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CD Review

Regina Resnik

Dramatic Scenes & Arias

  • Arias and scenes from Carmen, Samson et Dalila, Un ballo in maschera, Il trovatore, Don Carlo, Falstaff, Die Fledermaus, Die lustige Witwe, Kismet, Pique Dame, The Maid of Orleans, Tristan und Isolde, Die Walküre, and Elektra
Regina Resnik, mezzo-soprano
Various accompaniments
Decca 475017-2 ADD 2CDs 64:18, 70:43
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Regina Resnik had one of the most imperious and penetrating mezzo-soprano voices of the last fifty years. Her two most famous roles, Carmen and Klytämnestra, could not be more dissimilar, both vocally and temperamentally, yet Resnik excelled in both – a tribute to her intelligence and to her resourcefulness. I can't vouch for her behavior offstage, but this is a lady you didn't want to cross when she was in character!

Resnik started out as a soprano, and even filled in for Zinka Milanov as Leonora in the Met's 1944 production of Il trovatore. By 1956, however, she was a mezzo, and she quickly took on most of the roles represented on this CD. (Sadly, she never sang Dalila on stage; I suspect she could have strangled most eligible Samsons with her bare hands.) In 1971, she took up stage directing, and she also tried her hand at Broadway. Resnik is still with us, although George Hall's discreet booklet notes neglect to divulge her age. I suppose a lady is entitled to her secrets.

Large excerpts from her complete Decca recordings of Carmen (with conductor Thomas Schippers, and Mario del Monaco as Don José) and Elektra (with Sir Georg Solti and Birgit Nilsson) are included here. The scenes from Un ballo in maschera ("Re dell'abisso, affrettati"), Die Fledermaus ("Chacun a son gout"), The Merry Widow (improbably, the grisettes' song from Act Three), and Tristan ("Hörst du sie noch?") also come from Decca completes. Several selections from Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame are taken from Deutsche Grammophon's complete recording with Mstislav Rostropovich (recently reissued on their "Originals" series, I believe). Everything else, apart from two songs from the Broadway musical Kismet, comes from an excellent recital disc that Resnik did with conductor Edward Downes in 1961. In all, these selections cover 17 years of her career as a recording artist, from 1960 to 1977. As late as 1977, her singing remained solid, her voice unshaken. The booklet note alludes to Resnik's CBS/Sony recording of Menotti's The Medium. That, of course, is unrepresented here. Sony's continued failure to reissue that recording in toto is a real scandal, as Resnik's portrayal of the tortured Baba is a tour de force that never has been surpassed.

But anyway, the recital disc is a jewel (Resnik's Eboli and Azucena are uniquely thoughtful creatures) and the complete sets deserve their fame – for Resnik's contributions as well as for everyone else's. I will note that, thanks to Decca's "stagecraft," for lack of a better term, both Ulrica and Klytämnestra end up at the bottom of a well at the close of their respective scenes. That's no way to treat a mezzo-soprano like Regina Resnik. I also note, with approval, Resnik's astonishingly defiant Carmen. She literally laughs in Don José's face just seconds before he stabs her to death. I doubt anyone ever told Regina Resnik that she lacked guts.

Copyright © 2003, Raymond Tuttle