Sunday, 29 April 2012

Parsifal Carnegie Hall 1938

Rare Picture of Norman Cordon
Although the entire first act of Parsifal was broadcast as part of this NYPSO concert, only 23 mins seem to survive. These airchecks were recorded by a professional company in New York for Norman Cordon, who sang Titurel in this performance. Some singers were anxious to document their broadcast performances (Lawrence Tibbett did it often) and paid others to record off-air transmissions. Perhaps the company was only commissioned to record Cordon's part, understandable given the expense involved.
After Cordon's death these discs were donated by his family to a charity shop run by a local PTA in Carborro, NC. They were spotted by an opera enthusiast who rescued them and now we are able to hear part of this performance.
Englishman John Barbirolli had taken over from Toscanini as the principal conductor of the NYPSO in 1936, not a universally acclaimed decision with some critics particularly taking offence the job had not been offered to a more famous conductor. The survival of air-checks of Barbriolli's concerts permit us to judge his ability on the podium for ourselves and I think in general JB comes out pretty well as a result.

New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra Concert
Carnegie Hall April 17, 1938 broadcast over WABC 3-5pm.
Act 1 grail scene, Norman Cordon (Titurel), Richard Bonelli (Amfortas)
c. John Barbirolli

Monday, 9 April 2012

Otello Covent Garden 1937

Martinelli as Otello
There are plenty of other recordings of Martinelli as Otello, four complete ones from the Met alone often in very good sound. Yet this short extract from Otello (about 4mins from act 2) is interesting because it is the earliest surviving aircheck of a Covent Garden BBC broadcast. Unlike in the US where opera lovers recorded many opera broadcasts dating back as early as 1930 (see the Lotte Lehmann Tannhauser extract previously posted), and were able to capture complete broadcasts from 1934, British opera lovers simply lacked the right equipment to do the same. Not only were disc cutters very expensive, you needed two of them to be able to capture a broadcast without breaks every 4 or 5 minutes. Thus although the BBC broadcast regularly from Covent Garden,  usually just one act rather than a complete opera, very few recordings have turned up over the years. This opera was one of the first to be broadcast complete, Martinelli was of course world famous in the role of Otello. Some opera lover managed to capture this part of act 2, so we can enjoy it seventy-five years later.

Otello Covent Garden April 19, 1937
Otello - Giovanni Martinelli
Iago - Cesare Formichi
c. Thomas Beecham