Lagniappe Volume 19

Elda Cavalieri
Volume 19


Total time: (75:00)

1. IL TROVATORE: Tacea la notte placida (Verdi) 3:29
  27 July 1906; C-3631-1 (74058)  
2. LA TRAVIATA: Addio del passato (Verdi) 3:12
  21 September 1906; B-3823-2 (64057)  
3. LA FORZA DEL DESTINO: Pace, pace mio Dio (Verdi) 3:49
  27 July 1906; C-3634-1 (74050)  
4. AIDA: O patria mia (Verdi) 3:27
  14 September 1906; C-3805-1 (74055)  
5. LA GIOCONDA: Suicidio (Ponchielli) 4:11
  27 July 1906; C-3630-1 (74048)  
6. MEFISTOFELE: L’altra notte in fondo al mare (Boito) 4:04
  27 July 1906; C-3633-1 (74049)  
7. CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA: Voi lo sapete (Mascagni) 3:18
  27 July 1906; C-3632-1 (74059)  
8. MANON LESCAUT: In quelle trine morbide (Puccini) 2:26
  New York City; 18 October 1906; B-3927-2 (64061)  
9. LA BOHÈME: Si, mi chiamano Mimì (Puccini) 4:19
  26 July 1906; C-3627 (74056)  
10. LA BOHÈME: Quando m’en vo’ soletta (Puccini) 2:32
  21 September 1906; B-3824-2 (64058)  
11. TOSCA: Vissi d’arte (Puccini) 3:46
  14 September 1906; C-3807-2 (74054)  
12. ANDREA CHÉNIER: La mamma morta (Giordano) 2:55
  New York City; 18 October 1906; B-3928-1 (64062)  
13. ADRIANA LECOUVREUR: Io son l’umile ancella (Cilea) 2:45
  New York City; 18 October 1906; B-3925-1 (64059)  
14. FEDORA: O grandi occhi lucenti (Giordano) 2:41
  New York City; 18 October 1906; B-3926-2 (64060)  
15. Ave Maria (Tosti) 3:41
  27 October 1906; C-3950-1 (74061)  
16. L’ultimo bacio (Tosti) 2:32
  27 October 1906; B-3951-1 (64065)  
17. Non ti ricordi più (Doda) 2:39
  27 October 1906; B-3954-1 (64067)  
18. La paloma (Yradier) 4:08
  24 October 1906; C-3935-1 (74060)  
19. La Sevillana (Yradier) 2:26
  24 October 1906; B-3936-1 (64063)  
20. Los ojos negros (Álvarez) 4:01
  26 July 1906; C-3628-1 (74057)  
21. A una morena (Álvarez) 3:15
  27 October 1906; B-3953-1 (64066)  
22. Tú [Habanera] (Eduardo Sánchez de Fuentes) 2:06
  Sung in E Minor
26 July 1906; B-3626-1 (64056)
23. Tú [Habanera] (Eduardo Sánchez de Fuentes) 3:19
  Sung in F Minor
24 October 1906; B-3937-1 (64064)

All tracks recorded in Philadelphia except where noted.
Tracks 1, 3, 5–9, 12–17, and 20–22 with piano; tracks 2, 4, 10, 11, 18, 19, and 23 with orchestra.
Tracks 1–17 sung in Italian; tracks 18–23 sung in Spanish.

Marston would like to thank an anonymous donor (Durante, Patron of the Arts) for his complete sponsorship of this release.

Elda Cavalieri

Almost nothing is known for certain about Elda Cavalieri, who would be worth some research. Her birth is claimed variously for Ferrara “before 1869” and for Naples in 1876, without citation in either case of a source that could be checked. No notice of her death seems to have surfaced anywhere. Even the location of her recordings is unspecified in the Victor log-book. The Encyclopedic Discography of Cuban Music assumed that they were done in Havana, where she appeared in at least four roles between November 1905 and February 1906—but Victor is not known to have had recording facilities there at the time. The sessions were held in the following July, September, and October, most likely in Philadelphia and New York, yet she seems never to have performed publicly in North America.

For that matter, she never reached top theaters like La Scala, the San Carlo, La Fenice, or the Costanzi back at home in Italy. If she had not caught the attention of the Victor company, her name would scarcely arise in anyone's history of opera in her day. But somehow she did, and as a result we can hear some lirico-spinto soprano singing of a melodiousness, idiomatic expression, power, and technical command that would seem absolutely sensational in 2022.

The few facts that can be confirmed from contemporaneous sources tell us of a career that ran for about two decades bisected by the turn of the century. Wherever she might have been born, Cavalieri became a student of Antonio Cantelli (1834–1907) at the conservatory of Palermo, where he also taught Roberto Stagno, Mario Sammarco, and Giuseppe La Puma among many others. She appeared in the same city in 1891 as Amore in Orfeo ed Euridice, singing “egregiamente” according to the correspondent of Il teatro illustrato. If 1876 was her birthdate she would have been a mere fifteen years old, but Cupid is a part one could imagine being sung by an extraordinary student, and her next traceable appearance comes only in 1894 when she sang Norina in Don Pasquale and the pageboy in Un ballo in maschera, still in Palermo.

Her eventual trajectory was in heavier repertory; by the following year it included the Trovatore Leonora (along with Lucia and Violetta) in Catania, and soon she was making the rounds of secondary Italian theaters as Santuzza, Nedda, Mimì, Desdemona, Aida, Fedora, the Forza Leonora, Elvira in Ernani, the Manons of Puccini and Massenet, the Marguerites of Boito and Gounod, Elsa in Lohengrin, and Maddalena in Andrea Chenier. Shortly after the opera appeared she added the title role in Tosca, sharing it with its creator Hariclea Darclee in Bucharest in 1903. South America heard her in seasons at Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Montevideo, Valparaiso in addition to Havana, and she had work in Spain and Portugal; her last known appearances were in Lisbon, where in 1912 she sang Mimì, Maddalena, Tosca, Marguerite (Gounod), Santuzza, and Elsa.

Almost all Cavalieri’s operatic sides (perhaps all, given the inevitable incompleteness of listings traced) come from roles for which she was praised in the theater. The songs in Spanish and Italian are typical of what she offered in concerts that attracted favorable notice as well (some reviewers drew attention to Sicilian songs that I wish Victor had asked from her). And the singing is extremely satisfying.

The journal Le maschere, reviewing her at the Teatro Mercadante in Naples in 1908, described “an uncommon interpreter of Tosca” who sang and acted like a “grand padrona of the stage” and delivered the preghiera “with singular expression and a truly laudable psychological penetration of the character.” We can hear some of that in her “Vissi d’arte,” unusually slow, each word weighed as though through intense deliberation over just what she should pray in such a moment, lyrically generous as the phrases blossom and mount towards the end. La gioconda's “Suicidio” is also personal and eloquent, and like several others it shows a mastery of every shade and gradation in the difficult area where the head voice and chest voice meet. That zone was treated by composers like Ponchielli as a rich resource for variety and expression, and Cavalieri's command of it is right on a par with the very best.

In fact every one of the records shows an individual personality and a lively communicator. If her topmost notes had been one degree grander and freer, perhaps she would have become a star. As it is, the secondary theaters were lucky to hear such a prima donna, and we are lucky that chance nominated her to leave a few documents of what she provided them.

© Will Crutchfield, 2022