Reviews for IPCD 1030-3
FLORENCE QUARTARARO:UNKNOWN RECORDINGS 1945–1951
Songs by Bach-Gounod, Schubert, Rachmaninoff, Bizet, Delibes, Rossini, Foudrain, del Riego, Landon Ronald, Victor Herbert & Richard Rodgers; Arias & Duets (w.James Melton, Francesco Valentino, Joseph Laderout, Walter Fredericks, Ezio Pinza, Salvatore Baccaloni) from Atalanta, Don Giovanni, Nozze, Otello, Aïda, Il Trovatore, La Traviata, Cavalleria, Madama Butterfly, Thaïs, Le Cid, Louise, Hérodiade, Carmen, Adriana Lecouvreur, La Wally, La Boheme, Tosca, Andrea Chénier, Pagliacci & Walzerträume.
IMMORTAL PERFORMANCES IPCD 1030-3 (3 CDs: 188.40)
American Record Guide
Florence Quartararo (1922 - 1994) was born in the San Francisco Bay area, to music loving Italian parents and grew up listening to old vocal recordings and such visiting luminaries as Martinelli, Gigli, Schipa, Rethberg, Ponselle and, her greatest favourite, Claudia Muzio. Inevitably her own voice was discovered and she began her vocal studies which led finally to her becoming a protégée of Bruno Walter. He brought her to the attention of the Metropolitan Opera where she made a successful debut as Micaela in 1946. Here she remained for a few seasons, always seeking to improve her art and garnering ever greater praise for appearances in works such as Thais, Faust, Pagliacci, Traviata, Gianni Schicci etc. It was when singing Lauretta that she met the baritone, Italo Tajo, whom she married. Following the birth of their daughter, he persuaded her that two singers in a family was not a good idea and thus she left the operatic stage still only in her 20s.
The ridiculously few commercial recordings of this hugely gifted soprano were always a source of deep regret for voice lovers. Only a handful of Victor 78s, and one 'live' Pagliacci remained to represent a brilliant singer, once compared to stars such as Ponselle and Milanov. All of these original recordings are included here. To listen to just one - 'Care Selve' from Handel's Atalanta, is to realise instantly the great loss her early departure from the operatic stage occasioned. The voice has a thrilling individual timbre, is intrinsically lovely, even-scaled, flexible and always used with high intelligence to dramatic effect. It is necessary to return to Alma Gluck's celebrated version to hear singing and phrasing of this order. Thanks to Richard Caniell who knew the soprano in her retirement, we are now able to hear numerous recordings from her private collection. His fascinating notes that accompany this splendid tribute are of absorbing interest and a further long essay from Henry Fogel is also a model of how to tackle an issue of this nature.
Pages could be written on each of the items included on these three CDs. In their variety and musical worth they say much for Quartararo's catholic musical tastes. There is not an indifferent performance here through a wide-ranging musical gamut. However, since it is almost impossible to believe that any voice lover will refrain from acquiring this absolutely essential set, they will do better to read comments on some of these in the two above mentioned, admirable essays. It would be impossible to recommend this set too highly. Acquire it before it disappears.
FLORENCE QUARTARARO: UNKNOWN RECORDINGS 1945–1951
Arias and songs by MASSENET, CILEA, CATALANI, VERDI, GIORDANO, DEL REGIO, LEONCAVALLO, HERBERT, MOZART, CHARPENTIER, BIZET, PUCCINI, O. STRAUS, RODGERS, FOUDRAIN, ROSSINI, RACHMANINOFF, BACH, GOUNOD
QUARTARARO MEMORIAL 1945–1950
Immortal Performances IPCD 1030-3 [3 CDs] 188:40
I can only echo other commentators assessments of Quartararo’s voice: it was lovely and strong, evenly produced throughout her range. She was at home in the verismo soprano roles that were the rage of the times, as well as in the more purely lyrical singing required in Handel and Mozart, and she could take on some of the more substantial repertoire of Verdi and Puccini as well. Probably a near-native Italian speaker at home, she was also quite well versed in the French language and French singing style. Her repertoire as given here is not remarkable for a world-class soprano of the era—a mixture of opera arias she was expected to know, with some pop favorites mixed in. What is remarkable is the collection of source material and its restoration to listenable quality by master technician Richard Caniell and his Canadian non-profit group at Immortal Performances. Of course the five RCA 78rpm sides from the bonus disc offer the best audio quality, but the painstakingly restored sound from the other sources, some provided by Quartararo herself, some tracked down through dogged research, attests to the skill and resourcefulness of this remarkable organization. Again, I take my hat off to them and bow to the floor (if I only still could); they perform an exemplary service in what is unfortunately fast becoming a niche corner of our cultural heritage. As for Quartararo, if you are a singing aficionado you probably will want this three-disc set. The bonus disc has been issued previously on the Guild label, along with Quartararo’s only fully recorded opera role, as Nedda in Pagliacci from the Met in 1948. Booklet notes in this set are by fellow Fanfare contributor Henry Fogel as well as by Richard Caniell himself. A fine production and strongly recommended.
FLORENCE QUARTARARO: UNKNOWN RECORDINGS 1945–1951
QUARTARARO MEMORIAL 1945–1950
If I did a standard headnote for this collection, it would be longer than the review for the collection contains 42 selections, the overwhelming majority of which are arias from operas, with a few duets and ensembles scattered through it. Among her collaborators are Nadine Connor, James Melton, Ramon Vinay, Ezio Pinza, and Salvatore Baccaloni. Most of the material comes from broad- casts. I should point out that one of the discs was first released in 2005 but Immortal Performances is including it as a free bonus.
In his history of the Metropolitan Opera, Irving Kolodin summed up Florence Quartararo’s career this way (he refers to her as “Fiorenza” Quartararo, which makes me wonder if that, in fact, is how she was billed at the time—the Met’s online archive refers to her as “Florence”): “At a performance of January 18, Fiorenza Quartararo, a California discovery of [Bruno] Walter, sang Micaëla promisingly. She also sang a creditable Pamina in The Magic Flute on March 4, but her later career embraced only sporadic appearances in principal parts, no steady line of development. Thus the warmth of her voice, the strength of her temperament, achieved no enduring results.” In fact, she only sang 37 performances at the Met, as Violetta, Desdemona (Toscanini wanted her to do his Otello broadcast but the Met wouldn’t let her off), Countess Almaviva, Donna Elvira, Nedda, and a Parsifal Flower Maiden … and then she was gone. Just like that.
It’s difficult to describe voices, and you will note the variety of roles she sang in her brief Met career, but I think of her as a dark lyric soprano, if one can imagine that, but it’s the kind of voice that would be capable of moving up to spinto roles with little difficulty and wouldn’t sound out of place; the evidence abounds in this collection. In his profuse, detailed annotations, Henry Fogel tries his luck at describing it: “Quartararo’s voice was not the plush, velvety soprano of a Tebaldi. It was rather a darker, more tightly focused sound. Some have compared it to Ponselle, others to Milanov. While neither comparison is outrageous, neither is real- ly accurate, either. Like all great artists, Quartararo was unique in her sound—combining both brightness and darkness in a way few have.” I wonder if her sheer versatility might have eventually harmed her voice, but there is zero evidence of vocal problems on this set and she’s a sensitive performer who seems to have the right instincts for anything she sings. Recommended to jaded opera buffs who think they’ve heard it all.