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Giuseppe Di STEFANO - La bella voce di tenore
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Tosca: "Recondita armonia’; Tosca: “E lucevan le stele”; La Bohème: “Che gelida manina”
Francesco CILEA (1866-1950) L’Arlesiana: “Lamento di Federico”
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945) Cavalleria Rusticana: Siciliano; Cavalleria Rusticana: “Mama, qual vino e generoso”
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848) Lucia di Lammermoor: “Sulla tomba, che rinserra”; Lucia di Lammermoor: “Tombe degli avi miei…Fra poco a me ricovero”; Lucia di Lammermoor: “Tu che a Dio spiegasti l'ali”
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) La Traviata: “Lungi da lei…De' miei bollenti spiriti”
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912) Manon: ‘Io son sol ... Ah! Dispar vision”
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896) Mignon: “Addio Mignon! Fa Core!”; Mignon: “Ah! Non credevi tu!”
Traditional, arranged Favara: “A la Barcillunisa”
Traditional: “a timuni”
Salvatore CARDILLO (1874-1947) “Core 'ngrato”
Ernesto de CURTIS (1875-1937) ‘Torna a Surriento”
Eduardo di CAPUA (1864-1917) “O solo mio”
Giuseppe di Stefano (tenor)
with Melchiorre Luise, Maria Callas, Ebe Ticozzi Raffaele Arié
Orchestra of La Scala Milan, Victor de Sabata/Tullio Serafin; London Symphony Orchestra/Alberto Erede; RCA Victor Orchestra/Renato Cellini; Chorus and Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale, Fiorentino/Tullio Serafin; New London Opera Orchestra/Alberto Erede, Dino Olivieri
Rec. 1947-1953
REGIS RRC1202 [76.34]


On the back cover of the CD case, James Murray writes: ‘In his heyday Giuseppe Di Stefano quite simply possessed the most beautiful tenor voice on the planet.’

Knowing Di Stefano’s reputation, and after the experience of listening to this operatic recital disc, I am inclined to agree. The recordings are all taken from the later 1940s and the early 1950s, when the singer was in his prime. They come from a variety of sources, including complete opera performances in which other artists also appear.

If the performances are special, the recordings are more mixed. But that was the nature of recordings during the period in question. Some are decidedly scratchy, for example the opening Puccini items from Tosca, but the vibrancy of the performances is ample compensation. Of more concern is the balance in perspective between voice and orchestra, which tends to put the voice very much to the front with the orchestra somewhere behind: exactly where varies from one example to the next. While Di Stefano’s voice is special, it would be better heard in a perspective that the composers intended.

The chosen repertoire, of course, is the repertoire Di Stefano made his own: Puccini, Donizetti, Verdi, Mascagni, with a dash of French opera thrown in from Thomas and Massenet. And the programme is completed by a group of Neapolitan songs which, if anything, are most enjoyable of all.

Information about the collected artists is fully listed, but alas there is little about the recordings except their year; there are no dates or venues. On the other hand, the accompanying documentation is well above average, since the booklet includes a perceptive essay about Di Stefano (b. 1921), written by James Murray, and short but useful programme notes on the various musical items. Recital discs seldom fare so well as this in terms of documentation. 

Although the age of the recordings requires a degree of tolerance on the part of the listener, the vibrancy of the performances and the imaginative choice of repertoire combine to make this disc an appealing proposition. There are highlights galore. The Neapolitan songs, including O sole mio, are magnificent, Che gelida manina (La Bohème) is particularly fine if very centre-stage. And among the less familiar items, the aria from Act III of Massenet’s Manon is impressive enough to make anyone go out and seek a recording of the complete opera.

Terry Barfoot



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