Bidu Sayao, Vol. 2: Rare Live Radio Performances = PERGOLESI: Tre giorni son che Nina; TRAETTA: Tantin, tantino. . .; ARDITI: Il bacio; ROSSINI: Una voce poco fa; Bel Raggio Lusinghier from Semiramide; VERDI: Ah, fors’ e lui. . .Sempre libera; BIZET: Micaela’s Aria; MASSENET: Voyons, Manon; CRIST: C’est mon ami; PONCE: Estrellita; MARTINI: Plaisir d’amour; FAURE: Clair de lune; GRIEG: The Last Springtide; DVORAK: Songs My Mother Taught Me; SCOTT: Think on Me; YOUNG: The Teakettle Song; NILES: Go Away from My Window; WATTS: The Poet Sings; COWARD: I’ll Follow My Secret Heart; TRAD.: Roving in the Dew – Bidu Sayao, soprano/Bell Telephone Hour Orchestra/Donald Voorhees/Lyric Opera Orchestra/Frank St. Leger/Philco Symphony Orchestra/ Paul Whitman/Concert Hall Orchestra/ Fritz Reiner/Firestone Hour Orchestra/Howard Barlow
Cembal d’amour CD 145, 71:27 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:
Pianist and producer Mordecai Shehori of Cembal d’amour Records has become enamored of the legendary Brazilian soprano Bidu Sayao (1902-1999), and why not? Few prima donnas have commanded such international renown for their body of work, and Sayao’s vocal instrument exhibited a clarity, power, and nuanced control rare in the annals of singing. [Perhaps most familiar for her Columbia recording of the Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 of Villa-Lobos; not part of this compilation…Ed.]
Sayao opens with a brief Pergolesi aria (18 February 1946), already evincing her beautifully graduated diminuendo. The Traetta aria, “Tantin, tantino–Ma che vi costa, signor tutore (8 May 1950) conveys a light flirtatiousness and banter that easily translates to the Mozart style. Arditi’s waltz-arietta “Il bacio” (1948) with Howard Barlow from a Firestone Hour appearance sails in ephemeral space laced with silver. It was as Rosina in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville that Sayao made her Rome debut. Her cavatina, “Una voce poco fa” (10 April 1943) from Cleveland draws a thin but flexible line quite capable of extended lift at astronomical height and ringing melismas. What often appears as fragile vocalism reveals a tensile strength rivaling Spiderman’s web! No less fearsome is Sayao’s “Bel Raggio Lusinghier” from Semiramide (10 April 1944) whose unaccompanied or secco cadenzas would punish the unprepared soprano with every sort of vocal fatigue. When Sayao and flute compete, we would be hard pressed to name the more steely instrument.
Verdi’s La Traviata provided a perfect vehicle for Sayao’s small physical frame within which dwelt the musical spirit of a lion. However demure her Violetta may have appeared, the onrushes of discovered passion move her character to approach the infinite, only to cast away–in Sempre libera (30 September 1946 from Philadelphia)–the pains of love for a life of sustained coquetry. Micaela’s aria from Act III of Carmen (6 December 1948, with the legendary Fritz Reiner) suavely follows a dotted habanera rhythm, lulling us but rife with “les chagrins d’amour.” The last of the purely operatic selections is Massenet’s “Voyons, Manon, plus de chimeres” (19 June 1944 with Donald Voorhees of the Bell Telephone Hour), an aria of bemused self-reproach that ends with Sayao’s astonishing sustained diminuendo.
The sequence of twelve art songs and torch songs (1945-1950) testify to Sayao’s range and sophistication, each applied with lilting beauty and expressivity. Perfect French diction and subtle dynamics mark C’est mon ami by Crist and Plaisir d‘amour by Martini (8 September 1947; 11 September 1950). The final French offering, Faure’s “Clair de lune” (1 October 1945), with words by Verlaine, offers a stunning evocation of courtly love. The elegiac melody by Grieg, “The Last Springtide,” Sayao sings in English (1946).
Fellow nationalist Dvorak’s Songs My Mother Taught Me (20 July 1942), again in English, remains a touching ballad, especially as a wartime sentiment. That Sayao could have made a stunning Broadway presence comes across in “Roving in the Dew” (14 September 1953), in which she dons a bit of Cockney. The Niles “Go Away from My Window” (11 September 1950), an affecting song of unrequited love, could provide the background for a romance starring Maureen O’Hara. Sayao bids adieu by “Following Her Secret Heart” (1947), but our unqualified admiration for this remarkable vocalist need not remain a secret but a shared revelation that refuses to fade.