V0154. ROSA RAISA: The Complete Recordings, featuring six alternate ‘takes’, unreleased 1926 Vitaphone material and a 1959 interview with Studs Terkel. Songs by Martini, J.B. Faure, Yradier, Tschaikowsky, etc.; Arias & Duets (w.Rimini, Tokatyan & Crimi) from Zauberflöte, Don Giovanni, Andrea Chénier, Il Trovatore, Cavalleria, Norma, Aïda, La Gioconda, Tosca, I Vespri Siciliani, L'Africaine, Otello, Forza, Ernani, Madama Butterfly & Mefistofele. Notes by Charles Mintzer. 3-Marston 53001. Transfers by Ward Marston. [original release (not a CDR re-release) this two-disc set with English-language booklet has a new jewel case, booklet and cover art in excellent condition; discs are mint.] Long out-of-print, Final Copy!
“Zinka Milanov was often compared to me - perhaps unfairly to both of us. I feel we were too different to be compared; mine was an Italian voice of dramatic proportions, while hers, at least to my ears, was distinctively Slavic and of a higher tessitura and lighter tone than mine. If she warranted a comparison with anyone, it would have been with Rosa Raisa for the quality of her voice, and Elisabeth Rethberg, with whom she shared a complete mastery of the high pianissimo."
- Rosa Ponselle, PONSELLE - A SINGER'S LIFE, p.199
"In the 1920s, there were two ‘Rosas’ in the world of opera: Rosa Ponselle and Rosa Raisa. They sang many of the same roles, and were generally considered among the best dramatic sopranos of their time. Since then, not a year goes by without some Opera News tribute to Rosa Ponselle, while Rosa Raisa up until now has been largely forgotten. Now, thanks to Ward Marston's 3 CD set and Charles Mintzer's biography, we are 'rediscovering' the woman who created Puccini's TURANDOT.
Raisa refused to listen to her own recordings, saying they did not do her justice. And they probably did not. From all accounts hers was a gigantic, somewhat undisciplined voice (although flexible enough to sing Norma and other bel canto roles) and, like Leontyne Price's voice, it was an 'inverted triangle' -- strong on top and weaker on bottom.…Raisa never attached herself to a major recording company until late in life, and her first recordings for Pathé are a real trial to listen to. One wonders if she had a Victor contract whether her voice would have sounded better. Surprisingly for a woman known more for vocal opulence than acting ability, the sound of the voice itself is often rather bland -- slightly nasal and not all that memorable. Raisa was born Jewish and people have commented that it was a 'semitic' voice -- it does seem to lack the warmth and vibrancy of, say, Claudia Muzio's instrument.
So why listen to her at all? For one, there are several tracks which are truly spectacular and show what the fuss was all about. Her rendition of the Bolero from VESPRI is one of those moments. Raisa was also well-schooled in the bel canto tradition -- she had an excellent trill and in 'Ah bello a mi ritorna" (she records both verses) the runs in the very embellished second verse are both flamboyant and very accurate….Listen to a beautifully sung, expressive ‘La altra notte’ and there is no doubt that when Raisa was on, she was truly one of the greatest singers of her time.
The third CD is 'filled out' with an extended interview with the aged diva, where she sounds down-to-earth and fun.
Marston has also issued a three-disc set (53001) containing the complete recordings of Rosa Raisa (1893-1963), who was the leading dramatic soprano at the Chicago Opera during the 1920s and 1930s. She was greatly admired in her time (by Toscanini, among others, for whom she was the first Turandot) for her effortless flow of sound, her easy high notes, and her vivid stage presence, but little of that appears on these discs, where she seems constrained and dispassionate.”
- Alexander J. Morin, ClassicalNet.com
“Forever remembered as the creator of Turandot, Raisa had an enormous voice of Italianate warmth and richness, and the freest and most soaring top on records. She could sing intricate coloratura, and her trill was exceptional, even at a time when genuine trills were not the rarity they are today. She was a ‘heart-on-the-sleeve’ singer, throwing herself body and soul into all of her recordings. Rosa Ponselle, with whom she was closely and always favorably compared, unreservedly admired and adored her. Raisa had exceptional versatility. Ward Marston’s superior transfers have done much to alleviate the unevenness in this extensive collection. Record collectors everywhere owe him a debt of gratitude for making these fascinating recordings available in so distinguished a manner. Highly recommended.”
- James Camner, FANFARE, Nov./Dec., 1998