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Giacomo PUCCINI (1858–1924)
Il Tabarro
(1918) [58.55]
Michele – Ettore Bastianini (baritone)
Giorgetta – Nora de Rosa (soprano)
Luigi – Salvatore Puma (tenor)
Il Tinca – Angelo Mercuriali (tenor)
Il Talpa – Eraldo Coda (bass)
La Frugola – Ebe Ticozzi (contralto)
Il Venditore – Luigi Alva (tenor)
NDR Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Mario Cortone
rec. 21 June 1954, Hamburg



Ettore Bastianini’s career was short but intense. Born in 1922 he made his debut as a baritone in 1952 and was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1962, subsequently dying in 1967. Into that ten year career he managed to squeeze a remarkable number of roles; he did twenty different operas as principal baritone for La Scala. Not surprisingly, his discography is relatively limited, so we should be grateful to Andromeda for digging out this live recording of Puccini’s Il Tabarro made in Hamburg for NDR.

The orchestra and chorus are those of NDR but the cast is completely Italian, even down to the small roles. Nora De Rosa, a slightly younger contemporary of Bastianini’s, sings Giorgetta. She did not make her La Scala debut until 1959, five years after this recording, and was known for her singing of contemporary music. Salvatore Puma is her lover Luigi and the conductor is Mario Cordone. All are names that crop up on recordings from the 1950s and 1960s. Luigi Alva sings the small role of il Venditore; the recording was made the year of his European debut.

The recording has been intermittently available on CD, but Andromeda have newly re-mastered it. The result is admirably cleaned up in terms of sound. Cortone conducts a highly atmospheric performance and the recording picks up on this. From the opening notes of the prelude we are easily caught up in the atmosphere. 

Il Tabarro is one of Puccini’s most dramatic scores and the cast projects the drama of the piece with gusto. At a time when the opera was relatively neglected, it is good to have the melodrama played by an all-Italian cast who relish the over-the-top dramatics of the piece. Bastianini is spellbinding as Michele. He uses his lovely voice to project Michele’s dominating power. Nora de Rosa’s Giorgetta is appealing but her voice can get a bit thin under pressure. Puma is fine, if unsubtle, as Luigi but then the role is hardly one of Puccini’s most sophisticated. Ebe Ticozzi sounds rather past her best as La Frugola but she sounds dramatically credible.

This is, of course, Bastianini’s recording. You would not buy it for the rest of the cast. But all the singers work well together and provide Bastianini with fine support.

The NDR Symphony Orchestra and Chorus play well for Mario Cordone and the wonderfully evocative orchestral effects come over well.

This is not a library recording, nor is it really likely to become a classic historic reissue. But it does give us the opportunity to hear Bastianini recorded in his prime in a role that is not otherwise available.

Robert Hugill




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