Three very well filled DGG discs of Grace Bumbry. All early recordings. Until now I have had a few of her complete opera recordings, but no recital discs. Last year on TV I saw a very recent concert of her singing lieder. What struck me was just how fresh her voice sounded, so recognisably her and seemingly untouched by age. I was also impressed by her detailed interpretations. She was simply superb.
The discs coyly do not give her date of birth. A little googling and I can see she is 70 and that the recorded concert I saw came from 2002!
Here is one of the main singers about whom we can wrangle as to whether she has ever been a true soprano, she started out, mainly, as a mezzo, moved in and out of soprano roles and in her twilight years settled for the mezzo concert repertoire. However, here is a really interesting article, it indicates she could successfully subdue the Immolation Scene in the year 2000. http://race%20bumbryhttp//www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,180.new.html%23new
She had sung Norma and that killer role from Nabucco. Whatever worked or did not, whatever was supposedly outside her range, her voice has lasted as well as any.
What prompted me to look a little closer was that the recording dates on the first track here are 1958. Surely this is one of the longest careers.
She has been accused of blandness, her Carmen under characterised. Once more we have a singer in the shadow of Callas. But in retrospect was she bland...or was she expressive within bounds, bounds that enabled her a 50 year career?
I have never found that EMI Carmen to be bland, the voice so suits the part. But I had never understood how versatile she was until I listened to these discs and read up on her a bit.
All three discs are packed, they start with Handel. I had anticipated a generalised, let's try some Handel style....far from it. She started out professionally singing Handel and there is a real feel for the idiom, she is simply superb. Orfeo, Santuzza, Carmen, Sapho and Dalila all are fulfilled with that burnished, generous tone. It can be voluptuous, it is lightened. There is verbal acuity. But perhaps best of a good disc are the tracks from El amor brujo. Tangy, full of life. Mazzel was the conductor in 1965. I would not mind getting hold of the full disc.
Disc two is over 80 minutes, Ballo, Don Carlo....here we get a first rate O don Fatale, but following it, we get a genuinely soprano sounding act 4 Elizabeth's aria...all 10 minutes...this in 1965 when we really were thinking of her as a mezzo. Aida, Lady Macbeth...which suits her exceptionally well; then the historic Tannhauser, live. The very first black singer to gatecrash Wagner's own theatre.
Then generous gorgeous toned Brahms. Finally the third disc, clearly she benefited from being taught by Lehman, she is a natural lieder singer and along with further Brahms there is Schubert, Liszt, Wolf and Richard Strauss. In Schubert's Litanei, she is not sufficiently inward. Wolf's Verborgenheit is wonderfully arched, the drama brought out. I would like more detail and recall from that late recital that clearly a lifetime with the songs had deepened her interpretations. But what is here gives great pleasure.
A real three course banquet.