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Lawrence Tibbett
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792 – 1868)
Largo al factotum (Il Barbiere di Siviglia) (1)
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901) Eri tu (Un Ballo in Maschera) (1)
Richard WAGNER (1813 – 1883) Wie Todesahnung Dämm’rung (Tannhäuser) (2)
Charles GOUNOD (1818 – 1893) Avant de quitter ces lieux (Faust) (2)
Georges BIZET (1838 – 1875) Toreador’s song (Carmen) (3)
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901) Dinne ... alcun la non vedesti?; Plebe! Patrizii! Popolo (Simon Boccanegra) (4)
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901) Inaffia l’ugola! trinca, tracana; Credo in un Dio crudel; Era la notte; Si el ciel (Otello) (5)
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857 – 1919) Prologue: Si puo (I Pagliacci) (6)
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924) Te Deum (Tosca) (7)
Deems TAYLOR (1885 – 1996) Oh Caesar, great wert thou!; Nay, Maccus, lay him down (The King’s Henchman) (8)
Louis GRUENBERG (1884 – 1964) Standin’ in the need of prayer (Emperor Jones) (9)
Howard HANSON (1896 – 1981) Oh, tis an Earth Defiled (Merry Mount) (9)
Lawrence Tibbett (baritone)
Rose Bampton (soprano) (4); Giovanni Martinelli (tenor) (4, 5); Leonard Warren (baritone) (4); Robert Nicholson (bass) (4); Nicolas Massue (tenor) (5); Herman Dreeben (baritone) (5); Unknown Orchestra/Nathaniel Shilkret (1, 2); Unknown Orchestra/Wilfred Pelletier (4, 5, 8, 9); Metropolitan Opera House Orchestra/Giulio Setti (3, 7); Unknown Orchestra/Rosario Bourdon (6)
Rec. 15 April 1930 (1); 20 April 1934 (2); 8 April 1929 (3); 3 May 1939 (4); 3, 5 May 1939 (5); 7 June 1929 (6); 3 April 1929 (7); 5 April 1928 (8); 19 Jan 1934 (9) mono



Handsome of figure and possessor of a lovely baritone voice, Lawrence Tibbett (1896–1960) was a remarkably popular figure in his prime, from 1925 to 1940. He left behind a good recorded legacy of his major roles as well as appearing in some of the complete operas recorded live at the Metropolitan opera house. He also was adept at musical comedy, recording items from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess having been coached by the composer and appearing on Broadway. Very late in life he sang in Harold Rome’s musical Fanny based on the Marcel Pagnol books.

Tibbett was a Californian, son of a sheriff. Starting out in amateur theatre and operetta he trained initially in Los Angeles. He moved to New York in 1922 to further his studies and made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1924. By the 1940s he started to have a vocal crisis and though he continued singing, his glory days were over.

This disc opens with a remarkably dramatic account of ‘Largo al factotum’. From the start, Tibbett’s beauty of tone is noticeable; he had a distinctively fine grained lyric baritone, with a pleasantly dark timbre. But also worthy of comment is his attention to the words and sense of drama. Rather remarkably, for a voice which seems a dark baritone, he takes the voice very high in the baritone’s chest register, giving him a good wide range without an appreciable sense of strain, but with a characteristic increase in intensity.

This is followed by ‘Eri tu’, which not only confirms the beauty of his instrument but also shows that his voice was just made for the great Verdi baritone roles. He carries this style of singing over into his Wagner, performing the excerpt from Tannhäuser with great lyricism and sense of line eschewing the sense of drama that bigger voices have brought to the role.

In all these arias Tibbett gives strong dramatic performances, but more than that he creates character and story. In both the excerpt from Faust and the toreador’s song from Carmen he creates a fully three-dimensional character, rather than giving a gentlemanly account of just the notes.

Simon Boccanegra was one of Tibbett’s great roles. Here we are given his duet with his daughter Amelia and the Council Chamber scene. Alan Blyth, in the Gramophone, rather rated Rose Bampton’s performance as Amelia but I was less convinced finding her voice sometimes lacking in focus. Tibbett is well supported, though, by Giovanni Martinelli, Leonard Warren and Robert Nicholson.

The core of this disc, is the sequence of four items from Otello giving us a very clear notion of Tibbett’s Iago. With his open, frank delivery it is no surprise that Tibbett’s Iago manages to persuade Otello, but in his fine delivery of the Credo Tibbett manages to convince us of Iago’s true nature. These excerpts give us a glimpse of Martinelli’s Otello, but the great tenor does not seem to have been in the best of voices.

The classic items on the disc are completed by the Prologue from Pagliacci and the Te Deum from Tosca both sung with the singer’s fine sense of line and smooth golden tones.

Tibbett also appeared in contemporary pieces. Deems Taylor’s The King’s Henchman and Louis Gruenberg’s The Emperor Jones are not really known today, but Tibbett delivers the extracts with a remarkable dramatic intensity. The first extract from The King’s Henchman could come from a Broadway show, but the second is a remarkably dramatic piece of melodrama given with 200% commitment by Tibbett. The item from The Emperor Jones is delivered by Tibbett using the sort of voice and accents which imply that he played the role black-faced. Again it is highly intense and melodramatic with a strong Negro spiritual base.

For some reason, the catalogue is not currently overburdened with discs devoted to this fine singer. Anyone interested in singing will find this recital highly rewarding. The transfers all sound as if they have been done with minimal interference. I cannot recommend the disc too highly.

Robert Hugill

see also Review by Jonathan Woolf


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