OP0092. LA JUIVE, Live Performance, 30 October, 1936, w.Merola Cond.San Francisco Opera Ensemble; Giovanni Martinelli, Elisabeth Rethberg, Hans Clemens, Charlotte Bjorner, etc.; LA JUIVE - Act IV Excerpts, 31 March, 1927, w.Herman Heller Cond.Vitaphone Ensemble; Giovanni Martinelli & Louis d'Angelo. 2-SRO 848. Very Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 036674848129
“Almost invariably, the music you have heard [Martinelli] sing bears his stamp upon it....breathtaking moments when no breath is taken, so that the line is continuous, the voice achieving a violinist's breadth of phrase. Then there is the musical intelligence to see structure clearly...or the sensitivity to nuance and modulation, always marked by something responsive in the singer's inflection....there is always something to remember...almost certainly the silvery beauty which the voice itself can have becomes a treasured possession."
- J.B. Steane, GRAMOPHONE, Oct., 1989
“Martinelli remains a legend of stamina and longevity in the opera world, particularly for a heroic tenor, a type of voice not always associated with longevity. He made his opera début in 1908 and sang his last performance in 1967. His voice was not, by contemporary accounts, as huge as that of most heroic tenors, but he had such strong focus and projection that he more than compensated for this perceived shortfall. Particularly at the Met, Martinelli was considered Caruso's successor in the more dramatic rôles, as Gigli was in the more lyrical ones. Martinelli had a strong sense of legato phrasing, powerful breath control, and a distinctive timbre, although some listeners found it overly metallic. Martinelli made more use of rubato than what would be permitted in post-1970s practice, but unlike most heroic tenors of any era, he generally sang, rather than slurred, grace notes.
In 1910, Martinelli sang the title rôle of Ernani at La Scala, and was promptly invited to audition for the Italian première of LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST (which had premiered at the Met with Caruso.) After some hesitation over his lack of experience, Puccini and Toscanini chose him, and later, according to one story, he was Puccini's choice for the world première of TURANDOT, but the Met management would not release Martinelli from his contract.
In 1912 he made his Covent Garden début as Cavaradossi in TOSCA, and his Met début in 1913 -- the first of an eventual 663 performances at the Met. 1913 was also the year of the posthumous première of Massenet's PANURGE, in which Martinelli sang Pantagruel. In 1915 he sang Lefebvre in the première of Giordano's MADAME SANS-GENE, and in 1916, created the rôle of Fernando in Granados' GOYESCAS. Martinelli began to increase his repertoire to include most of the Italian and French dramatic rôles.
Much of Martinelli's career was focused in the United States, and it was not until 1937 that he returned to Covent Garden. In 1939, he sang TRISTAN UND ISOLDE in Chicago with Kirsten Flagstad. In 1945 he stopped singing staged operas at the Met, but still participated in various benefit recitals. His last complete rôle was as Samson in Philadelphia in 1950, but in 1967, he sang the Emperor in a Seattle production of TURANDOT.”
- Anne Feeney, allmusic.com
“Elisabeth Rethberg is a ‘singer’s singer’. She is a master of perfect legato singing and of a wonderful messa di voce. Her head register is a miracle, and her impeccable phrasing shows her as a tasteful musician. Despite a rather light and an un-Italian voice, she was an outstanding singer for the Italian repertoire. Her voice can be compared to a diamand, whereas Meta Seinemeyer’s remind us of a ruby. Rethberg feels through the music and the words, but she never imposes too much emotion on them!“
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
“During the years between the world wars, Elisabeth Rethberg achieved international acclaim for her well-schooled spinto voice, deemed by Arturo Toscanini ‘the most beautiful in the world’. Equal ease in both the German and Italian repertories made her invaluable to many opera houses during this time and her scrupulous musicianship and unfailingly lovely sound brought worshipful audiences to her feet. Despite a certain lack of dramatic impetus, her performances during the prime years ranked with the best.
In her years at Dresden (up to 1922), Rethberg undertook a wide range of lyric-dramatic roles covering a spectrum from Susanna in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, the Empress in Richard Strauss' DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN, and Sophie in DER ROSENKAVALIER to Tosca. In 1922, she found herself at the Salzburg Festival where she continued her dizzying embrace of roles with widely differing demands. For that first season, she performed both the Countess in FIGARO and the much higher-lying Konstanze in Mozart's DIE ENTFÜHRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL. In November 1922, Rethberg made her début at the Metropolitan Opera in New York where her Aïda brought glowing reviews and established her as a Met stalwart for 20 consecutive seasons. In New York, she concentrated on the spinto repertory, the area most congenial to her instrument. Other Italian roles there included Cio-Cio-San, Maddalena in ANDREA CHÉNIER, Amelia in Verdi's SIMON BOCCANEGRA, Desdemona, Leonora in IL TROVATORE and even Rautendelein in Respighi's LA CAMPANA SOMMERSA (The Sunken Bell), a rarity led in 1928 by conductor Tullio Serafin. Her German roles included Agathe in Weber's DER FREISCHÜTZ, Sieglinde, Elsa, Elisabeth, Eva and an ill-advised SIEGFRIED Brünnhilde late in her career.
In San Francisco, Rethberg appeared regularly from 1928 until 1940, her roles there including such relatively non-repertory operas as THE BARTERED BRIDE (Marenka) and Halévy's LA JUIVE (Rachel). Rethberg was an occasional visitor to Chicago as well, offering appearances in such roles as Cio-Cio-San, Aïda, Elsa, the TROVATORE Leonora, and Amelia in BALLO IN MASCHERA from 1934 to 1941.
Meanwhile, Rethberg's engagements in Europe continued. She was chosen by Richard Strauss for the title role in the Dresden premiere of DIE ÄGYPTISCHE HELENA in 1928, and in 1929 she made her début at La Scala as Aïda. In 1929, she sang in LA CAMPANA SOMMERSA in Rome, and in 1930 she undertook the WALKÜRE Brünnhilde (a role certainly too heavy for her) in Paris. Other Italian engagements paralleled her work in America and at Covent Garden where English audiences were delighted by her vocal art, if not her dramatic acuity. An appearance as the Marschallin produced reviews praising her exquisite singing but remarking on her inferiority to Lotte Lehmann as an actress. By the early '40s, Rethberg's voice had declined noticeably, her FIGARO Countess making for an unmistakably labored close to her Metropolitan years.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com