Richard Bonynge conducting London Symphony Orchestra and Ambrosian Opera Chorus, with Franco Corelli, tenor; Nicolai Ghiaurov, bass; Joan Sutherland, soprano; Robert Massard, baritone; and others; London OSA-1433 (stereo) and A-4433: four records Gounod’s Faust, once the world’s most popular opera, has fallen into such a state of disrepute among musical intellectuals that it is good to have a recording that seriously attempts to affirm its merits. In the case of Joan Sutherland, a Marguerite of musical richness, and Nicolai Ghiaurov, a Mephistopheles with a sturdy voice and a sense of humor, the good intentions are matched by excellent performances. But Franco Corelli is a Faust whose French is execrable and whose musical style is inappropriate, and Richard Bonynge, Miss Sutherland’s husband, has little contribution to make except to keep things moving along. Still, this is the most stimulating Faust yet put on LP, if not quite the one that poor Gounod deserves after all these years.
Mario Lanza Sings His Favorite Arias
Mario Lanza, tenor, with an orchestra conducted by Ray Sinatra; RCA Victor LSC-2932(e) (electronically reprocessed
stereo) and LM-2932
Mario Lanza? That’s right, and a remarkable record this is. Lanza never had a career on the operatic stage, but he poured out a profusion of arias on the airwaves, and those on this record — never before released, we are assured — were taken from the Coca-Cola Hour of 1951 and 1952. Whatever the circumstances, this is a voice with surging, soaring power, put at the service of such arias as “La donna e mobile,” “Celeste Aida,”“Cielo e mar,”"Come un bel d) di maggio,” and others equally familiar. Lanza makes them all seem fresh and exciting, as if he, and we along with him, were discovering them for the first time! In addition to its other virtues, the record provides excellent material for the musical parlor game of Guess the Tenor. It may surprise your friends.
Poulenc: Four Song Cycles (Le bal masque, Rapsode nègre, Chansons villageoises, Le Bestiare)
Jean-Christop he Benoit, baritone, with Paris Conservatoire Orchestra conducted by George Pretre, Angel S-36370 (stereo) and 36370
Poulenc’s magnificent songs have long needed a recording like this, with a singer attuned to their wit and subtlety as well as their sheer musical lyricism. The orchestral accompaniment is unusual; previous recordings have used a piano. Yet the songs retain their sharp musical profile even in this rather lush setting. A number like “Le Mendiant” (“The Beggar”), a sharply pointed description of the human condition, takes on an almost operatic impact in so full-bodied a presentation. Angel has provided complete texts and translations, so that for once the meanings and nuances of Poulenc’s joining of words and music can be fully savored.
The Best of Bob Newhart
Bob Newhart, comedian; Warner Bros. W-1672 (monaural)
Several years ago Bob Newhart recorded a routine called “Abe Lincoln vs. Madison Ave.” which imagined how a modern-day public relations man might have written the Gettysburg Address. It was very funny indeed, even if Honest Abe came out of it as a kind of chump bewildered by the modern world. Newhart has never quite hit that level again in his subsequent records, but there have been enough fresh routines along the way to provide the material for an uproarious anthology record. There are funny disquisitions on such matters as tobacco and airline travel, but for sheer hilarity, “Abe Lincoln” is easily entitled to the number one position it retains on this record.
Jerome K. Jerome: Three Men in a Boat
Read by Hubert Gregg; Argo RG-319 (monaural)
Does anyone still read Three Men in a Boat,, that hilariously funny (but undoubtedly true) account of a voyage up the Thames by three young vacationing Englishmen in the Victorian Age? Apparently some people still do, at least in Britain, for a tongue-in-cheekish reading by Hubert Gregg is available here on the imported Argo label. Mr. Gregg knows how to savor a comic tale, whether of Uncle Podger’s difficulties with hanging a picture straight, or the author’s own frightening encounter with a medical dictionary. If there is a complaint to be made about this amiable record it is that it stints the account of the voyage itself in favor of several side excursions into humor. But rarely is comedy so good-natured as this. A few passages from Jerome’s Three Men on the Bummel, in which bicycles rather than boats are the conveyance, are included as a filler.
The Real Mexico in Music and Song
Varioits folk-singing and instrumental groups recorded in the State of Michoacan by Henrietta Yurchenko; Nonesuch 11-72009 (stereo) and H-2009 Considering that this is a field recording, made on the spot in several Mexican towns and villages, the sound of these songs and instrumental selections is remarkably clear and lifelike. And the numbers themselves offer liveliness and atmospheric color to go along with their undoubted authenticity. Included arc ballads about poor people (also one sardonic number about rich people), love songs, and festive dances. A certain similarity sets in after a while, but the obvious freshness and enthusiasm of the performers are contagious. The selections give a feeling of the spirit and zest of the people, which is exactly what folk songs are supposed to do.