ISBN 978-0-8108-8154-9
915 pp , The Scarecrow Press  2012

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Opera recordings have been with us since the creation of the first wax cylinders. Now, at a time when the 25-year reign of the compact disc is under danger, is the moment to take stock of the history of recordings of arguably the most popular composer of operas, Giacomo Puccini. In Giacomo Puccini: A Discography, librarian and music historian Roger Flury – responsible for an identical work on Mascagni - looks at each opera chronologically from Le Villi to Turandot, followed by sections on Puccini's instrumental, chamber, orchestral, and solo vocal works. Details of each complete opera are listed by recording date, followed by excerpts in the order in which they occur in the opera. Recordings of each aria are listed alphabetically by the name of the artist. For ease of use, Flury’s basic criterium for inclusion are those recordings assigned a commercial issue number and quote: “available for purchase.”  The latter should not be taken literally as several issues have been out of the catalogue for a long time. Moreover, Flury treads on thin ice as the book does not limit itself to mainstream recordings but includes as well 'unofficial' recordings taken from broadcasts or illegally recorded in theaters. Not that I don’t welcome this extra information, but these recordings are often released by unreliable “sharks.” Mentioning often shady and dubious “producers” such as House of Opera, Operadepot etc. should be taken with a serious ‘beware’. DVD issues are not included and one wonders why as covering this territory is still fairly easy and should not have taken up much space. Moreover, too much space is taken by mentioning every possible and repetitive re-release of an original recording, always a tricky undertaking as even the most diligent researcher cannot possibly uncover all this information.


This volume brings together information on nearly 10,000 recordings of Puccini's music. It provides a more than decent overview of the recorded history of the composer's works and serves as a more than decent reference guide for collectors, libraries and operaphiles. A good but not flawless index is provided, always a valuable tool in such a massive undertaking.
It goes without saying that in such a vast enterprise as this work, errors and omissions are to be found. Some can be forgiven, but some really can’t.  This book is obviously also intended for the serious record collector, yet I do not see them mentioned in the acknowledgements. The owners of some of the most extended record collections in the world have not been consulted. I myself have a pretty decent record collection but cannot yet compete with giants such as the UK-based John T. Hughes. Nevertheless I came up with a vast amount of gaps especially in the solo recordings. While Flury is pretty comprehensive in the complete recordings section he omits some very important singers and recordings in the solo and duet portion of the publication. Let’s take “Addio fiorito asil” for instance where two officially released and commercially available Mario Del Monaco versions are not mentioned nor the Puccini arias only CD recital by the Belgian-Chinese soprano Qilian Chen on the well-known Pavane label which has been overlooked as well.  Other tenor solo recordings – I'm excluding 78 rpms-  not mentioned are those by Robert Saccà, Dutchmen Hans Kaart, Willy Caron, Willy Alberti, John van Kesteren and Adriaan van Limpt, Belgian-Italian tenor José Razador, Belgian-Flemish tenor Kurt Fleming, the Greek-German tenor Michael Theodore, French–Basque Luis Mariano, French tenors Frank Almero, Michel Cadiou and José Todaro, Luxemburg tenor Venant Arend, Israeli tenor Abraham Wilkomirsky, Hungarian tenor Adolf Dallapozza, the Mexican Fernando de la Mora, Americans Sergio Franchi, Mario Berini, Tandy McKenzie  and Jean Cox, Ernesto Grisales, the Italian Ottavio Garaventa, the Chinese Warren Mok, the Lithuanian Kipras Petrauskas, Bulgarian tenors Dimitar Damayanov and Zdravko Gadjev, Serbian tenor Marinkovic, South African tenor Gé Korsten and Latvian tenor Janis Sprogis just to name a handful. Identical omissions also apply to the other voice categories.


Luckily typos and errors are few but include Piero Coppolla conducting a NY 1998 performance of La Rondine while the maestro passed away 27 years before this recorded performance took place i.e. the mis-labelling of dubious pirates playing tricks on the author in this case House of Opera, but also applicable to Bella Voce releases. Flury also lists the tenor Giuseppe Cremonini as singing Cavaradossi in the Mapleson’s Cylinders excerpts of the Met’s 1902 performances (CD symposium 1284) opposite Milka Ternina, but the Met’s archives give Emilio De Marchi for those dates. Flemish tenor Louis Morrisson sings his arias in Dutch not Flemish (pp.170).

In such a vast project, in all likelihood aimed at a limited “niche” market, it is probable that professional editing was not financially feasible; therefore there are some spelling errors, especially of foreign names. Here are some examples:
composer Félicien David (not Félician), soprano Corry Bijster (not Bjister), tenors Ludwig van Gijsegem (not Gijzegem), Alfons van Goethem (not Goethen), Louis van Tulder (not Tulden), Nicola Fusati (not Nicolo) and Vladimir Bogachov (not Bogaciov), tenor Cornelis (not Cornelius) van Dijk becomes a baritone in the index though he sings Pinkerton,  basses Pieter van den Berg (not van der Berg) and Gidon Saks (not Gideon as in the index), baritones Mario Borriello (not Borielli as in the index), Benvenuto Franci (not Franchi) and Paul Cabanel (not Cabael), Adib Fazah is a baritone not a bass, mezzos Anneleen Bijnen (not Annleen) and Cloe Elmo (not Chloe), Elen Dosia is also wrongly spelled as Elen D’Oria on pp. 480 and in the index, and the tenor Darmel’s first name is François. Tenor Mikhail  Alexandrovich is spelled as Aleksandrovich and the tenor Ardelli just gets the N.(Norbert) in his first name as does composer A. (Ange) Flégier. The song Giovinezza is spelled as Giovanezza in the index. The conductor Christian Thielemann is spelled as Thielmann in the index and his colleague Hans Steinkopf as Hanns.

Nevertheless let these remarks not prevent you from purchasing this remarkable achievement especially if you are a passionate record collector, a (music) librarian or just someone who loves lists, this book is the perfect gift.
Roger Flury hopefully may have blazed a path for similar works on Verdi, Wagner and the Verismo composers.