Good to be reminded of Baltsa’s pre-eminence as a lyric/dramatic mezzo at the beginning of the 1980s, when this recital was recorded.
The recital shows off to advantage her keen dramatic instinct, a tangily individual timbre, and a voice that was, at this time at least, absolutely seamless from top to bottom. Though she had already recorded Eboli and Amneris for Karajan, this recital concentrates for the most part on her work in the field of bel canto.
Baltsa was an exciting stage performer, as I can attest, having seen her live on many occasions and a great deal of that excitement comes through on disc, the climaxes of the arias from La Favorita and Il Giuamento being particularly thrilling. She has a strong vocal personality, which comes across stunningly on disc, and she realises the different demands of classical, Romantic and verismo music. If there is a limitation, it is that she rarely colours or weights the voice to suit the character she is playing, something more noticeable in a recital disc than it would be in a complete performance.
Stand out tracks for me were the aria from La Donna del Lago, where she gently caresses the opening cavatina, and the aforementioned arias from Il Giuramento and La Favorita. Indeed, on this showing it is a great pity that nobody thought to make a complete recording of the Donizetti opera with her, though preferably in the original French rather than Italian as it is here.
To sum up, this is a great memento of an important singer recorded when the voice was at its peak. I seem to remember that it was issued in the UK originally on EMI, but the recording was made by Orfeo, and it is that issue I have.
3 thoughts on “Agnes Baltsa – Famous Opera Arias”
Seeing Baltsa live in the 1980’s breathes added value to this fascinating review.
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17-year-old me heard this album one day at the public library in Victoria, British Columbia. I fell in love instantly. The attack on the high b (everyone else takes the written A) at the end of the Fovorita is still, behind the Calls Aida Eflat, the most exciting high note I have ever heard. That was the week that Leonie Rysanek was doing her last Sieglindes at the Met and I knew I had a duty to go see what would be history. I lied to my parents, told them I was going to Vancouver to see a show, and flew across the continent to see my idol – and she was amazing – of course. BUT, the night I arrived in NY, the day before the Wulkure, there was a benefit concert with Domingo and Baltsa that they were selling tickets for and so I got standing room for a couple of dollars. So there I am, a new 17-year-old fan and on the programme is O mio Fernando. A day after hearing pretty much the most exciting thing I had ever heard on record, I was sitting there at the Met and heard that very same emotive and, as they used to say, balls-to-the-wall version that has ever been. One of my most fond memories.
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What a thriling memory. Baltsa is also responsible for some of my most enduring memories and I saw her at Covent Garden as Adalgisa, Dorabella, Isabella, Eboli and Carmen. I also heard her once in a very special performance of the Verdi Requiem, a charity benefit to raise funds for the family of astage hand, who had been killed in an accident when they were setting up for the production of Dan Carlo she was appearing in. All the soloists, chorus, orchestra and the conductor, Sir Colin Davis, gave their services free and it was probably the most moving performance of the work I’ve ever heard.