3 CD’S  DESIREE RECORDS GAV 006, click here to order the CD

For over three decades, the name of Jenifer Eddy was foremost in the Australian opera scene as the major Artist Manager. Her stable of artists became household names under her guidance and Jenifer Eddy Artists’ Management boasted the crème de la crème of operatic celebrities. What was little known was that Jenifer Eddy had also experienced the career of a singer and this on an international level. Her career as a brilliant coloratura had taken her to the major opera houses of the United Kingdom and throughout Europe. Her on-stage colleagues included some of the finest and admired performers of the second half of last century. Jenifer’s private collection of off-air broadcast recordings and immaculately preserved printed reviews in her scrapbooks, attest to a singer at the forefront of a career. The ease of her performances, her delivery of text, her poise, pinpoint accuracy of coloratura and the sweet beauty of her voice provides a magic, which is not heard in the present day. She packed into her fifteen years on the operatic stage what reads like twice the amount of performances of any other soprano of this voice type. What seemed to be the perfect career, flying high, came to a sudden halt in 1969 due to a physical condition that remained undiagnosed for almost five years. The correct diagnosis came in 1974, in London, and Jenifer closed the door to her singing career and returned to Melbourne, Australia, in March 1975. A month later she started Jenifer Eddy Artists’ Management(JEAM).  Despite the relative shortness of her performing career, Jenifer Eddy was, without doubt, a major artist in the history of Australian voices

Desirée records responsible for several important and simply fabulous releases (click here) now issued a three CD set to the art of Jenifer Eddy. And what a fine set it is!
In 1967, Harold Rosenthal, the long-time editor of Opera, wrote “She is without doubt the best British soubrette of our time”.  Yet while listening to the three cd’s there is nothing ‘soubrettish’ about her at all. It is a beautiful, warm lyric coloratura with great technical skill. There’s innate musicianship and judging from the occasional audience response as in the Cosi fan tutte (1967) excerpts a warm stage personality as well.

It’s hard to choose any favorites. One pick choice would definitely be the English language excerpts of Massenet’s Cendrillon which not only display Eddy’s excellent English enunciation and coloratura ease but offer the presence of the young and equally delightful Margaret Price in the title role as well. She’s a great Marie in Fille du Régiment bringing off “Chacun le sait” (in English) with gusto and lots of flair.   “Nobles Seigneurs” from Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots sounds awkward as “My noble Lords.. I drink you”  but it is brilliantly sung.  Mandane’s act three  aria “The Soldier, tir'd of war's alarms” from Arne’s Artaxerxes was a frequently performed recital piece for virtuoso sopranos*. Eddy brings a radiant version of this "Nothing but a tie-wig-ish vocal exercise in triplets from beginning to end"**  She displays the self-assertive spirit of “Ah! Vous dirai-je maman” from Adam’s Toréador with bright and accurate vocalisation assisted by the delirious Toréador of Dennis Dowling.

That Eddy was equally at home in operetta can be heard through her delicious impersonisation of Leo Fall’s Madame Pompadour in the duet “Ich bin dein Untertan, dein Treuer” but also as a “this role fitted me like a glove “ spirited Adele (1966) in Johan Strauss’s Die Fledermaus. The other Strauss is represented by her remarkably accurate and convincing Fiakermilli (live under Solti) and by her femine yet valiant Zerbinetta (1968) opposite the  pleasant and warm  composer of Ann Howard.

The only two tracks we can hear Eddy actually sing in Italian is as the obedient, naive Zerlina opposite the resonant Tito Gobbi in the short duet “La ci darem la mano” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni (1966) and as a light silvery Gilda in the quartet from Rigoletto.

That Jennifer Eddy’s talent wasn’t limited to the operatic repertoire only is aptly proven by the third CD which includes a varied selection of the Lied and song canon. The earliest sample of her voice goes back to 1951 with a worthy and polished rendition of Landon Ronald’s “O lovely night”. Eddy’s smoothly modulated legato is shown in Mozart’s ‘allegro’ section of the Exsultate (1955) and her Lieder versatility in samples of Debussy, Wolf, Schoenberg (!) , Schumann and Hindemith (!).  At this very moment I can’t think of any French soprano besides perhaps still Nathalie Dessay who could sing the Debussy selections as well as Jenifer Eddy does here. She perfectly catches the mood whether in ‘Apparition’ or ‘C’est l’extase langoureuse’.  Her French is really good, ditto for her German in the Wolf or Schumann selections which display purity of sound, intense human feeling, and delicacy. She sings the songs with the freedom of a born native entering fully into their meaning and spirit without mannerism or affected style.  The recordings of Schoenberg’s “Waldsonne” and “Gedenken” and Hindemith’s “La belle dame sans merci” and “On hearing The last rose of summer“ go back to 1968  a period when both composers were less en vogue than today. They give proof of Eddy’s daring Lied choices. In the case of  Hindemith’s “La belle dame sans merci” this could even be the first ever recording of the song and so far with this release the only available recording of the piece. 

As always with releases by Desirée records we get luxurious packaging with an extensive detailed booklet illustrated by numerous rare photos and personal notes by the singer herself. Cd releases like this are the perfect antidote to anonymous, non-telling downloads.

This wonderful set - as well as all other Desirée records releases- belongs in every vocal buff’s record collection.

Rudi van den Bulck, May 2017

* Recorded also by Sutherland, Sills and Beverly Hoch
** Richard Grant White
*** Jenifer Eddy in the accompanying booklet