Great Australian Voices - The Golden Years 1948-1973 [4CD]

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"The latest project in the 'Great Australian Voices' series is here. Titled The Golden Years 1948 - 1973, it covers singers who were active here and internationally between the end of the WWII and the opening of the Sydney Opera House. Again, every track is a first release and covers repertoire from Mozart to Wagner, Verdi, Puccini and Gershwin. There's even a Medley of Barbra Streisand songs recorded in 1968 and unreleased until now sung by the soprano who created Zerbinetta in the Australian Premiere of Richard Strauss's Ariadne on Naxos - which shows the variety of repertoire these singers had to perform in that era. 39 singers are featured, with detailed biographies and rare photographs - as is essential with all the releases on Désirée Records. Some names will be familiar to Australian opera lovers but there are a handful of singers who had long international careers in major houses, who will be unknown to the most knowledgeable aficionado.

Because of the number of singers we wanted to honour, and their collective biographies, this particular edition is a 4CD set with an 80 page booklet. 

Some of the rarest material includes the Opening Scene from the Australian Premiere of Richard Strauss's Salome, live recordings from the National Theatre in Melbourne capturing the greatest Australian coloratura soprano before Joan Sutherland - Barbara Wilson. There's a cluster of our great Wagnerian voices in full flight.

The singers honoured in this set are: Rosina Raisbeck, Barbara Wilson, Sylvia Fisher, Maureen Howard, Rosalind Keene, Margaret Nisbett, Elsie Morison, Elizabeth Fretwell, Marjory Conley, Valda Bagnall, Una Hale, Maurine London, Glenda Raymond, Joyce Simmons, Althea Bridges, Janice Taylor, June Bronhill, Justine Rettick, Lauris Elms, Gregory Dempsey, Kenneth Neate, Donald Smith, Lance Ingram, John Lanigan, Ronald Dowd, Raymond McDonald, Jon Weaving, Raymond Myers, John Shaw, Geoffrey Chard, John Germain, Neil Easton, Robert Bickerstaff, John Cameron, Robert Simmons, Clifford Grant, Neil Warren Smith, Alan Light, John Probyn and Ronal Jackson.

Compiling the tracks for this project has brought much joy, as I endeavoured to present each singer with repertoire and performance which present them and their personalities at their best. Some extracts may surprise. Several names may be new to even the most learned opera enthusiast. In some cases, they are included to remind modern listeners of the extraordinary performances we’ve experienced in this country. Where is the next Fretwell, Howard, Dowd, Warren-Smith, Shaw, Raisbeck, Morison, Fisher, Grant, Keene or Smith? Let alone Melba!

In actuality, we don’t want replacements for these names, we hope that new voices emerge in the future with a similar authority, presence, sound and artistry – but with their own personalities. We should be proud that recordings of these ‘Great Australian Voices’ are preserved for us to study, absorb and enjoy. I certainly am." - Brian Castles-Onion

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  1. I hear the sweet sound – Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti) - Barbara Wilson
  2. Your tiny had is frozen - La bohème (Puccini) – Lance Ingram
  3. Ensemble - La bohème (Puccini) - Lance Ingram, Joyce Simmons, John Shaw, Barbara Wilson, Robert Allman, Alan Eddy & Stefan Haag
  4. Fierce Flames are breaking – Il trovatore (Verdi) - Justine Rettick
  5. Give me your darling hands that I may kiss them - Madama Butterfly (Puccini) - Elizabeth Fretwell & Lance Ingram
  6. Rome Narration - Tannhäuser (Wagner) – John Lanigan
  7. May laurels crown thy brow – Aïda (Verdi) - Rosina Raisbeck
  8. Shadow Song - Dinorah (Meyerbeer) – Margaret Nisbett
  9. A word, allow me – Pagliacci (Leoncavallo) – John Cameron
  10. Ah, t'was it he? - La traviata (Verdi) – Marjorie Conley
  11. Yes, I'm always called Mimi – La bohème (Puccini) - Elsie Morison
  12. Our dream of love, how fair it was - The Bartered Bride (Smetana) – Elsie Morison
  13. Am I dreaming? - The Barber of Seville (Rossini) - Glenda Raymond, Donald Smith & Robert Simmons
  14. Two-foot, three-foot - The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart) - Valda Bagnall & Geoffrey Chard


  1. Wie lachend sie mir Lieder singen - Tristan und Isolde (Wagner) – Sylvia Fisher
  2. Durch die Wälder - Der Freischütz (Weber) – Kenneth Neate
  3. Weh' mir, so nah' die fürchterliche Stunde - Die Feen (Wagner) - Elizabeth Fretwell
  4. Dark! And always dark – Fidelio (Beethoven) - Ronald Dowd
  5. Senta's Ballad – The Flying Dutchman (Wagner) - Rosina Raisbeck
  6. How fair is the Princess Salome tonight - Salome (R. Strauss) – Neil Easton
  7. My Lord! The Mastersinger's way – The Mastersingers of Nuremberg (Wagner) – Gregory Dempsey & Connell Byrne
  8. Farewell my son – Boris Godunov (Mussorgsky) - Neil Warren-Smith


  1. Most mighty of Princesses – Ariadne on Naxos (R.Strauss) - Rosalind Keene
  2. Let's be friends again – Ariadne on Naxos (R.Strauss) - Althea Bridges
  3. E'er I leave my home behind – Faust (Gounod) - John Germain
  4. Love and Music – Tosca (Puccini) – Una Hale
  5. What's this I see here? - Ernani (Verdi) – Clifford Grant
  6. Just for tonight – Girl of the Golden West (Puccini) - Elizabeth Fretwell & Donald Smith
  7. As through the streets – La bohème (Puccini) - Maurine London
  8. Hear my last words, Marguerite – Faust (Gounod) - John Probyn
  9. Si può?... Signore! Signori! – Pagliacci (Leoncavallo) - Robert Bickerstaff
  10. Urna fatale del mio destino – La forza del destino (Verdi) - John Shaw
  11. Giorni poveri vivea – Il trovatore (Verdi) - Lauris Elms & Alexander Major
  12. Qual fiamma avea nel guardo – Pagliacci (Leoncavallo) - Maureen Howard
  13. Suvvia, così terribile – Pagliacci (Leoncavallo) - Maureen Howard & Donald Smith
  14. Did I sound like Donati?... Tell Me, Ladies and Gentlemen - Gianni Schicchi (Puccini) – Raymond Myers
  15. Ja beim Himmel will ich schwören - Otello (Verdi) - Jon Weaving & Guillermo Sarabia


  1. The whole world over – Madama Butterfly (Puccini) - Raymond McDonald, Ronal Jackson & Valda Bagnall
  2. Here I stand - The Rake's Progress (Stravinsky) - Gregory Dempsey
  3. Gualtier Maldè! Caro nome – Rigoletto (Verdi) - Janice Taylor
  4. I shall find for you shells and stars – The Consul (Menotti) - Justine Rettick
  5. Embroidery in childhood was a luxury of idleness - Peter Grimes (Britten) - Sylvia Fisher
  6. Minnie, dalla mia casa son partito – La fanciulla del West (Puccini) – Alan Light
  7. Or sai chi l'onore - Don Giovanni (Mozart) – Althea Bridges
  8. Maytime Flowers (Marbot) – Ronald Dowd
  9. Charmant oiseau – La perle du Brésil (David) - Glenda Raymond
  10. Castles in the Air - Kenneth Neate
  11. Song of the Open Road (Malotte) – Ronal Jackson
  12. I am in love - Can Can (Porter) Geoffrey Chard
  13. Mother Dear (arr. Liebling) – Margaret Nisbett
  14. A Brownbird Singing (Wood) – Marjorie Conley
  15. Soliloquy – Robert and Elizabeth (Grainer) - Maurine London
  16. Say not love is a dream – The Count of Luxembourg (Lehar) - June Bronhill & Robert Gard
  17. It ain't necessarily so – Porgy and Bess (Gershwin) - Clifford Grant
  18. The devil of the Flora Dee (Joseph Mendelsohn) - Robert Simmons
  19. Pedro the Fisherman (Davies) – Janice Taylor
  20. Medley from Carnival (Merrill) - Maureen Howard
  21. Streisand Medley – Rosalind Keene