Brazilian soprano Bidu Sayão had one of the most remarkable voices in the history of recorded music; light, agile, emotional, powerful and always true to pitch with an uncanny expressiveness that seemed almost innate. She was criminally under-recorded -- although her career spanned some 35 years, already a decade of it had expired when she first stepped in front of the mike and her relationship with it would prove spotty, except for a few years in the mid-1940s when she was a contract artist with CBS Records in New York. The two discs of reissues released in Sony Masterworks Heritage series in the 1990s contains most of her recorded output, however in VAI Audio's Bidu Sayão: Rarities, a good portion of the uncollected material is gathered together in one place for the first time. This consists of a selection taken from among Sayão's first recordings, made in Brazil in 1935-1936 of popular Brazilian songs and a couple of arias from Carlos Gomes' zarzuela Il Guarany, and operatic excerpts taken from radio broadcasts from 1948-1951. The earlier discs feature Sayão in youthful and resplendent voice, and that uncanny expressiveness mentioned earlier irradiates from these sides with nearly the penetration of sunlight itself; the only drawback is the rather strained and second-rate playing of the Brazilian recording orchestras that support Sayão on these outings, but she is so intense that you don't care about them. In the broadcast material, Sayão is partnered on a couple of numbers with no less than Italo Tajo and Jussi Björling; Tajo is wickedly humorous enough in his cackling delivery of Donizetti's patter from L'Elisir d'amore to warrant mention apart from Sayão. By the time of these recordings, Sayão was nearing retirement and her voice was somewhat darkening; however, the sense of drama and communication is still intact, and this features a particularly fine rendering of Micaëla's aria from Bizet's Carmen, to single out one highlight of many. There are also rare, late examples of Sayão singing verismo arias, a part of the repertoire she scrupulously avoided for the better part of her singing career.
The recordings used here were part of the collection of William Seward, who annotated many classic opera collections in the LP era and cared well for his own sources; there is an occasional pop and click among the broadcast sources, but otherwise they are not at all noisy and true to the original signal. Some labels outside the United States have lately begun to reissue Sayão's early recordings in horrendous transfers. However, if you are looking for those, VAI's Rarities is the one you want, the Brazilian 78s come through with honesty, clarity, and a minimum of noise with no added effects that would tend to rain on Sayão's parade.