina Buckman – but not, for example, celebrated bass Noel Mangin. And one misses distinguished recent Australians like Jonathan Summers and Rosamund Illing. The documentation sometimes seems inadequate, for instance the ENO Wagner roles that crowned Clifford Grant’s career are ignored. It’s still a fascinating set.
Michael Scott Rohan