OF THE MONTH
Dvorak Opera Premiere
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858–1924) Love Duets La Boheme O soave fanciulla [4.16];
O Mimi tu piu non torni [4.33]; Sono andati? [6.10]
de los Angeles (soprano), Jussi Björling (tenor), Robert
Merrill (baritone) Madama Butterfly
Love Duet [13.43];
Flower Duet [12.39]
Renata Tebaldi (soprano), Nell Rankin (mezzo), Giuseppe Campora (tenor) Tosca Mario Mario [12.26] Ah! Franchigia Floria Tosca [9.39] Maria Callas (soprano), Giuseppe Di
Stefano (tenor) Manon Lescaut Tu, tu amore? [7.33] Licia Albanese (soprano), Jussi Björling Turandot
Del primo pianto [8.13] Inge Borkh (soprano), Maria Del Monaco (tenor)
RCA Victor Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham (Boheme) rec. 1956
Orchestra of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Rome/Alberto Erede (Butterfly, Turandot)
Orchestra of La Scala, Milan/Victor de Sabata (Tosca) rec. 1953
Orchestra of Rome Opera/Jonel Perlea (Manon) rec. 1954 ALTO ALC1009 [79.20]
the elapsing of copyright on 1950s recordings, many people
are looking at various ways re-issuing them. At best, this
means that some recordings have now become available in budget
transfers which are of excellent quality. Musical Concepts
is one of these, issuing an interesting mix of re-mastered
recordings. Their new releases page covers such items as
Handel’s Judas Maccabeus, Sibelius’s complete piano
music, a Viennese Festive mass of 1648 sung by the Yorkshire
Bach Choir and Puccini’s Manon Lescaut with Albanese.
latter recording features on another new disc, this time
billed as Puccini Love Duets. In fact the duets included
are not all love duets; Puccini didn’t really write that
many; he seemed to be more interested in problematic relationships.
But what we have is an attractive selection of duets from
1950s recordings, some of which can rightly be considered
first three tracks come from the classic 1956 recording of La
Boheme conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, with Victoria
de los Angeles, Jussi Björling and Robert Merrill. With an
English conductor, Spanish soprano, Swedish tenor and American
baritone, this was an unlikely candidate for classic recording,
but classic it has remained.
we get O soave fanciulla, Mimi and Rodolfo’s first
duet, O Mimi tu piu non torni, the final act duet
between Rodolfo and Marcello, and Sono andati, Mimi
and Rodolfo’s final duet. The first thing that has to be
said is that I find the sound of these transfers a little
hard. I have heard other transfers which are far kinder to
de los Angeles’s voice, particularly at the end of the first
duet with its magical ending where the lovers walk off, Mimi
singing her top C with the other students in the background.
Here it comes over as a little less than magical, but it
is to be hoped that most listeners will have a transfer of
the full recording in the library somewhere.
disc is very well filled (79 minutes) which might explain
why Sono andati does not run on to the end of the
act but it does seem strange to finish without actually hearing
Mimi’s death scene, lovely though the actual duet is.
next three tracks are from Madama Butterfly, taken
from Tebaldi’s 1950 recording with Alberto Erede. Tebaldi
went on to record the opera again, with Serafin conducting
and with Bergonzi as Pinkerton. This latter recording is
definitely the one to go for if you want Tebaldi as Butterfly.
Here Giuseppe Campora makes a decent Pinkerton in the Love
duet, but you can’t disguise the fact that Tebaldi is not
a lyric soprano. Her Love Duet is far too dramatically voiced
for my taste, also the transfer again makes her upper register
seem a little hard. The second duet is the Flower Duet, not
strictly a love duet as it takes place between Butterfly
and Nell Rankin’s Suzuki. Here both singers achieve a delicately
attractive scaling down of resources and both duets are given
in substantial excerpts (13 minutes and 12 minutes respectively).
comes Tosca, so of course we go for the classic 1953
de Sabata recording with Callas and di Stefano. We get the
Act 1 and Act 3 duets, beautifully done. These recordings
are so well know that there seems to be little to say.
tu amore comes from the 1954 complete recording of Manon Lescaut made
by Licia Albanese with Jussi Björling, conducted by Jonel
Perlea. Albanese makes a fragile sounding Manon, but there
is no getting away from the fact that she was getting older
and she is sometimes unsteady and lacks power in the lower
register. Björling makes a fine Des Grieux even if one
is aware that the role could be a little heavy for him.
we get the closing moments of Turandot, with Inge
Borkh as an attractive Turandot with a fine, focused voice
with quite a hint of steel. Even so she manages to melt at
the requisite moments. As her Calaf, Mario del Monaco is
unsubtle and belts rather, but he has all the notes and a
fine ringing voice. And this excerpt does go to the end of
people will have complete versions of some of the recordings
on this disc, but Alto has produced an attractive and well-filled
disc which makes for good listening. It would be ideal for
someone just beginning to explore Puccini’s music. But also
of interest to a collector who does not possess these recordings
in their library.
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