I don't follow opera much, and a lot of what is called art song seems to exist in a pocket of space and time that I never enter. But I was much taken in the summer after my third year of college with a recording which a new friend of mine named Vern introduced me to: Duets with Spanish Guitar, featuring soprano Salli Terri, here in its original LP sleeve--
and here, in its later incarnation as a part of a double CD reissue from EIMI/Angel--
For those of you who don't like classical soprano voice, be advised that these tracks don't sound like opera, because they're settings (except for the famous one of Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasilieras No 5) of popular South American cabaret or folk tunes, lively and sexy. But Ms. Terri's voice is very special indeed. Not being, as I say, an aficionado of classical voice, I'm unqualified to judge its professional calibre, but can only confess that it speaks to me in a deeply emotional way.
Ms. Terri made a series of recordings with the superb Spanish guitarist Laurindo Almeida in the late 1950's, which were issued in (I believe) three separate collections. Those I first heard were from the initial album selections. YouTube only has a couple of selections from these albums--the Villa-Lobos and a rousing piece called Boi-Bumba. Here is a listing of the entire CD Album contents--
"Entr'acte" (Jacques Ibert) — 3:12
"Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5" (Heitor Villa-Lobos) — 2:24
"Ronde" (Emile Desportes) — 2:01
"Azulao" (Jayme Ovalle) — 1:28
"Prelude in E Minor" (Frédéric Chopin) — 2:13
"O Cacador" (Laurindo Almeida) — 1:47
"Pastorale Joyeuse" (Desportes) — 2:36
"Tres Pontos de Santo" (Ovalle) — 4:06
"Tambourin" (François-Joseph Gossec) — 1:26
"Boi-Bumbá" (Valdemar Henrique) — 1:35
"Sicilienne" (Gabriel Fauré) — 4:00
"Para Niñar" (Paurillo Barroso) — 2:20
"Pièce en Forme de Habanera" (Maurice Ravel) — 2:45
"Maracatu" (Ernani Braga) — 3:33
"Pavane pour une infante défunte" (Ravel) — [Bonus Track] 3:53
"Passarinho Está Cantando" (Francisco Mignone) — [Bonus Track] 1:23
"Modinha" (Bandeiro, Ovalle) — [Bonus Track] 2:20
"Waltz from the Serenade for Strings" (Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky) — [Bonus Track] 2:53"Canción from Siete Canciones Populares Españolas" (Manuel de Falla) — [Bonus Track] 1:24"Farrúca" (De Falla) — [Bonus Track] 2:38
The voice combo recordings are interspersed with pieces by Almeida and a flautist named Martin Ruderman--which are in their way as inspired and beautiful as the pieces sung by Terri. The whole CD can be "sampled" on the following "myspace" page (http://www.ilike.com/artist/Laurindo+Almeida/album/Duets+with+Spanish+Guitar?src=onebox), if you have an iTunes software on your PC.
The problem with music that one discovers at this age, is that there is always the danger that it will effect one more deeply than it otherwise might have, simply because one was, at that time, in love, or falling in love--which was the case for me that year. There is nothing quite like the romance of a lovely female voice when one is loving a woman, intensely, for the very first time. But let's not get maudlin.
I can't say I know very much about Salli Terri, aside from my experience of her emotional sensibility as expressed in her recordings (which is really something!). She was born in Canada in 1922, and emigrated to the U.S., taking degrees in Music at Wayne State and USC before traveling to teach English (!) in Japan in the early 1950's. She eventually married, bore two children, and had a long career as a teacher of music theory in Fullerton, and conducted chorale, while pursuing a professional career as a classical singer. She even did some work in the movies. Died in Long Beach in 1996.
Salli doesn't appear to have been a great beauty, but she wasn't unattractive, at least on the evidence of the stylized portrait above, apparently made while she was residing in Japan. But the quality of her voice has been one of the great pleasures of my life. I've listened to the three albums she made with Almeida over and over for over 40 years, and they never get old.
I hope others may have this experience as I did. Salli Terri's flexibility was such that she could perform and evoke classical pieces and expression as well as she could cabaret or folk melodies. The common thread was the stirring and heart-felt conviction she brought to each setting. One is moved to exaggeration: There can be no higher value to an artistic experience than listening to a master, milking all the passion and hunger for life communicated through the instrument of the voice. Hearing her sing is like being in love all over again.
You can still purchase the CD online. At $8.99 per, it's the best musical bargain in history.