In the late-1940s through to the mid-1950s the Italian
Cetra opera catalogue, from which this issue derives, was far ahead
of any rival in respect of both breadth and depth of recorded repertoire.
They recorded using largely native singers performing in the front rank
and provincial theatres of Italy. Tebaldi's first recordings appeared
on the label, and it was they who recorded Callas's only studio Violetta,
regrettably with rather provincial support! On this Don Giovanni, three
of the male principal singers all had considerable international careers,
and whilst the remainder of the cast are more provincial, they are by
no means inadequate.
The name of Taddei, as the Don, will be recognised
by many. Of him the Italians said, "we gave Gobbi to the world
but kept Taddei to ourselves". Not strictly true. He is the Leporello
on Giulini's magical 1959 recording of the opera, he recorded under
Karajan for DG, was a majestic Macbeth for Decca, as well as featuring
on several Cetra recordings. His voice hasn't the raw edge of Gobbi's,
and his well-tuned Don is lovely to listen to, but a bit too nice! His
servant Leporello, is Italo Tajo, another Italian with a considerable
international career, his bass voice, and use of his native language,
make the servant a little too strong for his master. The best singing,
and characterisation, comes from Cesare Valletti as Ottavio, (he gets
both his arias). In no way a wimp, I suspect this Ottavio would soon
have a married Donna Anna singing to his well-tuned and mellifluous
There are no real weak links in the rest of the cast.
The worst that can be said is that the Zerlina is a little fluttery
and the Elvira sounds shrill at times, or is it the way the voice catches
the microphone? To me, the
great strength of this worthwhile re-issue, and which
has given me particular pleasure, is hearing native Italians 'playing'
their language, as they sing and interact, and with exemplary diction
The conductor, Max Rudolf, keeps up a lively, at times
hectic, pace. The mono recording is clear with the voices well forward.
The booklet has a full libretto but no translation. This set may have
been long forgotten but it has been a pleasure to listen to, and particularly
at bargain price, is worth adding to one's collection.
Robert J Farr