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Portraits – Franco Corelli - Arias
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

La fanciulla del West (1910) – Una parola sola … Or son sei mesia [3’40]; Ch’ella mi creda libero e lontanob [1’59]. Turandota (1826) – Non piangere Liù [2’30]; Nessun dorma [2’57]. Toscab (1900) – Recondita armonia [2’56]; E lucevan le stelle [2’50]. Manon Lescaut (1893) – Tra voi bellec [1’16]. Madama Butterfly (1904) – Addio fiortio asilc [1’41]; Amore o grillo dir non sapreid [0’58].

Francesco CILEA (1866-1950)

Adriana Lecouvreuera (1902) – La dolcissima effigie [2’07]; L’anima ho stanca [1’35].

Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)

La Favorita – Una Vergine, un angiol di Diob [2’43]. Lucia di Lammermoor – Tombe degli avi miei … Fra poco a me ricoveroe [7’24].

Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Werther (1892) – Dividerci dobbiamc (with Loretta Di Lelio, Carlotta) [3’20]; Ah, non mi ridestarf [2’53].

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Ernani (1844) – Mercé diletti amici … Come rigiada al cespiteg [3’47]. Il trovatore (1853) – Quale d’armi … Ah sì! Ben mio coll’essereg [6’20]; Di quella pirag [2’07]; Deserto sulla terrah [1’41]. Aida (1871) – Se quel guerrier … Celeste Aidag [4’46]. Otello (1839) – Dio, fulgar della bufera … Esultate!h [2’25]. I Lombardi (1843) – La mia letizia infondere [2’25]. Rigoletto (1851) – La donna è mobilee [2’34]; Questa o quellac [2’01]. Un ballo in maschera (1859) – Forse la soglia attinse … Ma se m’è forza perdertie [5’07]. La forza del destino (1862, rev. 1869) – La vita è inferno … O tu che in seno angelih [6’44]. Simon Baccanegra (1857, rev. 1881) – Sento avvampar nell’anima … Cielo pietosoc [3’58].

Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

Carmen (1875) – Il fiore che avevi a me tu datof [4’14].

Arrigo BOITO (1842-1918)

Mefistofele (1868) – Giunto sul passo estremof [3’23]; Dai campi dai pratic [2’12].

Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1858-1919)

Pagliaccif (1892) – Recitar … Vesti la giubba [3’41]; No, pagliaccio non son [3’07].

Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)

Cavalleria rusticana (1890) - Mamma quel vino è generoso (Addio alla madre)f [3’54]. Lodoletta (1917) – Se Franz dicesse il vera … Ah, ritovarla nella sua capannaf [4’59].

Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)

Andrea Chénierf (1896) – Colpito qui m’avete … Un dì all;azzurro spazio [2’34]; Come un bel dì di maggio [3’20]. Fedoraf (1898) – Amor ti vieta [3’13]; Mia madre … Vedi io piango [7’01].

Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)

Norma (1831) – Svanir le voci … Meco all’altar di Venerei (with Athos Cesarini, Flavio) [9’58].

Franco Corelli (tenor);
a-iOrchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI/afghArturo Basile, bFulvio Vernizzi, cdUmberto Cattini, eAlfredo Simonetto.
Rec. in Turin on aDecember 15th, 1955, bJanuary 11th, 1956, ciFebruary 19th, dJune 9th, 1958, ehunknown, fApril 5th, gFebruary 5th, 1957.
WARNER FONIT 5050466-3303-2-1 [two discs] [144’07: 73’09 + 70’58]


This set makes for a timely memorial to Franco Corelli, who died on October 29th, 2003 (he was born in 1921). Made shortly after Franco Corelli’s career really took off following a Carmen at Spoleto in August 1951, these early recordings for Cetra (which span the years 1955-58) reveal all the urgent virility of the young Corelli. To contextualise them, Corelli had already debuted at La Scala (1954); Covent Garden came in 1957, the Met in 1961.

Here already is an intense sensitivity to text and phrasal inflection (chiaroscuro). Interesting also is the fact that included in this selection are arias from operas that Corelli never made complete studio versions (La fanciulla del West, Adriana Lecouvreur, Forza, Werther) and also of operas that he never sang in the theatre (La favorita, I lombardi … not to mention the nowadays rare Mefistofele or the even rarer Lodoletta). Added to this are recordings of works he sang on occasion but of which there are no other recordings (Fedora, Boccanegra). This discographical background alone makes this a fascinating and invaluable document – that the performances themselves are so hypnotically gripping and that the recordings are in general perfectly acceptable makes this a must-buy for anyone even vaguely interested in the heroic, passionate yet sensitive Franco Corelli. The actual programming balance on the discs works well, too, with arias so famous they are part of our blood alongside much rare-heard items.

Interesting that the set opens with Johnson’s, ‘Una parola sola … Or son sei mesi’ from Puccini’s Fanciulla del West. Corelli, not for the last time in these recordings, positively dwarfs the orchestra by the sheer presence of his voice. If the orchestra is sometimes out of tune and often plain scrawny, Corelli exudes confidence. His voice at forte-fortissimo has an edge that can cut through the orchestral forces, and yet it is not uncomfortable to listen to. But with Corelli it is the lyric element that is special, and if ‘Non piangere Liù’ (Turandot) provides a perfectly acceptable lead-in to this aspect of his art, it is the ‘Nessun dorma’ that pinpoints Corelli’s essence. Identifiably not Pavarotti, he carries a more human lyricism while remaining impressive in full cry. The Pagliacci excerpts underline this – in ‘Recitar … Vesti la giubba’ Corelli is perhaps not as over the top as some (especially around the ‘Ridi’ mark) yet there is again the human element that convinces so completely. The second Pagliacci excerpt, ‘No pagliaccio non son’ confirms impressions of these 1957 performances with Basile – after a dark orchestral introduction that sets the scene perfectly, there is nothing hackneyed whatsoever about the ensuing Italianate angst. In Trovatore’s ‘Quale d’armi … Ah sì! Ben mio coll’essere’ he shades his line beautifully (but who is the other singer?); his ‘Di quella pira’ is lusty and virile, but possibly not in the swaggering Domingo mould (with Giulini, for example).

Corelli certainly knows how to make a recitative interesting – his ‘Se quel guerrier’ is almost as gripping as his silken legato in ‘Celeste Aida’.

The lyric flowering of Cilea’s ‘La dolcissima effigie’ (Adriana Lecouvreur) is balanced by the extreme tendresse of the Werther excerpt (sung in Italian), where he is joined by a lovely Carlotta in the form of Loretta Di Lelio. Interesting that the Carmen excerpt is also in Italian (here ‘Il fiore che avevi a me tu dato’); much more interesting is the fact that Corelli can make one believe that Carmen was originally in Italian, so natural is the flow.

Sometimes the recording cannot handle the forces it is attempting to record for posterity. The powerful Otello segment exemplifies this perfectly – with chorus and orchestra at full pelt, these microphones do not really stand a chance. Interesting that the programme order juxtaposes this mighty statement with a much earlier one (from I lombardi), which Corelli rescues by spinning a golden line over an oom-pah-pah string accompaniment. ‘La donna è mobile’ is taken slowly and not entirely convincingly, and is marred by a fatally indulgent final note. If there is a touch of the shout about his ‘Deserto sulla terra’ and his lower register cannot cope totally with the demands of the Forza fragment, his Verdi remains impressive for his seeming involvement with each and every situation.

Another highlight is the excerpts from Andrea Chénier. These work well as a threesome, with Corelli’s declamatory superiority coming to the fore in ‘Colpito qui m’avete … Un dì all’azzurro spazio’ and ‘Sì fui soldato’. Perhaps the most impressive is ‘Come un bel dì maggio’, wherein Corelli builds slowly from an initial thread, timing his climax to perfection.

The penultimate track (‘Addio fiorito asil’ from Butterfly) is so impressive in conception, one has to ask whether the final, lighter ‘Amore o grillo’ is really necessary, light and fluffy though it is. If it was originally intended as an ‘encore’, it does not really function as such in context.

Accompanied by a clutch of experienced operatic conductors, this set represents a very worthwhile portrait of Corelli in his Cetra years.

Colin Clarke



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