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Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924)
Il trittico (1918)
Il tabarro
Tito Gobbi (baritone) – Michele; Giacinto Prandelli (tenor) – Luigi; Piero De Palma (tenor) – Il Tinca; Plinio Clabassi (bass) – Il Talpa; Margaret Mas (soprano) – Giorgetta; Miriam Pirazzini (mezzo) – La Frugola; Renato Ercolani (tenor) – Un venditore di canzonette; Piero De Palma (tenor) & Silvia Bertona (soprano) – Due amanti;
Orchestra e Coro del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma/Vincenzo Bellezza
Suor Angelica
Victoria de los Angeles (soprano) – Suor Angelica; Fedora Barbieri (mezzo) – La Zia prioncipessa; Mina Doro  (mezzo) – La badessa; La maestra delle novizie; Corinna Vozza (contralto) – La suora zelatrice; Lidia Marimpietri (soprano) – Suor Genovieffa; La suora infermiera; Una suora cercatrici; Santa Chissari (soprano) – Suor Osmina; Una suora cercatrici; Una novizia; Anna Marcangeli (mezzo) – Suor Dolcina; Silvia Bertona (soprano) & Maria Huder (mezzo) – Due converse; Orchestra e Coro del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma/Tullio Serafin
Gianni Schicchi
Tito Gobbi (baritone) – Gianni Schicchi; Victoria de los Angeles (soprano) – Lauretta; Anna Maria Canali (mezzo) – Zita; Carlo Del Monte (tenor) – Rinuccio; Adelio Zagonara (tenor) –Gherardo; Lidia Marimpietri (soprano) – Nella; Claudio Cornoldi (tenor) – Gherardino; Sturno Meletti (bass) – Betto; Paolo Montarsolo (bass) – Simone; Fernando Valentini (bass) – Marco; Giuliana Raymondi (mezzo) – La Ciesca; Alfredo Mariotti (bass) – Maestro Spinelloccio; Amantio di Nicolao; Virgilio Stoco (bass) – Pinellino; Paolo Caroli (bass) – Guccio; Orchestra del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma/Gabriele Santini
rec. Opera House, Rome, 3-7 October 1955 (Il Tabarro); 3-8 June 1957 (Suor Angelica); 7-13, 23-24, 27 July 1958 (Gianni Schicchi)
Synopsis and libretto with translations can be found at the EMI website They are also available in pdf form on CD 1.
EMI CLASSICS GREAT RECORDINGS OF THE CENTURY 2127142 [3 CDs: 51:31 + 56:08 + 53:00]
Experience Classicsonline

For fifty years these three recordings have been regarded as the classic versions of Il trittico.
 
Premiered on 14 December 1918 at the Metropolitan the three one-acters didn’t exactly conquer the operatic world in a single stride. They have however been fairly regularly performed. Gianni Schicchi is probably the most frequently seen. Today they are firmly established as standard works. On gramophone they have had a somewhat chequered history.
 
These EMI Classics recordings had the market more or less top themselves from the beginning. Then came Decca’s set in the early 1960s, conducted by the reliable Lamberto Gardelli and with Renata Tebaldi in all three female leads. Sonically Decca outdid EMI – only Gianni Schicchi was in stereo. They still sound excellent, which was confirmed when I last year bought the budget-price box with nine Puccini operas from the 1950s and early 1960s – all of them with Tebaldi.
 
In many other respects they are also worth owning. Like the EMI set they were recorded in Italy, with the Orchestra and Chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and with Italian singers in all the roles. The exception is Robert Merrill who sings Michele in Il tabarro. Fernando Corena, who sings the all-important title role in Gianni Schicchi, was born in Geneva in Switzerland to an Italian mother and a Turkish father. Thus he was at least half-Italian. He is regarded as perhaps the greatest buffo bass in the Italian repertoire since the war. He adorned many opera recordings in the 1950s and 1960s, often singing cleverly worked-out comic comprimario roles. There were also serious roles like Il Re in Aida and Rodolfo in La sonnambula. Gianni Schicchi was a dream role for a man with his capacity and he never misses a point – not once. At times he adds a point or two and his general style is larger-than-life. I really don’t mind. However Tito Gobbi’s leaner voice and more sophisticated approach may be more in line with what Puccini expected. Both singers are masterly in their use of the words and they sing with obvious face. In the other heavy baritone role, Michele in Il tabarro, Gobbi is up against Robert Merrill, possessor of one of the most beautiful voices of his or any time. Besides that he was also a powerful actor. For sheer vocalism Merrill is without peer but this is also an important character role and even though Merrill wrings every drop of intensity out of the music his is a more generalized reading. Gobbi, on the other hand, creates a deeper character with more individuality. In the tenor department Giacinto Prandelli is a well behaved Luigi on the EMI set. He is maybe not as sappy as on some other recordings of the period – his Rodolfo a few years earlier against Renata Tebaldi is probably his best assumption on record. Decca has Mario Del Monaco in the role and where Prandelli is a bit strained at climaxes Del Monaco is totally uninhibited. The price you pay is in his reading being rather devoid of nuance. Decca has Tebaldi as Giorgetta. Hers was the epitome of a beautiful grand Italian lirico spinto voice. She has all the necessary power. The French soprano Margaret Mas, whose only complete recording this seems to have been, is nowhere near her in vocal excellence but scores in a higher degree of dramatic involvement.
 
In Gianni Schicchi Rinuccio is sung by the Catalan tenor Carlo Del Monte, who at about the same time was an auspicious Alfredo opposite Victoria de los Angeles in La traviata. He has a fine voice but to my mind he goes over the top. In this role I prefer Decca’s Agostino Lazzari. His is a smaller, more lyrical and brighter voice. The main attraction of Gianni Schicchi, by the side of Gobbi, is Victoria de los Angeles as Schicchi’s daughter. I can’t imagine a lovelier Lauretta and O mio babbino caro has probably never been surpassed … and definitely not by Tebaldi on the Decca set. Much though I admired her during the last 45 years she was not the girlish type – which los Angeles could be. Even though she pours out golden tone it is the frailer sound of Victoria de los Angeles that stays in my memory.
 
This frailty also characterizes her Suor Angelica. She is truly angelic throughout the opera – angelic and human. This sounds like a contradiction in terms but is the only possible way of describing her singing. Again Tebaldi has to be ranked second best, but anyone being second best after Victoria de los Angeles is still a marvellous singer. The Princess is powerfully sung by Fedora Barbieri. Choosing between her and her Decca counterpart Giulietta Simionato is like choosing between apples and pears. They are different but excellent - the two supreme Italian mezzo-sopranos of the day. Fiorenza Cossotto was still at the outset of her career when the EMI set was recorded. In the role of Suor Genovieffa we hear the bright and vivid tones of Lidia Marimpietri, who makes this character stand out.
 
It should be said that the many comprimario roles in all three operas are generally well cast. Tullio Serafin conducts Suor Angelica with loving care. Gianni Schicchi has theatrical flair and more vivid sound than the previous operas.
 
Nowadays EMI are consistently discarding librettos in their booklets and they leave it to the customers to download them or print the pdf files that are available on CD 1.
 
There are several other sets of Il trittico available in more modern recordings. I haven’t heard them all and have concentrated on the two vintage sets discussed above. Good and reliable though the Decca set is I find that the readings of Tito Gobbi and Victoria de los Angeles tips the balance in EMI’s favour. This is still the classic version.
 
Göran Forsling
 

 


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