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Tito Gobbi – Baritone Masterclass
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857 – 1919)

Prologue:Si puo (I Pagliacci) (1)
Buono Zaza; Zaza puiccola zingara (Zaza) (2)
Francesco CILEA (1866– 1950)

Come due tizzi accesi (L’Arlesiana) (2)
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924)

Minnie, dalla mia casa (La Fanciulla del West) (2)
Te Deum; Gia mi dicon venal (Tosca) (6)
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901)

Credo in un Dio crudel (Otello) (5)
Il Sogno:Era la notte (Otello) (1)
Pari siamo (Rigoletto) (4)
Per me Giunto; Io morro (Don Carlo) (2)
Di Provenza il mar (La Traviata) (4)
Eri tu (Un ballo in maschera) (5)
Urna fatale (La Forza del Destino) (3)
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 – 1791)

Deh vieni (Don Giovanni) (2)
Non piu andrai; Aprite un po (Le Nozze di Figaro) (3)
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792 – 1868)

Largo al factotum (Il Barbiere di Siviglia) (1)
Tito Gobbi (baritone)
Maria Callas (soprano) (6)
Orchestra/Alberto Erede (1)
Orchestra/Umberto Berrettoni (2)
Philharmonia Orchestra/James Robertson (3)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Walter Süsskind (4)
London Symphony Orchestra/Warwick Braithwaite (5)
Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala/Victor de Sabata (6)
Recorded: London, 1948; Italy, 1942; London, 1950; London, 1950; London, 1950; Milan, 1953
REGIS RRC 1183 [78.55]

 

Tito Gobbi’s voice is one of the iconic voices of the 20th Century. His development as an artist was paralleled by the development of the recording process so that his recorded legacy spans the seven arias recorded in 1942 for domestic use in Italy through to some of the finest complete Italian operas ever recorded. Along the way, of course, his is the voice, together with that of tenor Giuseppe di Stefano, which is most closely associated with Maria Callas.

This enterprising disc brings together a selection of Gobbi’s recordings from the first decade of his recording career. He made his debut with the La Scala company in 1935, but did not make any recordings until the 1942 sessions. These are all now quite rare and Regis have included all seven of them (Don Giovanni’s Serenade, Posa’s death scene from ‘Don Carlo’, arias from Leoncavallo’s ‘Zaza’, Cilea’s ‘L’Arlesiana’ and Puccini’s ‘Fanciulla del West’. The next recordings were three arias, ‘Iago’s dream ‘Era la Notte’, Figaro’s ‘Largo al factotum’ and the prologue to ‘Pagliacci’) recorded in London for HMV in 1948. Gobbi’s first post-war engagement outside Italy had been in Stockholm in 1947 and it was in 1948 that his long love affair with the British public began.

Two years later, in 1950, he recorded a group of arias with the newly formed Philharmonia Orchestra; from these sessions Regis have included ‘Urna fatale’ from ‘La Forza del Destino’, Iago’s ‘Credo’ and Figaro’s two arias from ‘La Nozze di Figaro’ (in later life he played the Count rather than Figaro). Later in 1950 he recorded Germont pere’s aria from ‘La Traviata’ and Rigoletto’s monologue ‘Pari siamo’ with Walter Süsskind and the Philharmonia. Gobbi was in London as part of the La Scala company’s short opera season at Covent Garden. Finally in 1950 he recorded arias from ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Un Ballo in Maschera’ with the London Symphony Orchestra. ‘Eri tu’ from ‘Un Ballo in Maschera’ is included here; but unfortunately the fine ‘Macbeth’ take, which was unpublished until it was included in the HMV set ‘The Art of Tito Gobbi’ in 1979, is not here. Finally, Regis have included two extracts from the 1953 complete recording of ‘Tosca’ with ‘Callas’ and di Stefano. Whilst it is good to have a sample of Gobbi’s Scarpia on the disc, it is a pity that Regis could not have sourced an alternative to the well known complete recording.

Walter Legge once referred to Gobbi as ‘The Acting Voice’, and it is this quality which is most apparent in these recordings. With some singers, listening to a selection of arias you are aware of technical ability but must take some dramatic ability as read, sensing that the singer would make most impact in a complete recording or in a live performance. But with Gobbi, each aria takes on its own dramatic context immediately. Regis have not sequenced the arias chronologically, but in composer order. When listening to the disc, it is tempting to try and make your own chronological sequence. But the way Gobbi softens and hushes his voice in Germont’s aria (recorded 1950) contrasts thrillingly with the darkening of his voice in ‘Urna Fatale’ from ‘La Forza del Destino’ (also recorded in 1950), thus confounding this critic’s theories about the changes in Gobbi’s voice over time. It is true that the 1942 recordings do have a honeyed elegance about them; something which never entirely disappears but is supplemented by a greater depth and toughness. Though he did not sing the role until 1950 (at Salzburg), his 1942 recording of Don Giovanni’s Serenade is notable for its lovely, seductive elegance. And in 1950, he dashes off Figaro’s two arias from ‘La Nozze da Figaro’ with a fine sense of style that makes me long to have heard him in a complete performance of the role.

The set opens with the 1948 account of the Prologue from ‘I Pagliacci’; a thrillingly dramatic account which is complemented by the rare inclusion of the full orchestral introduction. This is followed by the three rarities, ‘Buono Zaza’ and ‘Zaza piccolo zingara’ from Leoncavallo’s ‘Zaza’ and ‘Come due tizzi accesi’ from Cilea’s ‘Arlesiana’. It is a pleasure to have these arias in a recital which would otherwise consist of purely well-known items; but it is a double pleasure to hear them in such fine performances.

Inevitably, recital discs such as this overlap with others. Testament released a disc in 1993 which duplicates some of these items but which also offers a number of rather sentimental Italian songs. Regis are to be complimented for assembling a disc which includes such a large amount of Gobbi’s early recordings.


Robert Hugill



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