Inge Borkh: Operatic Recital
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Inge Borkh: "Operatic Recital"

spacer Arias by Verdi, Mascagni, Giordano, Debussy, Weber, 
others. London Symphony, Fistoulari; 
Vienna Philharmonic, Moralt and Krips. No texts or translations. Decca 480 8139


Listeners who know Inge Borkh (b. 1921) only from her incendiary recordings of the big moments from Salome and Elektra made with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony — which is to say most listeners — are in for a surprise. The wild card in this selection of twelve arias taken from three different recording sessions between 1956 and 1958 is Debussy’s aria for Lia from L’Enfant Prodigue. It would seem, on the evidence of the Strauss recordings, that Borkh’s voice would be too grand and unsubtle for this music. But Borkh, though she certainly has a larger instrument than Suzanne Danco in her great recording from 1953, proves to be idiomatic, and her sound is suitably pointed. If anything, with her fuller voice she was able to bring even more of the necessary profound regret to this piece than Danco did. 

Borkh is working with three different conductors here, but there is a consistency in the way each performance manages to give a sense of how the aria fits into the opera as a whole. Lady Macbeth’s “La luce langue,” conducted by Anatole Fistoulari, has a suitably meditative opening, but by the end of the first section it is a moment of decision, one that comes in definitive form in the final lines. And Lady Macbeth’s Act I aria (the letter scene, but with the actual reading of the letter cut), conducted by Rudolf Moralt, finds the aristocratic leanings in the music, reflecting the character’s ambitions. Borkh’s voice, if a little light in the lowest notes here, wins points for agility in the staccato notes ignored by most sopranos, and the top B at the end is all one could ask. Similarly, “Son giunta,” from La Forza del Destino, is performed by Borkh and Moralt with the urgency that this moment requires in the complete opera. Rusalka’s song to the moon (in German, with Fistoulari) has the sweet, youthful quality needed for this early moment in the story. Occasionally a high note in an aria is not the best part, as in an otherwise open, direct performance of Santuzza’s “Voi lo sapete” or in Gluck’s “Divinités du Styx” (again in German). But in the latter Fistoulari is supportive in this otherwise fine performance, buoyant and clear. And Moralt shapes an effective version of Amelia’s Act II aria from Un Ballo in Maschera (with the complete introduction), in which Borkh has a real spin on the tone.

Beethoven’s concert aria “Ah! perfido” gets the most specific and rewarding interpretation of all. Borkh and Josef Krips, with his familiar big-band Beethoven and the Vienna Philharmonic, make it sound like a rewrite of Fiordiligi’s “Per pietà,” from Così Fan Tutte. Beethoven was offended by what he viewed as da Ponte’s scandalous libretto for Mozart’s opera, and this elegant, aristocratic performance comes across as a corrective. spacer 


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