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 (email@example.com). 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
“The recordings of Valdimir Petrovich Zakharov (1903-1965) are highly prized amongst collectors of Soviet vocal recordings. Zakharov was the star baritone of the All-Union Radio, a troupe which could boast such great artists as Nadezhda Kazantseva, Zara Dolukhanova and Georgy Vinogradov and Anatoly Orfenov. The main remit of the troupe was to familiarize their audience with Western and Russian works both rarely performed on the opera stage and concert platform as well as more popular fare.
Like Vinogradov, Zakharov is not known to have performed on the operatic stage. He possessed quite a large voice and was certainly an expressive and compelling actor (as can be seen in the 1958 film of Rachmaninov’s THE MISERLY KNIGHT which provides the only film footage of the singer. The film also provides a rare instance of a tele-opera where a role is not lip-synched by an actor). The voice was firm, well-trained, intensive and elegant. Unfortunately very little is known about the life of this unique and distinctive artist except that he performed the major baritone roles at All-Union Radio from the 1930s until the 1960s and that he taught at the Gnessin Institute. Such a lack of biographical material is not unusual for radio artists. Luckily, biographies have been published on Kazantseva and Dolukhanova as well as Orfenov’s autobiography.
Although many of the opera broadcasts with Zakharov’s commanding voice have appeared on CD: LES PECHEURS DE PERLES (in the role of Zurga - with Sergei Lemeshev and Nadezhda Kazantseva (OP3176), Massenet’s WERTHER (as Albert - with Ivan Kozlovsky and Maria Maksakova), Rossini’s L'ITALIANA IN ALGERI (as Taddeo - with Zara Dolukhanova), and Leoncavallo’s PAGLIACCI (in the role of Tonio - with Dimiter Uzunov and Pavel Lisitsian), Bizet’s DJAMILEH (OP2919), DIE MEISTERSINGER (OP3189), Dargomyzhsky’s ESMERALDA (OP1823), of Don Carlos in Dargomyzhsky’s STONE GUEST (with Galina Vishnevskaya), Count Almaviva in Mozart's LE NOZZE DI FIGARO (conducted by Kurt Sanderling), and Ford in Nicolai’s DIE LUSTIGE WEIBER VON WINDSOR (OP2893), there are still a large number of unpublished operas in the archives of Gostelradiofond including the title roles in Mozart's DON GIOVANNI, Grechaninov’s DOBRYNIA NIKITICH, Alexei Kozlovsky’s ULUGBEK, an outstounding Barnaba in Ponchielli’s LA GIOCONDA (with Ivan Petrov), Rolando in Verdi’s LA BATTAGLIA DI LEGNANO and Evgeny in Dzerzhinsky’s QUIET FLOWS THE DON to name but a few. A great many of his song recordings from his numerous radio recitals thankfully also exist.”
- Michael Weston
“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