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