This recital was recorded at three separate sessions in 1991 and 1993 when Masterson would have been in her mid fifties and, though the voice is still beautiful, it is no longer the fresh voice of youth. What a shame she didn’t get to record this material, say, around fifteen years earlier when she sang Matilde to Caballé’s Elisabetta in Rossini’s Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra both in Aix-en-Provence and on record. Two years is a long time when one is nearing the end of one’s career, and it is notable that the arias recorded in 1991 find her in better voice than those recorded in 1993. Still, there is much to enjoy, especially in those roles that Masterson had made very much her own, Manon, Juliette, Marguerite, Louise and Micaëla. The vibrations may have loosened somewhat, but she is mercifullly free of wobble.
Favourite tracks for me were Micaëla’s Je dis que rien m’épouvante, Louise’s Depuis le jour, the brief excerpt from the Saint Sulpice scene in Manon, Margeurite’s Jewel Song and L’Ensoleillad’s lovely little Vive amour qui rêve from Chérubin. To be honest, only in Thaïs’s Mirror Aria, which was recorded at the last sessions, does the beat in the voice start to become distracting and it is notable that she doesn’t take the higher option at the end, whereas a few years before this would have been easily within her voice. Throughout she pays due attention to the text and the mood of each aria, and her voice has its own individual character that I’ve always found instantly recognisable.
The sound is superb, the orchestral conributions under John Owen Edwards excellent, and the booklet comes with texts and translations, an interview with Masterson and stage photos of her looking absolutelty gorgeous as Margeurite, Manon, Juliette and Louise.
So, as I said, a little late for comfort, but still a disc worth hearing for any of us who fell under Masteron’s spell when she was regularly appearing on our stages.