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Leila Ben Sedira as Rosina

Leila Ben Sedira

With our first issue of 2017 (Volume 62 no 1) we celebrate an amazing 71 years of publication. We devote our main article to a biography and discography of the lovely Algerian soprano Leïla Ben Sedira. The possessor of one of the most beautiful soprano voices on record, she deserves to be better known even by seasoned collectors.

Although most of her career was as a concert and radio singer, she did, in fact, appear in opera for four years, primarily at the Opéra Comique. The work has been compiled by the great researcher of French artists, John Humbley, in association with the authority on the soprano, José Pons.

The article will surprise readers with the eclectic nature of both her career and recordings. In addition to having left among the best versions of French soprano arias Ben Sedira championed both early and modern music, recording some unique versions of works, many of them the first on disc. We do hope that, as a result of reading the article,  collectors will go back to their discs to rediscover this superb soprano for themselves.

Millo PiccoOur second article is on the baritone Millo Picco. Although the name may not at first be familiar to collectors many will have heard and, in fact, seen him without realising it. He is the Alfio, for example, on Gigli's Vitaphone film of excerpts from Cavalleria Rusticana. He appeared an astonishing 925 times at the Met, from 1919 to 1936. Hence, he appears on a number of the broadcasts from that house. He did sing leading roles with other companies, e.g. for Chicago at Ravinia Park, he was Germont père, Amonasro and Rigoletto. He recorded the standard baritone arias for several companies. His story is fascinating.

This issue also contains an important piece of research on John McCormack relating to the Harrison Tours, which the tenor undertook in the earliest years of his great career, just prior to his contract with Covent Garden. He was enthusiastically promoted by the impresario Percy Harrison and we relate some of McCormack's earliest successes on the concert platform, supporting luminaries such as Emma Albani and Kirkby Lunn. This article has been written by the great McCormack enthusiast and researcher, John Ward, and has been unpublished previously.

Citing Kirkby Lunn lends us to a unique article written has been written for us by Michael Letchford, the author of a new book on the contralto. He reminds us just how important she was, singing with all the greats at Covent Garden and Louise Kirkby Lunnenjoying a unique position for two and a half decades on both the opera and concert platforms. Despite this, she is desperately neglected by collectors, even though she left some thrilling records of the great contralto arias. Both this article and the new book should serve to redress that neglect, for here is a patrician artist of the first rank.

In addition to our regular record and book reviews this issue is a very full and fascinating one indeed.

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