> Marion Del Monaco: Decca Singers: 467 919-2 [RJF]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Mario Del MONACO, tenor (1915- )
‘The Singers’ series

Arias by Giordano, Puccini, Halévy, Bellini, Verdi, Wagner and other sung pieces by Bizet, Franck, Gastaldon, Bernstein and Brodsky
Rec. Italy, Austria, and France, 1953-69
DECCA 467 919-2 [72.38]



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This disc is one of the first twenty, issued on the Decca label, under the generic title ‘The Singers’. The series, with another thirty in preparation, claims to present the artistry of the greatest singers from first century of recording. The selection of these first releases was made by the late John Ardoin and is somewhat idiosyncratic in its choice of tracks from amongst the rich treasuries of DG, Philips and Decca. More significantly, these discs are more than merely sonic CDs but are enhanced for those with CD-ROM facility, to include photo gallery, biographies and texts. If you lack a suitable PC you get a booklet with brief essay and track listing, the latter minus such basic information as to operatic character singing the aria! The presentation aims to be different and unique, being a cardboard case within a plastic slip case emblazoned ‘The Singers’

Born in 1915, Del Monaco’s career was interrupted by the war after which it accelerated rapidly, culminating in his La Scala debut as Andrea Chénier alongside Renata Tebaldi. His virile, open-throated, powerful singing was matched by his stage acting, and he became a favourite at both La Scala and new York’s Met throughout the 1950s. He was signed up by Decca and during that decade made many opera recordings often alongside Tebaldi. But what thrills in a theatre doesn’t necessarily transfer to disc. What you don’t get with del Monaco is elegance of phrasing, soft singing or vocal characterisation. These facets of singing are much missed when it comes to repeated listening and particularly when the stentorian tone becomes wearing.

In this ‘The Singers’ issue, del Monaco is heard at his best in the heroic roles of Chénier (tk 1), Pollione (tk 5) and particularly as Otello (tk 8) which he claimed to have sung over 400 times. Perhaps the contradiction I find in del Monaco’s singing is exemplified in the aria from Verdi’s Ballo in Maschera (tk 7), where he starts with a good line and tenor tone, but ends all power and no elegance.

As to the Wagner extracts, yes, he could have made a fine heldentenor, but he would first have had to learn the style of that fach, as Domingo has attempted. As it is, these extracts (tks 10-13) would have been better left in the vaults as would his efforts with Bizet’s Agnus dei, Panis Angelicus, Musica probita, and Tonight from West Side Story. The repertoire choices on this disc are highly idiosyncratic: the singer is better served on the Grandi voci issue (Decca 440 407-2). The booklet essay is bland.

Robert J Farr

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