Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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In Concert: Dusolina GIANNINI (soprano) (1902-1986)
Arias and Duets
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Aida (1871) - Ritorna vincitor
[6’37]. La forza del destino (1862) - Son giunta! ... Madre, pietosa vergine [6’38]; Pace, pace mio dio [5’29].
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)

Mignon (1866) - Connais-tu le pays?
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834-1886)

La Gioconda (1876) – Suicidio
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Tosca (1900) - Vissi d’arte [3’12].
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)

Cavalleria rusticana (1890) - Dite, Mamma Lucia…Sono scomunicata … Voi lo sapete, o mamma
[9’01]; Intermezzo [3’28].
Carrie JACOBS-BOND (1862-1946)

I Love You Truly
Ethelbert NEVIN (1901-1939)

The Rosary
Dusolina Giannini (soprano); Claramae Turner (contralto, Mascagni); San Francisco Opera Orchestra/Gaetano Merola; Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra/Pietro Cinini (Thomas and Ponchielli).

Broadcast performances from the War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco on September 19th, 1943 (Verdi Forza and Mascagni) and January 30th, 1944 (Verdi Aida, Puccini, Nevin and Jacobs-Bond) and from the Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles on August 15th, 1943 (Thomas and Ponchielli). ADD mono

NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110145 [50.24]


Robert J Farr, in his MusicWeb review of this product, contextualises Giannini perfectly and I cannot improve on this ( Collectors can count themselves lucky to have this historical document at their disposal so cheaply: it acts as a valuable (possibly invaluable) partner to Preiser’s Giannini album (89044) which concentrates on her recorded legacy (HMV, from 1928 to 1932).

As a ‘composite’ recital (from three separate broadcasts), the present Naxos programme works well if one listens straight through. The two excerpts from Acts 1 and 4 of Verdi’s La forza del destino (from a broadcast on September 19th, 1943) which kick things off reveal much of Giannini’s characteristics. With the very opening lines (‘Son giunta’), she proclaims, delineates and owns her own territory: her resolution is such that nobody would argue from that moment on. This is terrifically confident singing, the ‘steel’ in the voice used to telling effect. ‘Pace, pace mio dio’ includes much tenderness (and her tuning is excellent, not always the case in this aria). In fact, all of her Verdi is impressive. The Aida excerpt (‘Ritorna vincitor!’) displays more of her steely determination. Although these are just excerpts, it is remarkably easy to feel as if one is slipping in and out of a complete traversal of the role, such is her identification with the heroine.

The Thomas and Ponchielli excerpts (LAPO/Cimini) represent the highlights of the disc. Ambroise Thomas wrote very beautiful music, and his tendresse is evident throughout (special mention to the sweetly chirping woodwind here). Giannini’s velvet legato is most affecting, her inflections seeming to drag the listener in. The Gioconda excerpt is sung with real conviction (the accompaniment, however, is more workaday). Be warned, however: Giannini could appear shrill and harsh at full pelt: the climax of this Ponchielli is uncomfortable (track 4, around three minutes in).

Separating the dramatic rendition of ‘Ritorna vincitor!’ from Puccini’s ‘Vissi d’arte’ are two popular ballads, The Rosary and I love you truly. Dispensable both, to my Xenakis-saturated ears, but they had their day and should certainly be heard as part of the period aura. Unfortunately, after the high emotion of ‘Ritorna’, the sudden, sugary arrival of The Rosary is almost comical. Paul Campion’s accompanying notes tell us that this piece ‘achieved immense popularity in the plush drawing-rooms and concert halls of the Edwardian age’ but today it seems (to this reviewer at least) difficult to take seriously. I love you truly is similarly afflicted, and sandwiching these two between Verdi and Puccini does nobody any favours at all.

Evidently Giannini is more at home in Vissi d’arte, Tosca’s Act 2 tender hymn to art which really does emerge with real depth on this occasion.

Fascinating to have the extended excerpts from Cavalleria rusticana. The orchestra here sounds completely at home, and there is a real feel of the grease paint about this account. It seems strange to close the disc with an orchestral excerpt (the famous ‘Intermezzo’), but perhaps it was needed to make up the playing time (50 minutes is short for Naxos).

As a ‘by the way’, apparently Giannini sang Kundry (Parsifal) under the baton of Pierre Monteux in the 1940s. Now that would have been worth hearing!.

This disc is definitely worth the small outlay. With the exception of some discomfort at climaxes, sound is perfectly acceptable given the sources. Do hear the Presier disc, also. There is some overlap: ‘Son Giunta’, ‘Pace, pace’ (conducted Barbirolli, 1928), and ‘Ritorna vincitor!’ (Sabajno, 1928) are all there, too, but plenty of other goodies, including, on the Puccini side of the balance sheet, a touching ‘Un bel di vedremo’ (Butterfly, cond. Schmalschtich, 1928) to complement the ‘Vissi d’arte’ (Tosca) here. It is true they sound more studio-bound than these broadcasts, but there are plenty of insights to be gleaned from both discs.

Colin Clarke

see also review by Robert J Farr

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