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by George Hall
International Opera Collector, Winter, 1997

Johanna Gadski

The Complete Recordings, Volume 1. Opera Arias - Aida, The bartered bride, Cavalleria rusticana, Der fliegende Holländer, Götterdämmerung, Lohengrin, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Salome, Siegfried, Tannhäuser, Tristan und Isolde and Die Walküre; songs and arias by Beach, Foote, Franz, Gounod, La Forge, Rossini, Schubert, Schumann and R. Strauss.

Johanna Gadski (sop) with various artists.

Marston mono (full-price) (CD) 52002-2 (two discs: 137 minutes: ADD). From Victor originals; recorded 1903-1909.

The Met engagements of the important German soprano Johanna Gadski came to an abrupt end when America entered the First World War in 1917, the fact of her husband being the North American representative of the arms manufacturers Krupp scarcely counting in her favour.

She had nevertheless done sterling work in New York as the climax to a career that has left a substantial recorded legacy-nearly 100 titles for Victor, plus a handful of Mapleson cylinders.

In numerical terms Gadski's most significant Met roles were Brünnhilde in DieWalküre and Eva in Die Meistersinger (both 45 performances), Aida (44), Elsa in Lohengrin (41) and Elisabeth in Tannhäuser (38). All are represented here.

Wagner, indeed, stands out as one of the two areas of her recorded repertory meriting special attention, the other being Lieder. Admittedly Gadski's Wagner roles exist only in small, side-fitting fragments - Isolde's Liebestod almost indecently fast at 4'11''-- yet somehow her ardent delivery makes artistic successes of them nevertheless. The brief "Dein Werk" address to Brangäne from Act 2 of Tristan possesses an amazing degree of dramatic involvement from one starting 'cold', and Elsa's "Einsam in trüben Tagen" (two versions) shows a profound imaginative grasp of this visionary moment, with the voice's natural range of colour admirably caught in the 1906 orchestral version.

The Lieder recordings, though largely restricted the best-known titles, are also hugely impressive. Best of all is a series of six items recorded with the vocal coach and minor composer Frank La Forge - a superbly gifted and sympathetic accompanist - on January 14th, 1908. Strauss's Ständchen captures the radiance and nervous excitement of the music to perfection, wile Schumann's Widmung is by any standards distinguished.

But other repertoire is outstanding too. Despite some inauthentic vowel sounds Gadski's Aida is expertly sung. One of the few discs here to show signs of wear is the super-rare 1903 "O patria mia", replaced by another version just four months later. It was re-recorded again, with orchestra , in 1906, then followed "Ritorna vincitor" in 1908 and substantial duet scenes with Louise Homer's Amneris and Caruso's Radames in 1909. If this Ethipian's vocal background strikes one as essentially German rather than Italian, her bright, luminous soprano reaches confidently into the higher phrases.

Two other notable tokens of this fearless, flexible singer are the "Inflammatus" from Rossini's Stabat mater in a 1907 disc that exhibits her vocal capabilities to the full, and a tiny but valuable extract from Salome, recorded in April 1909, less than four years after the opera's première.


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