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Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Dusolina GIANNINI (soprano) (1902-1986)
Arias and Duets
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Aida, ‘Ritorna vincitor’ ‘O patria mia’.
La forza del destino, ‘Son giunta! ... Madre, pietosa Vergine’.
La forza del destino, ‘Pace, pace mio Dio’.
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)

Mignon, ‘Connais-tu le pays?’
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834-1886)

La Gioconda, ‘Suicidio’.
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Tosca, ‘Vissi d’arte’
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)

Cavalleria rusticana, ‘Dite, Mamma Lucia…Sono scomunicata’
Cavalleria rusticana, ‘Voi lo sapete, o mamma’.
Cavalleria rusticana, ‘ Intermezzo’
Carrie JACOBS BOND (1862-1946)

‘I Love You Truly’
Ethelbert NEVIN (1901-1939)

‘The Rosary’
San Francisco Opera Orchestra. Cond. Gaetano Merola. Broadcast excerpts: War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco. 19th September 1943 and 30th January 1944
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Cond. Pietro Cinini. Broadcast excerpts: Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles. 15th August 1943
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110145 [50.24]

 

Dusolina Giannini was the younger of two opera-singing daughters of the tenor Enrico, who emigrated from his native Italy in 1885 and made the first operatic records for Emil Berliner in 1895. After marriage, he settled in Philadelphia and opened a small theatre. This is relevant to Dusolina because it was in that theatre that she sang, at the age of 12 no less, the roles of La Cieca in ‘La Gioconda’, and Azucena in ‘Il Trovatore’! She must have had an unusually strong voice for her age, particularly in the lower registers, to have attempted those roles even in a small theatre. She made her full debut in a New York concert in 1923, deputising for a sick colleague, and sang Aida and Santuzza in Hamburg in 1925 followed by appearances in Berlin, Vienna and at Covent Garden as Aida. At this stage of her career the big lyrico-spinto roles seemed to be her fach and in the same year that she had sung Aida at Covent Garden she recorded the role with Pertile as Radames. She was viewed as one of the most exciting ‘Italian’ singers of the period alongside contemporaries such as Cigna, Bruna-Rasa and Caniglia who were singing a similar repertoire. Giannini appeared at Salzburg 1934-1936 as Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) and Alice Ford (Falstaff) and whilst the first of those roles would have utilised her extended vocal range I wonder about the appropriateness of the second. Giannini sang at The Met from 1935-1942 but making only twenty appearances. In 1938 she sang the role of Hester in the premiere of her borther, Vittorio Giannini’s opera The Scarlett Letter (Hamburg, 2 June 1938). She appeared in many American cities during World War II and appeared again in Europe 1947-1950.

I give the above in more detail than usual because the singer’s name may not be as well known to many as that of Rosa Ponselle, for example, and the other contemporaries mentioned. Giannini’s voice, with its dark colour, was distinctly different to that of Ponselle, who can be heard in Verdi on Naxos Historical 8.110728. There her lighter tones, and greater vocal security are obvious. With Giannini, portrayal of the drama is all, with evenness of vocal emission or legato taking second place. There are similarities in her vocal strengths, and weaknesses, to mid-1950s Callas. Characterisation is all and hang the odd sour note or ugly sound. In this short measure selection from broadcast performances, we are able to hear the singer in some of her favourite operatic roles, and, in addition, in two ballads of which she was fond. In the singing of these two, now largely forgotten songs, we can hear the full beauty of Giannini’s voice without her having to ‘ride’ the orchestra, or trying to ‘live’ the emotions of an operatic part in the cold of a concert performance (trs. 6-7).

The recorded sound is variable between the broadcasts with the orchestral sound in the first ‘Forza’ extract being rather constricted, even distorted (tr.1), whilst Rittorna Vincitor from the 1944 San Francisco broadcast is boxy. The sleeve note, like the timing is distinctly sparse. As the broadcasts were of concert performances there is applause, abbreviated, after each item. As Giannini has an extended recorded legacy on 78s I can only assume the wish to present her in concert inhibited Naxos Historical’s, normally generous in timings, from giving more abundant measure.

This disc provides opportunity to hear a dramatic ‘Italianate’ spinto from a period when such voices were commonplace compared to today. The name may be new to many, but Giannini was a considerable artist well worth hearing.

Robert J Farr

 



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