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Rolando Panerai (baritone)
Mattiwilda Dobbs (soprano)(7, 8); Margherita Carosio (soprano)(13); and others
Philharmonia Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan (1, 2); Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan/Tullio Serafin (3); Philharmonia Orchestra/Alceo Galliera (4-12); Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan/Nino Sanzogno
rec. July 1954 (1, 2), March 1953 (3), October 1953 (4-12), March 1954 (13)
NIMBUS Prima voce NI 7949 [72:46]

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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)

Così fan tutte:
1. Non siate ritrosi [2:33]
2. Donne miei la fate a tanti [3:03]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801–1835)

I puritani:
3. Or dovefuggo io mai? … Ah! per sempre io ti … Bel sogno beato [7:55]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792–1868)

Il barbiere di Siviglia:
4. Largo al factotum della città [4:57]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)

Il trovatore:
5. Il balen del suo sorriso [3:13]
La traviata:
6. Di Provenza il mar, il suol [4:19]
Rigoletto:
7. Pari siamo! … Figlia! Mio padre! [9:06]
8. Chi e mai [5:11]
Otello:
9. Vanne; La tua meta gia vedo ... Credo in un Dio crudel [4:39]
10. E qual certenza … Era la notte [3:38]
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1858–1919)

Pagliacci:
11. Prologue: Si può? Si può? [7:53]
Umberto GIORDANO (1867–1948)

Andrea Chenier:
12. Nemico della patria [4:32]
Giancarlo MENOTTI (1911–2007)

Amelia al ballo:
13. Non si va! … Amelia cara [11:47]

Rolando Panerai had a long and distinguished career. Born in 1924 he made his debut in 1947. As recently as 2000 he could be seen in a French TV production of La traviata opposite José Cura and Eteri Gvazava, still with his voice in good shape.

On the present disc Nimbus have collected some early Columbia recordings, including a long excerpt from the complete I puritani, which was his first commercial recording. There he sang opposite Callas, Di Stefano and Rossi-Lemeni. The first two tracks are from the legendary Karajan recording of Così fan tutte with Schwarzkopf, Simoneau and Bruscantini - still regarded as one of the best versions ever. Both these sets have recently been reissued by Naxos. The rest of the material is a recital with standard arias and a long excerpt from Menotti’s Amelia al ballo from La Scala. All of this was recorded before he turned 30. We hear a healthy youthful voice, quite lyrical. In fact he retained a certain lightness all through his career, which also allowed him to take on Mozart roles quite late. His Guglielmo is truly charming and elegant, challenging Erich Kunz on the roughly contemporaneous Decca recording. His characteristic quick vibrato is easily recognizable. He doesn’t sound completely comfortable in the Puritani scene, a bit insecure and slightly off-pitch a couple of times, but I imagine there were nerves at this premiere recording. In the recital, recorded half a year later, he is much more confident. He is a lively barber, a little pinched at the top. Il balen from Il trovatore is given a sensitive lyrical reading of the kind he also sang in his complete recording for Karajan a few years later. He is a bit over-emphatic in Germont’s Provence aria from Traviata but again his hallmark is sensitivity. His Rigoletto may not be tortured enough but he is expressive and has deep insight nevertheless. He is partnered by the young Mattiwilda Dobbs in the duet from act 1 and also in the final scene of the opera, starting a few pages before the duet Lassù in cielo. Ms Dobbs sings delightfully but is a bit cool and maybe she is too soubrettish.

For Iago’s Credo from Otello Panerai very appropriately darkens his voice and applies a harder tone in an expressive reading that is clearly modelled on Gobbi’s even then legendary 1940s recording. Truth to tell Panerai has the better voice though the older singer makes an even more detailed villain. Still this is Panerai at his best. He is oily and insinuating in Era la notte and both the Pagliacci prologue and the taxing aria from Andrea Chenier are splendidly sung. The scene from Menotti’s Amelia al ballo is a rarity but we are offered spirited singing from Panerai and also from Margherita Carosio in the title role. The Ravelian orchestra is a great asset too.

Generally the reproduction of the orchestra isn’t that impressive – quite murky in fact in the opening numbers. However one soon adjusts to it. Even though we are not treated to the highest of fidelity the sound is acceptable, considering that it’s the singing that is the main thing here.

Rolando was one of the most reliable baritones in the Italian repertoire for several decades. It is good to have him in these central roles. "One of the most beautiful baritone voices of the 20th Century" writes Alan Bilgora in the liner-notes and it is not difficult to endorse that verdict.

Göran Forsling

 

 

 

 

 


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