Maria Barrientos 1916-1920

Maria Barrientos was born in Barcelona and became a singer in an age where the abilities of the coloratura soprano aroused the utmost enthusiasm in the opera going public. In spite of serious competition from the then reigning diva Luisa Tetrazzini her performances were so accomplished that she was described by one distinguished paper as the second Adelina Patti.


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Review "Maria Barrientos was one of several major Spanish singers who began their careers, usually at an exceptionally early age, at the turn of the 20th century. Essentially a coloratura, Barrientos enjoyed a great career, and at the height of her fame was a huge favorite in South America, Spain and Italy. For a few years she was married to the pre-Met Gatti-Casazza, who seemd to have a thing for prima donnas, as he later married the fiery tempered New Zealander Frances Alda. (Which must have been quite a change from Maria, who was reputed to be a most retiring sort.) When these Columbia recordings were made (between 1916-1920) Barrientos was nearing the end of her career. I believe there was once a large CD set of her earlier recordings for Fonotopia, but sadly these seem no longer available. Nimbus, as always, uses pristine copies and plays them through their acoustic horn, giving a sense of hearing the singer from the balcony in a live performance. Barrientos has been less than appreciated by the sharper opera critics, such as Steane and Scott, who perhaps might take a more kindly view of the singer today (this CD was issued in 2003) than they did thirty some years ago. Hers is an attractive even creamy voice, but especially interesting is her skill in all the old graces of the now forgotten skills of bel canto. Listening very carefully you can hear how cleanly and precisely notes are taken, and how smoothly volumes are adjusted. Modern singers, attempting to produce a full rich tone, usually introduce jerkiness or broken lines rather than an easy fludity. Barrientos does have moments of insecurity too, but then many of these arias, generally well-known, are no cakewalk for even the finest singers. On balance she is a great singer, despite her placing vocalizing effects over character." - Anonymous
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