Claire Dux

Lebendige Vergangenheit: Claire Dux

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Claire Dux is one who got away, a vocalist in the bel canto traditions reckoned as one of the major singers of the early twentieth century whose work remained, even in 2007, almost unknown on the opera CD reissue circuit. Her legend, though, stretches beyond that -- although she wasn't Polish, she was born there, Dux Records in Poland is named after her -- her original records and other Dux-related ephemera sometimes trade at breathtaking prices on eBay. Preiser's Lebendige Vergangenheit: Claire Dux appears to be the first full-length CD issue on her behalf, and the way it turned out one is inclined to wonder if it might have been better to wait yet longer. A notorious sexpot who married both the actor Hans Albers and later, meatpacking magnate Charles Henry Swift (of Swift's Premium), Preiser has managed to find a photo of Dux that is not particularly fetching for the front cover. Her best recordings, interestingly, are late, particularly the Brunswick records she made in the United States when her opera career was almost over; these tend to lend a little credence to the legend. This disc is made up of recordings made for Deutsche Grammophon between 1911 and 1920 and a lone Odeon. The sound of these records is noisy and not very good; the Odeon is better but features her struggling to sing the German version of "Kennst du das Land" from Ambroise Thomas' opera Mignon against a miserable-sounding, out-of-tune band that cannot decide on the proper pacing for the aria. Also, Dux was known for being particularly good at being an interpreter of music belonging to or roughly near her time -- she was one of the very first Evas in Der Rosenkavalier (not THE first, as stated in the notes) and famous for her Goose Girl in Humperdinck's Der Königskinder. We hear two fragments from very near the time of her first performance of this part in 1911, and these are the most interesting things on the disc, though the noise is pretty fearsome. It appears much of the material included here is taken from roles that were not particularly well-suited to Dux's talent; she sings Verdi and Bizet in German and her "Vissi d'Arte" from Tosca is poor; Butterfly is just not the right role for her light, high, and probably rather quiet voice. Unless one is dying to hear Dux sing, then Preiser's Lebendige Vergangenheit: Claire Dux doesn't seem to be the right vehicle; a collection of her American recordings, other Odeons and Pathés along with some vestige of her work in lieder, and some of the right roles may well better represent Dux's gifts.

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