Florence Easton
Absolute Soprano

52033-2 (2 CDs)  | $ 36.00
VOCAL

 

Florence Easton
Florence Easton (1882-1955) claims a place of honor in the annals of opera. Few sopranos have sung a wider range of repertoire. Only a handful can match her uncompromising musicianship. None surpasses her ability to learn a role and perform it within hours. And yet, although colleagues and critics alike esteemed her artistry, few today rank Easton among the vocal elite. Perhaps she was a singer's singer: a consummate professional who one could count on for a faultless performance and yet, remains forgotten. This two-CD set, with notes by Robert Baxter, pays tribute to an indispensable hero of the Met whose artistry deserves remembering.
CD 1 (76:25)
1.LA FORZA DEL DESTINO: Pace, pace, mio Dio (Verdi)4:46
  Ca. 1918; (1414) Aeolian-Vocalion 54017 
2.MIGNON: Connais-tu le pays? (Thomas)3:22
  October 1922; (8825) Brunswick 15030 
3.FAUST: Il était un roi de Thulé (Gounod)3:25
  October 1922; (8827) Brunswick 15030 
4.FAUST: Ah! Je ris de me voir {Jewel Song} (Gounod)2:23
  May 1921; (5547) Brunswick 10037 
5.CARMEN: L'amour est un oiseau rebelle {Habanera} (Bizet)3:28
  January 1922; (7274) Brunswick 15000 
6.CARMEN: Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante {Micaëla's Aria} (Bizet)4:12
  January 1922; (X7275) Brunswick 50012 
7.HÉRODIADE: Celui dont la parole... Il est doux, il est bon (Massenet)5:06
  Ca. 1918; (1383) Aeolian-Vocalion 54014 
8.IL PAGLIACCI: Cual fiamma avea nel guardo! {Ballatella} (Leoncavallo)4:23
  March 1922; (X7651) Brunswick 50012 
9.LA BOHÈME: O soave fanciulla (Puccini)3:27
  with Giulio Crimi, tenor 
  Ca. 1918; (1851) Aeolian-Vocalion 50004 
10.LA BOHÈME: Addio... Donde lieta usci (Puccini)3:24
  December 1921; (6949) Brunswick 15000 
11.TOSCA: Vissi d'arte (Puccini)3:08
  May 1921; (5506) Brunswick 10044 
12.MADAMA BUTTERFLY: Un bel dì, vedremo (Puccini)3:48
  May 1921; (X5505) Brunswick 30013 
13.MADAMA BUTTERFLY: Con onor muore (Puccini)2:17
  Ca. 1918; (1215) Aeolian-Vocalion 30018 
14.GIANNI SCHICCHI: O mio babbino caro (Puccini)2:27
  Ca. 1918; (1381) Aeolian-Vocalion 30025 
15.SADKO: Thy heathen gems are rich beyond all measure {Song of India} (Rimsky-Korsakov)3:25
  February 1922; (7466) Brunswick 15020 
16.THE SNOW MAIDEN: Said the thunder to the cloud {Song of the Shepherd Lehl} (Rimsky-Korsakov)3:22
  February 1922; (7432) Brunswick 15020 
17.El céfiro (Mexican folk song)3:07
  December 1922; (9369) Brunswick 15038 
18.Pregúntales a las estrellas (Mexican folk song)3:16
  December 1922; (9367) Brunswick 15038 
19.Still wie die Nacht (Böhm)3:30
  October 1922; (8830) Brunswick 15054 
20.Three green bonnets (d'Hardelot)3:21
  Ca. 1918; (Matrix Unknown) Aeolian-Vocalion 30002 
21.Sing me to sleep (Greene)3:20
  13 June 1924; (13323) Brunswick 15086 
22.Over the hills (Logan)3:19
  12 June 1924; (13308) Brunswick 15076 
 
CD 2 (78:04)
1.LOHENGRIN: Einsam in trüben Tagen {Elsa's Dream} (Wagner)4:40
  24 October 1928; (N524) unpublished Edison  
2.TANNHÄUSER: Allmächt'ge Jungfrau {Elisabeth's Prayer} (Wagner)4:58
  24 October 1928; (N525) unpublished Edison 
3.LA TRAVIATA: Parigi, o cara, noi lasceremo (Verdi)4:03
  with Mario Chamlee, tenor 
  8 October 1928; (XE28459) Brunswick 50157 
4.HÉRODIADE: Il est doux, il est bon (Massenet)4:42
  10 October 1928; (N495) unpublished Edison 
5.CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA: Voi lo sapete (Mascagni)3:39
  3 October 1928; (N478) unpublished Edison 
6.LA BOHÈME: Sì, mi chiamano Mimì (Puccini)4:43
  3 October 1928; (N479) unpublished Edison 
7.MADAMA BUTTERFLY: Un bel dì, vedremo (Puccini)4:30
  10 October 1928; (N496) unpublished Edison 
8.MLLE. MODISTE: Kiss me again (Herbert)3:24
  21 September 1928; (E 28413) Brunswick 15193 
9.ROSE MARIE: Indian love call (Friml)3:32
  21 September 1928; (E 28412) Brunswick 15193 
10.My laddie (Thayer) 2:31
  1933; (OB 5562-1) Victor 1705 
11.My mother bids me bind my hair (Haydn) 3:31
  1933; (OB 5557-1) Victor 1705 
12.Songs my mother taught me (Dvorak, no. 4 of Op. 55; "Gypsy Melodies") 2:15
  1933; (OB 5558-1) IRCC 174 
13.Ich bin eine Harfe (Wolff) 3:14
  1933; (OB 5559-1) Victor 1712 
14.Alle Dinge haben Sprache (Wolff) 2:55
  1933; (OB 5560-2) Victor 1712 
15.Hat dich die Liebe berührt (Marx) 2:31
  1933; (OB 5561-1) IRCC 174 

Excerpts from Juilliard School of Music recital, 13 July 1939:

16.Già il sole dal Gange (A. Scarlatti)1:50
  IRCC 166 
17.Lungi dal caro bene (Secchi)2:19
  IRCC 166 
18.Der Nussbaum (Schumann)2:35
  IRCC 211 
19.Widmung (Schumann)2:07
  IRCC 211 
20.Auf dem Kirchhofe (Brahms)2:33
  IRCC 211 
21.Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht (Brahms)2:51
  IRCC 213 
22.Ich schwebe (R. Strauss)1:36
  IRCC 212 
23.Du meines Herzens Krönelein (R. Strauss)2:26
  IRCC 212 

Private studio recording 10 February 1940, New York:

24.THE LEGEND OF SAINT ELIZABETH: No peace to us is given (Liszt)4:26
  IRCC 166 

CD 1:
Languages: Italian [1,8-14]; French [2-7]; English [15-16, 20-22]; Spanish [17-18]; German [19]
Accompaniment: Tracks 1-20, and 22 accompanied by Orchestra; Violin, Frederic Fradkin [21]

 

CD 2:
Languages: German [1-2, 13-15, 18-23]; Italian [3, 5-7, 16-17]; French [4]; English [8-12, 24]
Accompaniment: Tracks 1-9 accompanied by Orchestra; Pianoforte, Gerald Moore [10-15]; Pianoforte, Lester Hodges [16-23]; Pianoforte, Karl Fritz [24]

 

Photographs: Girvice Archer and Charles Mintzer
Producers: Scott Kessler & Ward Marston
Audio Conservation: Ward Marston
Booklet Design: Takeshi Takahashi

 

Marston would like to thank Ruth Edge, Jerry Fabris, Lawrence F. Holdridge and Peter Lack.
Marston would also like to thank the Edison National Historic Site, the National Park Service, and the United States Department of the Interior for conserving and sharing rare recorded treasures.

CD2, Tracks 12 and 15 courtesy of EMI.

 


Florence Easton claims a place of honor in the annals of opera. Few sopranos have sung a wider repertory. Only a handful can match her uncompromising musicianship. None surpasses her ability to learn a role and perform it within hours. Although colleagues and critics alike esteemed her artistry, few today rank Easton among the vocal elite. During thirteen seasons at the Metropolitan Opera, she competed with the most important sopranos of the day but was invariably eclipsed by her renowned rivals. Easton and Rosa Ponselle shared Gioconda and Santuzza, but Ponselle set the standard. Easton and Claudia Muzio both sang Maddalena, Leonora and Tosca, but Muzio stirred a stronger response from audiences. Both Easton and Elisabeth Rethberg performed Aida in 1922. Easton sang the role once. Rethberg went on to portray the Ethiopian princess sixty-eight times. For all her uncompromising professionalism and keen intelligence, Easton lacked the bold interpretive face her rivals stamped on the roles they shared.

Easton’s recordings—like her stage performances—inspire admiration but not deep affection. The singing, honest and accurate, is marred by no vocal or interpretive blemish. The voice is beautifully schooled, admirable in its evenness throughout an extended range. But the urgent surge of emotion one hears, say, in Ponselle’s Leonora or Muzio’s Violetta or Tosca is missing from these exemplary discs. Unlike Muzio or Ponselle, who swept audiences into their vocal embrace, Easton sounds like a starchy aunt holding the listener at arm’s length. Her pearly-toned “O mio babbino caro”—touching for its restraint—must be the most straight-laced on record. And yet, after an evening spent with Easton’s recordings, admiration turns to profound respect. Throughout a broad repertory, Easton sings with unfailing taste and magisterial vocal control. The line unfolds seamlessly. The voice, shining and lustrous, flows without break from a full lower range right up to secure high B flats and Cs. Florence Easton—on record at least—ranks as one of the great singers.

In one respect—the breadth of her repertory—Easton surpassed all rivals. During her career, she sang eighty-eight roles—some in three languages—and prepared another thirty for performance. She mastered the Italian repertory, from Gilda to Gioconda, from Lauretta to Turandot. Easton was celebrated as Isolde, Kundry and Brünnhilde but also sang Elektra, Salome, Goldmark’s Queen of Sheba, d’Albert’s Myrtocle and Kienzl’s Martha. Easton was also a magnificent Mozartean—her Fiordiligi was acclaimed by critics in the Met’s first Cosí fan tutte—and she was an admired interpreter of French roles, from Mignon and Marguerite to Rachel, Valentine and both Carmen and Micaëla. In the range and variety of roles she mastered—and performed in major opera houses from Chicago and New York on to London, Hamburg and Berlin—Easton rivals the legendary Lilli Lehmann and Lillian Nordica. No wonder Caruso said Easton’s head was a music box. “She takes off the lid, takes out one record and puts in another.”

Despite her astonishing versatility, Easton draws measured comments from most vocal critics. J. B. Steane calls her “a musicianly soprano.” Michael Scott refers to Easton as “a singer of classical virtues.” Neatly summing up Easton’s artistry, Peter G. Davis writes, “She adapted her voice and technique to so many different roles so successfully that she is remembered for none of them.” American critic Oscar Thompson put her art in perspective when he wrote, “Mme. Easton’s was not one of the really great voices, though a very good one which she often used with the most telling effect. Neither was hers an electrical personality. A certain seriousness of purpose obtruded on occasions in her impersonations in a manner to suggest the most conscientious application rather than the kindling of inspiration.”

Easton used a blunter word than “application” or “inspiration” to describe how she mastered such a large repertory. “Work, young man—work, work!” shot back the soprano to a writer from Musical America who inquired how she learned so many roles. That question came up frequently in interviews. Easton’s response reveals much about this ambitious, hard-working artist. “If I were a baseball fan,” she continued, “I should know batting averages. Being an opera singer, I turn my attention to memorizing operas.”

To continue the baseball metaphor, Easton was Giulio Gatti-Casazza’s dream pinch hitter. Countless Met performances were brought to winning conclusions by Easton’s willingness to go to bat for an indisposed colleague. When Muzio fell ill in 1919 after the premiere of L’Amore dei tre re, Easton learned the role in barely ten hours and sang it without a stage rehearsal. In three days during the 1920–21 season, Easton replaced both Farrar and Ponselle. She sang Carmen in French—previously she had sung the role in German and English—and then undertook her first Rezia on a few hours’ notice. Feats like that were commonplace during Easton’s Met career.

Nerves of steel were as indispensable for Easton’s success as intelligence, stamina and hard work. “Few people realize the strain under which an opera singer is placed,” noted Easton. She often referred to “the physical energy” singing requires and said she spent the day of a performance in bed and, if possible, the day before and after. During her thirteen Met seasons—the undoubted high point of Easton’s career—she sang 354 performances of forty-two roles in thirty-nine operas. Contracts invariably required her to prepare as many as thirty-one different roles in a single season.

The stress and strain took their toll even on this hard-working and determined artist. Apparently Easton decided to leave the Met after looking out at the audience during a performance and realizing she didn’t know what opera she was singing or the words and notes. In a letter to Giulio Gatti-Casazza dated 29 April 1929, Easton wrote, “I am sorry to have to inform you that for reasons of ill health, I cannot fulfill my contract with the Metropolitan Opera for the coming season. The doctors have ordered me to take an absolute rest.” She was forty-six.

Three countries claim Florence Easton. Born in England, she grew up in Canada and, after marrying American tenor Francis Maclennan, became a U.S. citizen. Five years after her birth in Middlesbrough-on-Tees, 25 October 1882, Easton was taken by her parents to Toronto, where she spent her childhood. Little is known about this period of her life, but two events—serious illness and the death of her mother—scarred her youth and must have steeled her determination to succeed. The Metropolitan Opera Archives contain an article written by Alice Booth for an unidentified magazine. The author states in her childhood Easton became “violently ill” and underwent an operation that left her “body in a splint.” Booth records the child had “no skating, no dancing, no swimming...books and music only.” In another cutting from an unnamed magazine in the clipping files of the New York Public Library, Alice Scott writes, “Although not one in ten thousand in her audiences know(s) it, she has gone through life slightly crippled.”

After the death of her mother, Easton accompanied her father back to England where she joined her grandparents in Yorkshire. Florence began to study the piano and organ, although she could not pedal because her foot was still in a brace. At sixteen, she learned how to walk again after the brace finally came off. When her father asked what she wanted, Florence demanded to have her voice “really well trained.” In 1899, she was sent to London to study both piano and voice at the Royal College of Music. At this point, Easton, as she later recalled, wanted to become “a good ballad singer.” After a year, Easton’s father took her to France to study with his friend, Elliot Haslam, an English coach working in Paris. A year later, the death of her father forced Easton to return to her grandparents’ home. By then she had set her sights on an operatic career.

After auditioning for the Moody-Manners Company, she was told to learn several small parts. Easton’s disapproving grandmother refused to allow her granddaughter to sing operatic music in her house. The resourceful Florence visited relatives and practiced the roles in one home after another. In the fall of 1903, she returned to London and won a place in the Moody-Manners opera company which toured the English provinces. She made her debut in Newcastle as the Shepherd in Tannhäuser and then, during the company’s season at Covent Garden, she sang Stephano in Roméo et Juliette. Maclennan was also a member of the company. They wed in the spring of 1904. A year later, she accompanied her husband to the U.S. where they both joined the Savage Opera Company. Maclennan claimed the title role in Parsifal. By now, Easton was singing leading roles. In November 1905, her American debut as Gilda in Boston attracted an enthusiastic review from H.T. Parker, who commented on her “voice of girlish musing and girlish romance.” She then took on Marguerite in Faust and in the next season shared the title role in Madama Butterfly with two other sopranos in the touring production that introduced Puccini’s opera to America.

By 1906, Easton had already revealed her defining characteristics—keen ambition and the ability to sing a wide range of roles. Both qualities emerged when she and her husband traveled to Berlin, where Maclennan had a contract with the Court Opera. The couple realized they could not make important careers in the U.S. without honing their talent on foreign stages. “We told ourselves the truth, that we were not even half equipped for our trade,” later recalled the soprano. “So we forgot our press notices, humbled our pride, sent our baby to his grandmother in Canada, and set out for Europe.”

Maclennan was engaged for leading roles in Berlin. His wife joined the company when, not for the last time, she seized opportunity. Easton was offered Marguerite if she could relearn the role in German in a week. She did. Karl Muck later claimed he could give Easton a score at eight a.m., and she would be ready to perform the role by the evening. After singing Carmen and Butterfly, she was asked to replace Emmy Destinn as Aida. Easton had never sung the role but took the chance, unaware Kaiser Wilhelm and his court were attending the performance. She learned the role in two days and sang it without a stage rehearsal. After the performance, the Kaiser asked Easton why she was not singing regularly in his company. “I am waiting to be asked,” she replied. Easton received a five-year contract the next day.

Between 1908 and 1913, Easton and Maclennan based their careers in Berlin. Maclennan was the star in the family. He appeared in a new production of Madama Butterfly with Geraldine Farrar while his wife had a small part in a new production of von Reznicek’s Donna Diana. He sang Roméo in a new production of Roméo et Juliette, but Easton was cast as the First Boy in Die Zauberflöte. Easton claimed important roles—she followed Farrar in Butterfly and Claire Dux as Sophie—but only after other sopranos sang the premiere. In 1909, Easton and her husband appeared at Covent Garden in Naylor’s The Angelus and Madama Butterfly. Achieving her ambition to take on dramatic roles, Easton then toured with the Denhof Grand Opera as Sieglinde, Gutrune and Elektra.

The Hamburg Stadt-Theater offered the couple a contract for the 1913–14 season. They continued to make guest appearances in Berlin but assumed leading roles in Hamburg. Easton displayed her versatility as Nedda and Santuzza, Senta and Minnie (with Caruso), Gutrune and Valentine, Myrtocle, Eva and Martha in Der Evangelimann. At the outbreak of the war, Easton and her husband were able to remain in Germany through the intervention of the Kaiser. In 1915, they made the first of two trips to the U.S. to appear in Chicago. In a letter of commendation to Cleofante Campanini, Richard Strauss called Easton “a gifted artist, a magnificent interpreter” and judged her “the best Elektra, Salome and Sophie.” In Chicago, Maclennan sang Wagner roles, but Easton was content with a single Siegfried Brünnhilde. A year later she repeated Brünnhilde and also sang Gutrune, Butterfly and Nedda.

U.S. intervention in the war forced the couple to shift the focus of their careers back to America. They both auditioned for the Met in 1917. Maclennan was not hired, but Easton was taken as a replacement for Johanna Gadski. Easton was engaged for thirty performances over five and one-half months for a fee of $10,500. She was responsible for twenty German roles, eight Italian and three French that covered the soprano spectrum. Although unwell, she drew favorable reviews for her debut as Santuzza on 7 December 1917. She achieved star status after singing the title role in the first Metropolitan Opera premiere of Liszt’s Die Legende von der heiligen Elisabeth. Easton quickly became an indispensable member of the Met’s roster. Her performance fee rose from $350 in the first season to $900 in her last. Year by year, she claimed a broader part of the repertory.

Easton was a popular interviewee during her first seasons at the Met. Journalists sometimes found the industrious soprano knitting socks or hemming curtains for the Maclennans’ house on Long Island. Although she suffered personal loss—the death of her daughter, Wilhelmina, during the influenza epidemic of 1919 and the subsequent dissolution of her marriage—Easton never revealed her emotions to the press. She was a stalwart trouper who dedicated her life to singing.

During Easton’s Met years, she sang at the Ravinia Festival and toured the U.S. in the Scotti Grand Opera Company. She made her Ravinia debut on 28 June 1919 as Ah-Yoe in L’Oracolo and also sang Aida, Santuzza, Mimì, Butterfly, Tosca, Susanna in Il Segreto di Susanna, Fiora, Nedda. In the next five years, she returned regularly to Ravinia. To her list of roles, she added Zazà, Elsa, Marguerite, Maddalena, Fedora and Leonora in Il Trovatore. Easton also fulfilled engagements with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony and other American orchestras. And of course, she continued to save performances. During a visit to London in 1927, she was pressed into service to replace Bianca Scacciati, who had failed as Turandot in the British premiere of Puccini’s opera.

A year after leaving the Met, Easton returned to Berlin for a gala concert with the Berlin Philharmonic. She was greeted ecstatically by the audience and critics. “The former fine, sensitive soprano, one of the most beautiful ever to sing at the Berlin Opera—comparable with Farrar, Dux and others—has now developed into one of the truly great voices, full of the most beautiful radiantly glorious tone quality. . . The audience gave Easton a tumultuous reception,” wrote one critic. Another praised “the enchanting timbre of this clear, utterly pure voice, her flexible technique and fine phrasing.”

Easton, like other stars, lost much of her money in the stock market crash of 1929. Now divorced from Maclennan, she remarried in 1931. With her husband, business executive Stanley Roberts, Easton moved to England in the following year. In the next three seasons, Easton returned to Covent Garden for Siegfried with Melchior and sang Tosca and Carmen in Birmingham and Tosca at Sadler’s Wells. She also sang in orchestra concerts and recitals. A return to New York launched her recital career in the U.S. during the winter of 1934–35. A year later, she came back to the Met for her final performance on the opera stage as the Walküre Brünnhilde. Easton triumphed in front of an audience packed with many of her former Met colleagues. For the next several years, she continued to sing recitals and make radio broadcasts. Her final appearance took place in a Town Hall recital on 6 December 1943. After the war, Easton moved to Montreal with her husband who was transferred there by the Celanese Corporation of America. She taught and then returned to New York in 1950. Five years later, she died.

After her Met debut, Easton recorded frequently for Aeolian-Vocalion, Brunswick and Edison. These recordings document her voice but not her repertory. The short duration of the 78 rpm record forced Easton to concentrate on popular songs and arias. There is a creator’s recording of “O mio babbino caro” but where are Fiordiligi’s “Come scoglio” or Rezia’s “Ocean, thou mighty monster”? Easton was a notable Strauss soprano, but we know that only from reviews. Her Elektra, Salome and Marschallin, admired by the composer, are not documented on disc.

Marston’s remasterings—especially the electric Edisons—reveal a warmth to the tone, missing in previous LP and CD transfers of Easton’s voice. These recordings should win new admirers and remind faithful fans what a superb singer Easton was. Consistency is the byword for Easton’s records. One listens in vain for a pinched high note, an off-centered attack, the hint of a wobble or an ill-focused tone. Dependable? Yes. Well-schooled? Always. But there is more, much more. Easton molds a severe vocal line. She uses portamento sparingly and indulges in none of the sudden rinforzamenti and sobs typical of the verismo soprano. Her “Pace, pace” is magnificent. True, the tone doesn’t expand like Ponselle’s and, unlike Muzio, she draws the line without much chiaroscuro. But what soprano sings more fluently or takes the intervals so cleanly? At the climax, Easton jumps up to a dolce high B flat.

The Butterfly arias—whether heard in acoustic or electrical versions—document one of Easton’s important roles. They show the security and ease of her singing, especially in the middle and lower-middle range which sound full and focused. There is tension in the top tones but no strain. The clean, accurate singing never loses its poise. In the “Jewel Song” from Faust, Easton displays a neat trill, shapely runs and fluent divisions. All that’s missing is the sparkling verve some interpreters bring to this music. Easton’s “Habanera” may lack seductive languor and teasing grace, but her smoothly sung version is not without insinuating charm. “Il est doux” appears to have been a great favorite of the soprano. The classical proportions of her singing add stature to Massenet’s music. Easton infuses Mignon’s “Connais-tu le pays” with tender wistfulness through the scrupulous accuracy of her singing.

There are a few surprises. In both Bohème arias, Easton sings with nice tonal shading and delicate accents. Her “Donde lieta usci” is affecting. Outstanding are Easton’s versions of “Micaëla’s Aria” and Nedda’s “Ballatella”. In both, her voice leaps eagerly on the notes with keen attack and vibrant tone. A pair of Mexican songs, in contrast, sound rather earthbound, lacking in verbal tang and rhythmic energy. They display “the imperturbable placidity” Steane notes in her singing. Like many a soprano, she sounds more textually alert and communicative when singing in her own language. Easton, after all, was a great champion of opera and song in the vernacular. “Holy Night,” “O Divine Redeemer” and arias from Sadko and The Snow Maiden show how communicative Easton could be in her native language.

Easton’s recordings may not set the pulse racing with excitement, but they enshrine the classical virtues of great singing. All the hallmarks of vocal art—immaculate tone, clean attack, seamless legato, smooth dynamic control, clear diction—can be heard in almost every record she made. Do these recordings reveal a unique and unforgettable interpreter? Every listener must answer that question for himself. They unquestionably document the achievement of a soprano who set a standard for aristocratic musicianship and polished artistry. They form the musical legacy of one of the great singers of the 20th century.

© Robert Baxter, 2001

Florence Easton is one of those singers who simply never made a bad record. Throughout her entire career, she maintained a vocal and musical consistency at which one can only marvel. Her three recordings of “Un bel dì,” for example, are all sung with impeccable security and with a remarkable similarity of interpretation. Easton was certainly not a spontaneous singer but this is more than outweighed by the fact that she sang everything so well. In preparing this compilation, I have chosen the music which best represents Easton’s incredible diversity. I have included most of the operatic material that she recorded together with two groups of Lieder and lighter material sung in Spanish, Italian, and English. The most conspicuous omission from this set is Easton’s most celebrated recording, the final scene from Siegfried with Lauritz Melchior. Having already appeared several times on compact disc, I have decided to present other less often heard Easton recordings.

Florence Easton made her first group of recordings in 1918 for the Aeolian-Vocalion company in New York City. They include eight operatic and five song titles. In order to circumvent the patent rights held by U. S. Victor and Columbia, the Vocalion company recorded their discs using the vertical or “hill and dale” method. These discs could not be played on a standard gramophone and consequently, they sold very poorly. Today, they are extremely rare and almost always turn up in battered condition. The sonic quality of these discs is not terribly good, the voice being distant and yet distorted on loud passages. Thus, from this Vocalion group, I have only included selections not duplicated by Easton’s later acoustic recordings.

Late in 1919, the patent restriction on lateral recording was lifted and Vocalion immediately switched to this more generally accepted recording method. Easton made three lateral sides for Vocalion, only one of which replaced her earlier vertical recordings.

Florence Easton’s last group of acoustic discs were recorded for American Brunswick and date from 1921 through 1926. These are extremely well-recorded and give one a much clearer idea of the sound of Easton’s voice than her earlier Vocalion discs. It is unfortunate that this group includes only eleven operatic titles since her broad repertoire would have allowed her to record so many more.

Florence Easton continued to record for Brunswick as it made its transition from acoustic to electric recording. Sadly, her only operatics from this group are two duets with tenor Mario Chamlee, one of which is presented here. Her other Brunswick electrical sides consist of titles in English including some poorly chosen ones such as “I’se gwine back to Dixie,” “Croon croon underneat’ de moon,” and “Little old log cabin in the lane.” Easton stopped recording for Brunswick in 1928 but during that same year, she made six operatic sides for the Edison company which had just recently switched to electrical recording. They are all beautifully sung although only the two Wagner selections were published at the time. Test pressings of all six sides have been preserved at the Edison National Site in West Orange, New Jersey and thanks to their generosity, I have been able to include them in this compendium.

No tribute to Florence Easton could be complete without the six sides cut in London with Gerald Moore at the piano. Oddly enough, these recordings were financed by RCA Victor but recorded by HMV. She is in fine voice here and one can only lament that additional titles, especially Lieder, were not recorded. Fortunately, a portion of Easton’s 1939 Julliard recital was issued by the International Record Collectors Club, albeit from a poorly dubbed acetate source. Despite a wide spread search that I conducted among collectors, I was not able to find any trace of the original discs. Thus my transfers of this material had to be taken from the I. R. C. C. 78 rpm dubs. Because of time constraints, I have only been able to include ten of the thirteen items originally issued. The extract from Liszt’s oratorio, “The Legend of Saint Elizabeth,” which concludes this compilation, was recorded especially for the I. R. C. C.