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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Italo MONTEMEZZI (1875 - 1952)
L’Amore dei Tre Re (1913) (104.18) Libretto by S. Benelli after his play Archibaldo
Ezio Pinza, bass, Archibaldo; Grace Moore, soprano, Fiona; Charles Kullman, tenor, Avito; Richard Bonelli, baritone, Manfredo.
[Sung in Italian]
Italo Montemezzi conducting the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Recorded as broadcast from New York, New York, USA, 15 February 1941
"Pinza Rarities’ including interview (2.58) and commentary (0.13)
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)
Die Zauberflöte: O Isis und Osiris (1791) (3.26) [Sung inGerman]
Victor studio recording, Metropolitan Orchestra & Chorus 5 January 1928
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797 - 1848)
L’Elisir d’Amore: Udite O Rustici (1832) (6.31)
Ford Hour broacast, 4 December 1938
Charles GOUNOD (1818 - 1893)
La Reine de Saba: Sous les pieds d’une femme (1862) (4.58)
Donald Voorhees conducting Bell Telephone Orchestra broadcast 18 November 1946
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 - 1901)
Sim Boccanegra: Il lacerato spirito (1858) (3.38)
Donald Voorhees conducting Bell Telephone Orchestra broadcast 3 February 1947
George Frideric HANDEL (1685 - 1757)
Xerxes: Ombra mai fu (1738) (3.56)
Voice of Firestone broadcast 16 August 1944
Ezio Pinza, bass
Anouncements by Milton Cross.
Notes in English. B/W production photographs. Essay on sources and reconstruction.
AAD monophonic No texts included.
GUILD GHCD 2234-5 [156.14]



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Montemezzi’s L’Amore dei Tre Re (Not to be confused with Prokofiev’s l’Amour de Trois Oranges which was current at about the same time) was at one time a staple at the Met, but has fallen completely out of the repertoire since this recording was made. The story is in the gruesome verismo style. Blind king Archibaldo suspects his daughter in law Fiona of meeting a lover Avito (who was her betrothed before Archibaldo conquered her people and commanded her to marry his son) while Manfredo, her husband and Archibaldo’s son, is away at war. Archibaldo surprises the lovers in flagrante, the lover flees, Fiona is defiant, and he strangles her. In the final act Fiona’s body is resting in state but, unbeknownst to anyone, Archibaldo has put poison on Fiona’s lips, expecting her lover to show up and give her one final kiss. The trap works, but also catches Fiona’s husband Manfredo, and the curtain falls on the usual pile of dead bodies.

The opera premiered in 1913 in Italy to indifferent notices; but when Toscanini took it up in 1918 and thereafter championed it, the work enjoyed some success in Europe and America over the next years. Milton Cross in his radio foreword mentions that the work is ‘securely in the Met repertoire’ but in fact this 1941 broadcast performance was nearly the last one. Eight years later the opera was revived once, and then fell out of the repertoire. The score is intriguing now and then but derivative, and can anyone be sympathetic for the character of an enraged Italian king who strangles his daughter in law on stage? For me the greatest interest here was Charles Kullman whose magnificent voice triumphs over whatever he sings. When he has great music to sing, as he did in 1936 in Vienna with Bruno Walter, the result is legendary.

The restorer Richard Caniel is very eloquent in his praise of this opera which he considers to be one of the great operatic masterpieces of all time and of Pinza’s performance, and indeed his singing overall. Caniel doesn’t care for Grace Moore in general, but suggests that in this case her usual inflexible tone is symmetrical with the hard character of Fiona.

The restored sound is quite good throughout, with clear, undistorted voices, little stage noise clutter, no crackle or scratch, and relatively little congestion at the orchestral climaxes, but still this is not a hi-fi recording. During this period broadcast and recording engineers tended to turn the gain up and down capriciously and in restoration an effort has been made to repair this.

Arthur Honegger specifically denied any connection between the title of this opera (or the Christmas story) and the subtitle of his Fifth Symphony, ‘Di tre re,’ written in 1950, but that has not stopped speculation.

This recording has also been reviewed on Musicweb by Robert J. Farr.

Paul Shoemaker

See also review by Robert Farr



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