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Titta Ruffo
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

Il Barbiere di Siviglia; Largo al factotum [4.12]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Nabucco; Tremin gl’insani [2.39]
Ernani; Oh1 de’ verd’anni miei [4.20]
Rigoletto; Pari siamo [3.49]
Un Ballo in Maschera; Erti tu che macchiavi [4.26]
Otello; Credo in un Dio crudel [4.06]
Otello; Era la notte [4.10]
Otello; Si, pel cielo marmoreo giuro [1.36]
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)

Dinorah; Sei vendicata assai [3.47]
L’Africana; All’erta marinar [3.38]
L’Africana; Adamastor, re delle acque profonde [4.26]
Georges GOUNOD (1818-1893)

Faust; Dio possente [3.59]
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)

Amleto; O vin [4.37]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Thais; Ahimè! [2.56]
Thais; Ecco dunque l’orribil città [2.54]
Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)

Andrea Chenier; Son sessant’anni [2.50]
Andrea Chenier; nemico della patria [4.05]
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1858-1919)

Zazà; Buona Zazà del mio buon tempo [2.02]
Zazà; Zazà; piccolo zingara [2.28]
Alberto FRANCHETTI (1860-1942)

Cristoforo Colombo; Aman lassù le stele [3.36]
Cristoforo Colombo; Dunque ho sognato [3.26]
Titta Ruffo (baritone)
With unnamed accompaniments
Recorded 1914-21
PREISER 89607 [77.03]

The magnificent Ruffo is well served by this Preiser release. It covers his Victors made roughly on either side of the Great War, sessions made in January and February 1914 (and then again a year later) and the renewed series starting in April 1920. The repertoire is central to his standing, and exclusively Franco-Italian.

He exhibits here huge reservoirs of personality as well as magnificently deployed sonorous vocalism. True, his Barber was maybe just a touch more athletic in his early 1907 recording than in the 1920 remake – but what wit and excitement this enshrines nevertheless, and full of the most dextrously applied effects, seldom if ever overdone. He was at his happiest in the upper reaches of the range – a remarkable extension that abetted him during his long career and though the lowest reaches were impressive they contained a rather occluded quality that lacked ultimate definition. That relative weakness is seldom audible during these discs, recorded when he was still at his peak (he was born in 1877).

His Nabucco is buoyancy itself aided by a veritable palette of colouristic devices whilst his Rigoletto, from 1920, is superbly leonine, powerful, dramatic, revealing a cast iron technique throughout almost all the range. Other examples of his Rigoletto were recorded at around this time but this is the only example here – but surely enough to convince anyone of his standing. Earlier in 1915 we find in his Un Ballo extract that the voice is a touch lighter but one can equally hear Ruffo harden and centre the tone for maximal impact.

Maybe the Dinorah example shows him in somewhat strenuous form but the Faust (in Italian of course) sees him back to his best form – portamento-rich, full of colour and shading, great feeling and martial bellicosity. Ruffo could float a half voice - try his Otello Credo – but all the while maintaining massive authority and he could generate tension expertly; Era la notte is a genuine example of bleached withdrawn tone allied to high tensile theatrical impersonation. His Thais example is noble and his Leoncavallo important. He premiered Edipo Re in 1920, six years after he recorded these unusual and rare extracts from Zazà – where we find him relaxed, unforced, sympathetic but all the while a master of the powerful magnetism of his voice.

Of course one can find plenty of examples of Ruffo’s art but I commend this selection for its authority and intelligence of selection. Fine copies have been used and sensitive studio restoration reveals the voice in all its glory, the glory that was Ruffo.


Jonathan Woolf



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