Anna Moffo’s recording
career had an auspicious start in 1955
when she was engaged by Karajan to sing
Nanetta in his by now legendary Falstaff.
Here in her first solo album she had
added a little more body to her lovely
voice and had had some more stage experience.
She had made her Metropolitan debut
less than a year earlier and was rapidly
becoming a star. Hers was also one of
the most beautiful soprano voices around
during the late 1950s and most of the
1960s. By the beginning of the 1970s
it had started to deteriorate, even
though she continued to appear on stage.
She left a fairly large recorded legacy,
including an excellent Luisa Miller
with Bergonzi and MacNeil, a Rigoletto
under Solti with Alfredo Kraus and Robert
Merrill (to be reviewed shortly) and
a splendid Verdi recital, all of them
from the mid-1960s. I do hope that the
recital will be reissued soon, since
it is to my mind one of the best collections
of Verdi arias ever recorded.
The present disc was
an original three-track stereo recording
and played through SACD equipment delivers
stunning realism without unnecessary
highlighting. Just listen to the triangle,
so distinctly caught on the first track,
and the full orchestra sounds magnificent,
e.g. in the Semiramide aria.
Tullio Serafin, past eighty at the time,
knew all the tricks and he kept things
moving. One could object that some of
the French excerpts sound more Italian
than French, but why complain when everything
is done with the utmost conviction?
Just sit back and enjoy the sound of
Moffo’s creamy voice. Listen to her
exquisite pianissimo singing in the
Bohème aria; the wonderful
scaling down at the end. Admire her
elegant coloratura singing in the Meyerbeer
aria and discover what a lovely Micaela
she is in the Carmen excerpt.
In the 1970s she went on to sing the
title role in that opera, she even recorded
it with Corelli for Eurodisc, but hers
was not really a Carmen voice. Best
of all are possibly Liù’s two
arias from Turandot, a role she
sang at the Met opposite Corelli and
Indeed everything is
tasteful and technically secure. She
never indulges in unnecessary distortions
of the musical line to express deeper
feelings. As a matter of fact that is
what some commentators have found most
obviously missing in her interpretations:
identification with the different characters.
On stage her beautiful appearance and
good acting could compensate for that,
on recordings of complete operas she
sometimes overdid the voice acting.
Her La traviata, recorded about
the same time as this recital, is so
filled with sobs and sighs that one
has to seek shelter. None of this here,
though, and as with some other much
loved singers, the beauty of the voice
is enough reason to get this disc. Playing
time is short, but LPs were normally
this length 45 years ago. There are
no texts, but the original notes by
Francis Robinson, assistant manager
of the Metropolitan Opera, are retained
with some added information on Ms Moffo’s
career. Also there are some technical
notes and the booklet reproduces the
original LP cover.
So: glorious singing
of beautiful arias in stunning sound
that could have been recorded yesterday.
Richard Mohr and Lewis Layton knew what
they were doing and I suppose the remastering
team also deserve a rosette for the
finished result. Recommended? Yes!