OP3218. ARIADNE AUF NAXOS (in English), Live Performance, 3 Jan., 1958, Carnegie Hall, w.Scherman Cond. American Opera Society Ensemble; Eileen Farrell, Mattiwilda Dobbs, Jon Crain, Patricia Connor, Mary Judd, Madelyn Vose, Russell Oberlin, Loren Driscoll, Robert Goss & Jan Rubes, etc. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-517. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“…Eileen Farrell’s career has always been, to me at least, a puzzle. Without question she possessed one of the most glorious dramatic soprano voices of the 20th century, but she did not have a truly important operatic career. Someone I know once referred to her as the greatest Wagnerian soprano to not actually sing a complete Wagnerian role in a staged performance. Her concert excerpts of Wagner with the New York Philharmonic and Boston Symphony are thrilling. I was present in the early 1970s in Syracuse when she sang with the Syracuse Symphony performances of ‘Ah! Perfido’ and Brünnhilde’s Immolation that matched some of the most glorious moments of singing I’ve experienced in more than a half century of listening. What we learn here, having to my mind no other recorded evidence of it, is that she was also a great Straussian. Her Ariadne is magnificent. She soars over everything when the music requires it, but she also floats beautiful, soft, generous phrases. The voice shines at all dynamic levels, and in all registers. It is, in fact, one of the most vocally resplendent performances of this role on record, and deserves to be heard even though you might find the English language a bit disconcerting at first. A few minutes into it, you just get lost in the flood of glorious sound and carried along with her intelligence, phrasing and the dramatic conviction with which she sang. Farrell had a radiance of tone given to very few sopranos, and it is thrilling to hear in this performance.
Mattiwilda Dobbs was one generation too early for the kind of career she deserved. She was the first African American to sing at La Scala and at the San Francisco Opera, and the first to receive an actual long-term contract from the Met. Zerbinetta was one of her signature roles, scoring one of her earliest international successes in Glyndebourne with it. What distinguishes her performance here is the combination of beauty of tone, complete ease with the coloratura demands, and an ability through all of that to actually characterize the music. With many singers it comes off as merely a showpiece, but not so here. She takes as much care with the lyrical line and with quality of tone throughout as she does with the fireworks….I should…note that there are a few brief drop-outs early in the recording that were on the original source….The monaural recording is excellent, certainly far better than most in-house recordings. St. Laurent’s restoration is superb (this sounds far cleaner and richer than prior versions that have circulated on the opera underground)….”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
"Eileen Farrell gave Ariadne memorable grandeur of voice and style, and Mattiwilda Dobbs sang Zerbinetta with accuracy, lightness and grace. The part of Ariadne lies perfectly for Miss Farrell's magnificent voice. She can float long-breathed phrases of matchless quality, and she van vary her tone from fine-hued softness to a sumptuous fullness. She has appeared in concert-form opera a great deal in smaller halls. When she sings in a large hall that can accommodate her voice, she is more impressive than ever. Miss Dobbs has the vocal agility and discipline to manage Zerbinetta's big aria, one of the most taxing in opera. If she is just a shade careful with it, who can blame her? She sang it not merely as a vocal exercise but as a piece with musical meaning....Thomas Scherman and the Little Orchestra Society have moved their opera series from Town Hall to the larger Carnegie Hall, and last night's performance of ARIADNE AUF NAXOS drew an audience big enough to justify the change of venue."
- Howard Taubman, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 4 Jan., 1958