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Renata Tebaldi "Voce d’Angelo"
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 - 1924)

Si, mi chiamano Mimi (La Bohème) (a,b,e,f,i) *
Donde lieta usci (La Bohème) (a,b,e,f,i) *
Sono andati? (La Bohème) (a,b,e,f,i) *
In quelle trine morbide (Manon Lescaut) (g,i) **
Vissi d'arte (Tosca) (g,i) **
Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! … Ancora un passo or via (Madama Butterfly) (c,f,i) *
Un bel di vedremo (Madama Butterfly) (g,i) **
Con onor muore…Tu?Tu?Tu?Tu? Piccolo Iddio! (Madama Butterfly) (f,i) *
Umberto GIORDANO (1867 - 1948)

La Mamma morta (Andrea Chenier) (h,j) ***
Charles GOUNOD (1818 - 1893)

Ballad of the King of Thule .. Jewel Song (Faust) (g,i) **
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 - 1901)

Ritorna Vincitor (Aida) (g,i) **
Tacea la notte placida (Il Trovatore) (g,i) **
Libera me, Domine (Requiem) (h,j) ***
Renata Tebaldi (Soprano)
Hilde Gueden (Soprano) (a)
Giacinto Prantelli (Tenor) (b)
Giovanni Inghilleri (Tenor) (c)
Fernando Corena (Bass) (e)
Orchestra Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Rome (f)
L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (g)
Orchestra of La Scala, Milan (h)
Alberto Erede (Conductor) (i)
Victor de Sabata (j)
* - Recorded 1951
** - Recorded 1949
*** - Recorded 1949 - Live
REGIS RRC 1125 [73.50]

Renata Tebaldi's later stereo recordings are usually preferred over her earlier mono ones. However on this disc we have a selection from some of Tebaldi's major roles recorded when the singer was still in her twenties.

Tebaldi's later recording of 'La Bohème' has sometimes been criticised because her temperament colours her Mimi, causing the retiring seamstress to sound remarkably imperious. But, this later recording has also found its way onto the library shelves, in preference to the famous Beecham/de los Angeles version. These extracts from 'La Bohème' are taken from Tebaldi's earlier recording, which itself is still pretty desirable. Rarely can Mimi have been so beautifully sung. These extracts are a joy for their sheer sound. Just listen to the exquisite pianissimo high note at the beginning of the first extract. Tebaldi's 'Mimi' sounds creditably youthful, but still very, very self possessed. Where she falls down is in the rather generalised characterisation. What I miss is a relish for the detail of the text; strange from a native Italian speaker. And the performances lack a certain vividness. It is here that the spectre of Callas starts to loom. She is seldom far away when considering Tebaldi's career. Callas's virtues provide a neat complement to Tebaldi's, so in an ideal world one would want to have both. Mimi was never in Callas's stage repertoire (she learned it especially for the La Scala recording), but when listening to Tebaldi here one cannot but help thinking about the vividness and verbal felicities that Callas would bring to a role. A recital record like this, though, is the ideal place to appreciate Tebaldi's art. With no worries about drama unfolding, you can sit back and appreciate her considerable qualities.

This is a well filled CD, and the editors have obviously been concerned to select just the right excerpts from the complete operas. In these 'La Bohème' excerpts one is brought up short as the excerpt stops just as the drama continues. The most frustrating instance is final excerpt from 'La Bohème' which stops as soon as Mimi expires rather than continuing to the end of the scene, which can only be described as crass. The tracks are also perilously close together, with little space to breath. This does, however, mean that we have nearly 74 well filled minutes.

Her "Manon Lescaut" excerpt also gives us a rather self-possessed Manon, but 'Vissi d'arte' from 'Tosca' is surprisingly un-diva like. Hearing this made me want to hear the rest of Tebaldi's Tosca. Her Butterfly hardly sounds 16 but then again who does. From the first moments of her off-stage entry one cannot help but be seduced by the beautifully shaped singing. Anyone who thinks of Tebaldi as a rather undramatic singer should listen to the Andrea Chenier excerpt. 'La Mamma morta' is one of the two live items on this disc and it shows Tebaldi at her best - a shapely musical line allied to a feel for drama that is sometimes lacking in the other excerpts. The live recording comes with some drop in the general quality of the recording, but this is not appreciable and is more than made up for by the quality of the performances.

Marguerite in 'Faust' was not a role that I associated with Tebaldi. But here it is, in Italian, evidently part of her regular repertoire. She makes a charming Marguerite, even if she does not quite dazzle in the coloratura passages in the Jewel Song and I did find it rather on the slow side. Rather interestingly, the booklet mentions Tebaldi's other excursions from Italian opera. Evidently she sang Wagner's Eva, Elsa and Elisabeth (all sung in Italian) as well as Mozart's Countess and Donna Elvira. It would certainly be fascinating to hear extracts from these performances.

The Verdi extracts are back onto familiar territory. Her Aida is nearly ideal - only a slight hardening of the top marring the delivery. The same applies to 'Tacea la notte placida' from "Il Trovatore". These two extracts from Verdi's operas left me longing for more. I would quite happily have reversed the balance of the items on the disc, reducing the number of Puccini items and expanding the Verdi.

The final item is another live one, of the 'Libera me' from the Requiem. This suffers badly in terms of the recessed sound of the chorus and the choral singing leaves something to be desired. But Tebaldi's contribution is spine-tingling, showing what a fine artist she was when caught live.

This is a fine introduction to Tebaldi's art. Real newcomers might prefer one of the compilations of her stereo recordings. However the present recordings are particularly interesting as they date from before her vocal problems in the 1960s. But for those who already have the stereo recordings and those people interested in the young Tebaldi, this disc is highly recommendable.

Robert Hugill



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