operatic recital reissues continue apace. Some discs feature
artists and repertoire that will be familiar to collectors today.
Others might be less familiar – and this is one such.
the reproduction of the original sleeve-otes is rendered all
but illegible by the font size and typeface I consulted the
Decca website to find out more. Corena was born in Geneva
to a Turkish father and Italian mother on 22 December 1916.
After studying in Milan he made his debut in 1937 in Zurich.
After the war he appeared as Varlaam at Trieste. For the Metropolitan
Opera in 1954 he sang Leporello and Covent Garden saw him as
Dr Bartolo - in Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia - in the 1960s.
He died at Lugano on 26 November 1984, and is chiefly remembered
for his prowess in the buffo repertory.
An undoubted strength
of this recital is that it captures Corena in the music he excelled
in with his voice in good form. It is impossible not to be aware
of Corena’s gifts as an interpreter of text. As one would expect,
his approach is rather different from that of today. Some of
the music has sadly passed out of fashion too. For all that,
his are fine interpretations even if occasionally they may seem
a touch fussy or over-emphasised. But he certainly gets inside
his characters. Don Magnifico (La Cenerentola) is given the
full buffo treatment, and when the opportunity comes he does
not shy away from using falsetto to invest the line with wit.
His vocal agility throughout the programme is enviable.
The Thomas aria
invites comparison with Ezio Pinza, and whilst Corena gives
the music uncut and his reading is fine in itself, he does not
show qualities to stand beside Pinza’s in terms of shading and
shaping the vocal line. Saint-Saëns demonstrates that he was
not most comfortable at the bottom of his voice – I’d say he
was more a bass-baritone than a true bass. The short Offenbach
aria with which the recital ends shows him very much on top
form, relishing the humour of the piece. On the whole it is
the humorous items that he appears more at ease with, and they
for this reason they prove more memorable.
The recording sessions
captured consistency in the voice itself, and both source recordings
place him rather forward. Where the atmosphere and orchestral
accompaniments are concerned differences can be noted. The September
session in Florence seems rather cool, with little warmth to
the tone. The Maggio Musicale orchestra
appear of thinner presence than is ideal. The session with the
Suisse Romande conducted by James Walker (who was also the producer)
preserves the orchestra with greater fidelity, even if some
small uncertainty enters into the vocal tone, for example during
the Thomas aria.
wasn’t a great singer, but he wasn’t a dull one either, and
this enjoyable disc can be recommended. My recommendation would
have been stronger had texts been provided to accompany a playing
time greater than the minimal 39 minutes given here. Other recordings
of him exist in the Decca archive – largely on complete recordings
of Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, Donizetti, Bellini, etc. – so ‘big
aria’ extracts might have been included to provide a fuller
picture of Corena’s art. The ‘classic recital’ marketing concept
would not have suffered too much if the programme had been supplemented
in this way.