When I was asked to choose a disc of my own favourite recordings I thought ‘What a good idea!’. In actual fact, it has become a torment as I have far too many favourites! I have ended up with a few pieces which have been part of my life and given me intense pleasure – a mixture of periods and styles with neither rhyme nor reason!
My favourite operas have for many years been Norma and Esclarmonde so I have included the moving scene just after Norma contemplates killing her children, and Esclarmonde calling on the Spirits in Act I. Also from the nineteenth century the brilliant finale of La sonnambula when Amina finally wakes up from her sleepwalking, and the hair-raising aria from Attila.
I loved singing these two arias from the eighteenth century: a bravura from Graun’s Montezuma and the Act I aria of the Queen of the Night. I spent a lot of my life with Mozart – I loved Donna Anna, Vitellia and Elettra and the three roles I sang in The Magic Flute. My début at Covent Garden in 1952 was as First Lady, I then sang Pamina which I loved, and then the Queen of the Night which terrified me!
I have included a tiny snippet from L’oracolo because I like it!
From operetta, which I have always had great joy in performing, there is the wonderful aria from Offenbach’s Robinson Crusoé, the charming French/Spanish nonsense of Lecocq, ‘Stars in my eyes’ from Kreisler’s Sissi and I could not resist including Noël Coward’s ‘Countess Mitzi’ from Operette. We worked together both in his house next door to ours and at his other home in Jamaica. I think he was quite pleased with me!
The Gliere Concerto I sang often; such a relief not to have to remember the words. I confess to playing ‘O Divine Redeemer’ every now and again; Gounod is so underrated.
I could not leave out a few songs which I sang in recitals all over the world. Arditi’s ‘Il Bacio’ and Hahn’s ‘Si mes vers avaient des ailes’, trifles perhaps, but I enjoyed singing them and they seemed to be much loved by my audiences.
When I was a girl, I studied piano with Lily Juncker who was the daughter of the composer Augustus Juncker. So for sentimental reasons I include the old song ‘Love will find a way’ which was also a favourite of ‘Our Glad’, the great Australian singer of operetta, Gladys Moncrieff.
I hope everyone will find something to enjoy. For me it has been a great sentimental journey into my enchanted past.