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Giovanni Zenatello II (1876-1949)
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864) Les Huguenots (Gli Ugonotti, 1836) – Bianca al par il neve alpina [3’19]a.
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Il trovatore (1853) – Tace la notte … Deserto sulla terrab [3’32]; Mal raggeno all’aspro assaltoc [3’24]; Di quella pirad [1’51]; Ciel, non m’ingannoe [4’13]. La forza del destino (1862) – O tu che in seno agli angelif [3’42]. Aida (1871)– Là, tra le foreste verginig [4’12]. Otello (1887) – Ora per sempre addioh [2’32]; Si, pel ciel marmoreo giuro!i. [3’24].
Charles-François GOUNOD (1818-93) Faust (1859) – Salve dimora casta e puraj [4’25].
Georges BIZET (1838-1875) Carmen (1875) – Il fior che avevi a me tu datok [3’14].
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) Samson et Dalila (1877) – Figli miei, v’arrestatel [2’10].
Arrigo BOITO (1842-1918) Mefistofele (1868) – Dai campi, dai prati [2’24]m; Giunto sul passo estremon, [2’24].
Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948) Andrea Chenier (1896) – Un di all’azzurro spazioo [2’43]; Credo in una possanza arcanap [3’09]; Si, fiu soldatoq [2’40].
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919) Pagliacci (1907) – Recitar! … Vesti la giubbar [2’45]; No, pagliaccio non sons [2’50].
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) Manon Lescaut (1893) – Donna non vidi mait [2’44]; Ah! Manon, mi tradisceu [4’07]. La bohème (1896) – Che gelida maninav [4’07]; Quest’è Mimiw [1’32]. Tosca (1900) - Recondita armoniax [2’58]. La fanciulla del West (1910) – Or son sei mesiy [2’49]; Ch’ella mi credaz [2’25].
Giovanni Zenatello (tenor); biPasquale Amato (baritone); egEster Mazzoleni (soprano); ceElisa Bruno (mezzo); all tracks with orchestra.
From Fonotipia a72779, b92841, c92880, d92607, e74168, f92610, g74167, h92608, i92759, j74106, k92211, l92210, m92205, n92204, o92212, p92757, r92603, s92604, t92605, u92606, v94105, w92829, x92209, y92852, z92851. Rec. apNovember 3rd, 1910, October bi6th, du5th, f10th, hs1st, t9th, 1909, cMay 23rd, June ey9th, g2nd, wzMay 29th, 1911, July jmn20th, kv20th, l13th, o9th, q17th, x22nd, August r25th 1908. mono ADD


The recordings here stretch from 1908 to 1911, a time of plenty for Zenatello. In 1905 he joined the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. The previous year he created the role of Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly) at La Scala. From 1907 his career centred on the USA. Known as one of the great Otello interpreters, this Lebendige Vergangenheit collection of transferred Fonotipias presents a triumphant overview of the high points of Zenatello’s repertoire.

From 1903 to 1930, Zenatello recorded around 200 sides. From 1903-04 he recorded for G&T Milan, from 1905 to 1911 Fonotipia whence these recordings hail. Later companies include Columbia, La Voce del Padrone (Italian HMV) and Victor (USA).

The first thing to strike the listener as the excerpt from Les Huguenots - sung of course in Italian - issues forth from the speakers is the huge hiss. The next thing is that Zenatello’s vocal timbre shines through like a beacon. His remarkable strength is there too, with great power in evidence towards the top of the range. As one moves to Trovatore - with interjections by Pasquale Amato - one becomes aware that it is Zenatallo who is the focus of attention rather than the composer and that perhaps Zenatello is luxuriating in his magnificent voice with its clarion high notes.

His partner in ‘Mal reggendo’ from the same opera is the strong-voiced, rather formidable mezzo Elisa Bruno. The two make a good pairing, evenly matched. If Zenatello’s ‘Di quella pira’ is less forceful than some - Domingo could belt this out! - it is nevertheless intensely musical, a trait confirmed in the long lines of ‘Ciel, non m’inganno’, where Zenatello trios with Bruno and Mazzoleni.

If there is much to admire in the Forza (great floated high notes) and the Aida excerpts (the latter with Mazzoleni again, rather wobbly here) it is the two Otello excerpts that show Zenatello in a role for which he is possibly most famous. He builds ‘Ora per sempre addio’ to an impressive climax, almost spitting the occasional word out. The next excerpt, ‘Si, pel ciel marmoreo giuro!’ is once more with Amato. It is from the same day as the Trovatore excerpt with Amato. The drawbacks to the recordings become obvious here in the amount of vital orchestral detail lost or nearly lost, but it remains an impressive statement.

To Faust, then, in Italian, but sung with supreme line again – and doesn’t he enjoy the top notes at the end! The Carmen excerpt is similarly blessed.

Saint-Saëns’ Samson seems even today under-appreciated; not to mention his other operas – hearing Henry VIII all the way through once was a real eye-opener! Not that this performance will help much. Nothing to do with the authority of Zenatello but my word the orchestra could do with some lessons in ensemble.

Much more touching is ‘Dei campi, dai prati’ (Mefistofele), lavished with honeyed phrasing. A pity the orchestra is near-inaudible in the other Mefistofele excerpt - ‘Giunto sul passo estremo’.

One can only wonder at Zenatello’s diction in the three Chenier excerpts. Perhaps the last is a little on the shouty side, but every word remains there. He is commanding, dramatically raw in the two Pagliacci excerpts, yet of all the tracks on this disc it is probably the Puccini items that suit him best. The long lines of this composer’s music are well matched to Zenatello’s talents. Some orchestral playing is, shall we say, less than perfect. Try the undignified scramble in ‘Donna non vidi mai’, for example. However the sovereign, golden tones of Zenatello remain riveting.

Even some truly risible accompaniments cannot detract from the singer’s obvious involvement in these items, and they truly make for the climax to this treasurable disc. The final track is a touching way to end; just listen to those period portamenti in the strings!


Colin Clarke


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