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Victoria de los Angeles—Profile in Music
22 Apr 2006

Victoria de los Angeles—Profile in Music

For those without much time to read reviews, I can be extremely brief: hurry and buy this DVD. For all the others: the same advise though maybe they want to know the reasons for such a purchase.

Victoria de los Angeles—Profile in Music
Songs by Schubert, Brahms, Falla, Vives, Granados, Montsalvage, Nin, Mompou. Arias by Falla, Rossini, Wagner, Puccini.

Victoria de los Angeles, Gerald Moore, Patrick Harvey, Georges Prêtre, Felix Zanetti, Frederico Mompou

EMI Classics 0946 3 10203 9 1 [DVD]

$24.98  Click to buy

It takes half a minute watching this issue before one succumbs to the charm of the lady and the beauty of the voice. In the past, I’ve been somewhat immune towards some of her recordings, especially in repertoire where the voice is stretched and not very suitable, like in the heavier parts of Butterfly and that ill-advised Cavalleria where she is completely overwhelmed by Corelli. But the combination of looks and voice as here is to be seen is simply irresistible.

The concert starts with three popular lieder, Gerald Moore his virtuosic self as an accompanist. The voice is so warm, charming and exuberant that one forgets all carping. Her German is quite good, though not in the league of Schwarzkopf or Dieskau; but maybe that’s de los Angeles’ strength. One simply and immediately forgets that here is high Art with a capital "A" and realizes that Lieder can be performed just to enjoy them. Fifty years afterwards it strikes me (in her recordings as well) that de los Angeles is far more timeless and therefore more modern than her great German contemporaries, as she is not chewing on consonants or looking for hidden meanings. Of course, she is incomparable in Falla’s famous Jota and how she enjoys singing El retablo de Isabela by Vives. A song it is, but it could come straightforward out of one of the maestro’s magnificent zarzuelas like Dona Francisquita, Bohemios, Maruxa or La Generala.

The second part of this DVD consists of a BBC Profile in Music with opera arias and one song. De los Angeles starts out with Salud’s monologue from Vida breve and one almost shivers with emotion, knowing the sad fate that was awaiting the soprano herself only shortly afterwards. In Barbiere she is pure magic: the voice warm, playful and always with a smile in it. And the way she acts, it ought to be seen. This is a Rosina of one’s dreams. Maybe she is a little overparted in Tannhäuser, but it still is a treat to get Wagner sung in this almost lilting way. And as Cio Cio San she is heart breaking. The sets she is acting in are discreet but sufficient. One doesn’t see the orchestra and nevertheless wonders if the singing was done indirectly. Probably not as she has a lot of talking to do between arias; but then it only proves she was already highly proficient at synchronized lipping. A John Freeman is the conceited and very irritating interviewer throwing away opportunity after opportunity with his stupid questions e.g.: "whom do you like best to work with? Germans, Italians, English?" and a prime example of imbecility "are you interested in public affairs? in Spanish politics?" This at a time when Franco still had opponents during the civil war shot. De los Angeles stays calm, always smiling and laughing and speaking a rich American English with that beautiful speaking voice. With historical hindsight, we know that soon tragedy will unfold and the laughing Vicky (as she was lovingly called by her fans) will turn into herself, always friendly but aloof, never speaking her mind anymore. (Her husband cheated all the time on her while gambling away all her money and indebting her severely. She became pregnant again and her son suffered from diabetes. Her second son was born with the Down's syndrome. Though losing her voice, she had to perform into her seventies to survive. She could finally get a divorce but had to bury her eldest son. She died almost destitute.)

The third part of this DVD is devoted to a recital of well-known Spanish songs at Besançon. By 1967, the voice had thinned and the top was more problematic than ever but in this repertoire she can still sing with that rich middle voice and one hardly notices the decline. The bonus is a song recorded with the composer at the piano, filmed in fine colours. The picture quality is not perfect at first and when the camera has to move from medium to close there is some abruptness. But the quality soon improves (somewhat strange as it is the same kinescope) and, when we have reached Brahms, everything is as perfect as can be expected from those broadcasts. The sound, too, is perfect; and no admirer of vocal art can do without this issue.

Jan Neckers

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