International Record Review

It is with a 1920 recording of a French opera set in Germany and sung in Italian translation that [this roundup of opera and vocal discs] begins. The Gramophone Company’s branch in Milan assembled the cast, the chorus and orchestra of La Scala and conductor Carlo Sabajno to record Gounod’s Faust in June of that year, the result being issued on 20 discs. Divine Art, which has reissued the Visconti/Thill Carmen from some years later (27809), releases the first CD transfer of this little-known recording. Although a relatively small organization, Divine Art has gone to the trouble of printing the Italian libretto in the booklet, for which collectors should be grateful.

Faust is the tenor Giuliano Romagnoli, who is joined by the more famous Gemma Bosini (later to become the wife of Mariano Stabile), Fernando Autori and Adolfo Pacini. Romganoli’s voice is not a first-class instrument but it is well schooled. A slight throatiness seems evident on lower notes but is not worrisome. He provides some thoughtful phrasing in Faust’s scenes with Marguerite. It is in those, such as ‘Il se fait tard’, that Bosini is at her best. Her Jewel Song sparkles less than the gems presumably did, but in the more intense or serious scenes, like that duet or the meeting with Mephistopheles in the church, she makes a better impression. Her voice does take on an edge under pressure. Pacini’s voice is more powerful in its top half than lower. Gilda Timitz’s thin, white tones do nothing for Seibel, or me, but Nelda Garrone makes something of Marthe.

That leaves Autori as Mephistopheles; a vital , vivid, vibrant interpretation, as heard in ‘Le veau d’or’. His voice is a true bass yet rings on high. He brings the character to life without excess: one of the best. Andrew Rose’s transfers are well done. English and French librettos are included as a downloadable PDF file.

—John T. Hughes