OP0582. MARTHA (Flotow) (in German), recorded 1944, w.Schuler Cond. Berlin Staatsoper Ensemble; Erna Berger, Peter Anders, Eugen Fuchs, Josef Greindl, etc. (Italy) 2-Phonographe PH 5050/51. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 8010984050504
“MARTHA is relatively short, even shorter than the fastest performances of LA BOHÈME. It’s a very difficult opera to sing that leans primarily on ensembles. The soprano, tenor, and bass get but one aria apiece, the mezzo none at all, and the music is not easy. Enrico Caruso adored MARTHA, sang it as often as Gatti-Casazza would give it, and left us magnificent recordings of the Act I duet, Lionel’s aria, and a good chunk of the Act II quartets. Had Victor been flush enough to record the whole opera with that cast it would have been first choice. But they didn’t. This one owes its existence to the fact that the Nazis, trying desperately to cheer their citizens up in the darkest days of World War II, shelled out some of the little money they had left to record this performance and then broadcast it as a morale-booster for German citizens.
Some politically correct commentator has denigrated this recording for that sole reason, that it was a product of Nazi Germany, but you can’t tar the artists for being propaganda tools. They were struggling to survive, most of them didn’t support the political system, and they gave their all to provide as good a performance as was humanly possible under trying circumstances. Whether or not they were whistling in the dark, the brilliance and humor of this MARTHA outshines the other three recordings made since: an Italian version with Ferruccio Tagliavini as Lionel (1954), a 1966 recording with Rothenberger and Gedda, and a later recording with Lucia Popp and Peter Dvorsky. This one has sparkle, energy, and great interpretive qualities. The others, somehow, fall flat.”
- Lynn René Bayley, FANFARE
"Berger was able to sing well into her 60s with no loss of vocal quality, perhaps because she always sang in a very natural manner and never forced nor abused her voice. Here, her coloratura, with many embellishments, verges on the spectacular. Berger's singing is as fluent and natural as a bird's and always has charm to spare."
- Kurt Moses, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, March/April, 2002
"The name inseparably associated with the Busch era at Dresden is that of Erna Berger, one of the most astonishing soprano voices in the coloratura range and also a very sensitive Lieder-singer....after Busch, Furtwängler had a special esteem for her, calling her 'a classical singer with a very romantic soul'."
- Kurt Pahlen, GREAT SINGERS, p.96