OP3176. LES PÊCHEURS DE PERLES (in Russian), recorded 1950, w.Bron Cond. Moscow Radio Ensemble; Nadezhda Kazantseva, Sergei Lemeshev, Vladimir Zakharov, etc.; SERGEI LEMESHEV, w.Irina Maslennikova & Elena Gribova; Samosud Cond.: Romeo and Juliet – Overture-Fantasia – Love Duet (Tschaikowsky-Taneyev), recorded 1948; GEORGY ABRAMOV & VLADIMIR ZAKHAROV, w.Stolyarov Cond.: I Puritani - Act III duet - recorded early 1950s. (Russia) 2-Aquarius AQVR 394. [Aside from the heavenly performance of the Bizet opera, the scene from Tschaikowsky's Romeo and Juliet alone is worth the price of the set!] - 4607123631614
“From the 1930s through the 1950s the two leading tenors at the Bolshoi were Ivan Kozlovsky and Sergei Lemeshev. It is said that they were friendly colleagues despite the fact that there were fanatically partisan fans of each one (as there were with Callas and Tebaldi, who were less friendly). Lemeshev had the richer voice, with a liquid beauty at its core. Kozlovsky perhaps had the more daring imagination, a greater willingness to take interpretive and vocal risks. Both were truly great singers, and both were unknown to most opera lovers in the West because of Soviet restrictions on international travel during much of that period. Elsewhere in this issue of FANFARE I review a recording of LAKMÉ with Lemeshev and Nadezhda Kazantseva.
This recording, like the LAKMÉ, cannot be recommended as anyone’s basic, or only, PEARL FISHERS. The fact that it is sung in Russian is sufficient to put it far outside the mainstream, and the dry monaural broadcast sound from 1950 would further make it a specialist’s choice. But for that specialist, along with listeners who cherish great voices and great vocal artists, this is urgently recommended. Lemeshev sings the role of Nadir sensitively, with a variety of vocal colors and shadings, plus genuine dramatic engagement. Kazantseva is a lovely Leila, her bright soprano never turning hard, sailing through Bizet’s music with ease and a flowing legato. The two are lovely in their big duet, beginning with Nadir’s ‘De mon amie’
On the podium Onissim Bron brings a light touch to the score. He may well have been a French specialist in Russia at the time, as he leads the gorgeous WERTHER that Kozlovsky recorded around the same time [OP0512]. The Zurga and Nourabad are adequate, no more and no less.
The booklet contains an essay about Lemeshev and Kazantseva, along with a plot summary. The bonus material, roughly 37 minutes of Tchaikovsky sung beautifully by Lemeshev, adds to the value of this important release. The Tchaikovsky ROMEO AND JULIET duet, by the way, is a sketch the composer wrote for an opera he never completed, and is based on themes from the famous ‘Overture-Fantasia’. Lemeshev and soprano Maslennikova are thrilling.
After reviewing this (an online purchase) I discovered that the Gala release is now out of print. Aquarius, however, which has reissued many Russian recordings in high quality transfers, has now made this same PEARL FISHERS available (AQVR 394), and is available from Norbeck, Peters, & Ford (firstname.lastname@example.org). Some of the filler is different, but the wonderful Tchaikovsky ROMEO AND JULIET duet remains. I have complete confidence that the Aquarius transfer is at least as good as Gala’s, and quite possibly better.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
“Nadezhda Kazantseva made her début at age 17 and was engaged by the Bolshoi Opera in 1932. She became an instant success in lyric and coloratura soprano rôles, such as Lakmé, Gilda & Violetta. She was named a People’s Artist of the USSR in 1950.”
- VRCS Program Notes, 1992 LP issue
“Everything about [Sergei Lemeshev] was artistic....On the stage, until the end of his career, he was a youth, beloved and vulnerable. Even at seventy he still drove his admirers into ecstasies every time he sang Lensky at the Bolshoi.”
- Galina Vishnevskaya, GALINA, p.324
“Bron's most striking work on radio was this recording of Bizet's opera LES PÊCHEURS DE PERLES with Lemeshev, Kazantseva and Zakharov.”
- Michael Weston, Program Notes