Review by: Robert Levine

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 3

Maria Barrientos was born in Barcelona in 1884 and made her official debut there 14 years later in La Sonnambula. Her career was brilliant and spanned three continents. She retired in 1922 at age 38 after a performance in Madrid, her voice apparently intact. She is what is now known as a favorite of “canary fanciers”–that is, she was one of those high, agile, coloratura sopranos whose staccatos, runs, trills, and other staples of the bel canto repertoire dazzled her audiences. And indeed, this CD offers everything a “canary fancier” could want: impeccable coloratura, glorious high-Ds and E-flats that are real notes (rather than whistles or shrieks), and a carnival’s worth of vocal fireworks everywhere you turn.

She slightly alters the vocal line of Susanna’s “Deh vieni” to evade any lowish notes; avoiding everything except her upper octave-and-a-half probably was one way the voice remained so pure and in such good shape. She can sing gently and with fine if generalized feeling, and although I wouldn’t recommend listening to all 76-plus minutes of this CD in one sitting, she was the stuff legends are made of. Of her type, she was among the best–up there with Galli-Curci and Tetrazzini. Baritone Riccardo Stracciari joins her superbly as Figaro and Rigoletto; tenor Charles Hackett makes an okay contribution or two. All of these recordings were made between 1916 and 1920, and the sound is as good as we can expect. The CD includes notes and dates, but no texts or translations. You’ll know if you want this.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: none

Arias & duets by Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini, Mozart, Rimsky-Korsakov, Delibes, Meyerbeer, Gounod, Verdi, Proch, & J. Strauss II -

  • Maria Barrientos (soprano)
    Riccardo Stracciari (baritone)
    Charles Hackett (tenor)

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