What a wonderful bargain this is, two La Bohème’s
for the price of one (well almost). But if only Tebaldi could
have been teamed with di Stefano in one glorious recording?
Alberto Erede’s concept of Puccini’s masterpiece
is robustly romantic and gloriously atmospheric (listen to his
striking interpretation of the music as the stove’s flames lick
Rodolfo’s manuscript and then die as the pages are consumed).
Erede’s pacing is energetic in keeping with this youthful story.
In his faster tempi, he emulates Toscanini (as heard in his 1946
broadcast performance) but there is also sensitivity and deeply
felt emotion as in the Act III quartet ‘Dunque è proprio
finite?’ and in Act IV’s death scene
By the time of this recording, Renata Tebaldi
had an exclusive contract with Decca and she would go on to record
for another 23 years. She was a respected and much-loved lyric
soprano. As Malcolm Walker, in his well-observed notes for this
album, remarks, "[this] first recording of La Bohème
(she would record the same work in stereo eight years later) is
notable for the freshness and richness of her voice. She also
conveys much delicacy in her interpretation of Mimi especially
in the first act." Yes, indeed, you believe implicitly that
this is a young frail, innocent girl (just listen to those
plaintive sighs, for instance – just the right amount of pathos).
And her death scene in Act IV is so moving. Opposite her as Rodolfo,
the light-voiced tenor, Giacinto Prandelli is equally refined
with clarity and affecting rubato, a performance of distinction
and sincerity if without the glorious distinctive timbre of di
Young and up-and-coming, at the time of this
recording, Hilde Gueden is inspired casting as Musetta, tauntingly
coquettish without being strident, secure in her high notes and
strong but subtle in her silky middle and upper registers. Giovanni
Inghilleri is a staunch but world-weary and long-suffering Marcello
and bass Raphaël Arie as Colline is affecting in his self-sacrificing
aria ‘Vecchia zimarra’ singing farewell to the comfort of his
overcoat so that medicine can be purchased for the dying Mimi.
CD2 comprises eight La Bohème excerpts
recorded at various times in between 1949 and 1951 featuring the
glorious tenor tones of Giuseppe di Stefano one of the mightiest
Puccini heroes. Again quoting Malcolm Walker, "His top register
was exciting, his mezza-voce velvety in texture and his diction
perfect". So true, just listen to his thrillingly passionate
‘Che gelida manina’ that opens these excerpts and his rapturous
Act I duet with Mimi (a sympathetic Licia Albanese). Perfection.
In support, Patrice Munsel is a rather lightweight and rather
too pure-sounding Musette here but Leonard Warren is splendidly
virile and self-righteous as Marcello. And Nicola Moscona’s staunch
bass voice makes is ideal for the magnanimous Colline.
Truly golden voices in glorious productions of
La Bohème – what a pity that Tebaldi (in a full
production of the opera here) could not have been teamed with
di Stefano (in excerpts as an appendix filler on CD2) in one outstanding
'The Decca ffrr sound of the 1950s, even for
their early '50s Mono recordings, has always been admired. The
sound quality of this opera recording is no exception.'