Tito Schipa had the sort of voice that the early gramophone recording
processes loved. The results sounded convincingly like Schipa’s
own voice and as a result the singer was remarkably relaxed in
the recording studio.
This CD is volume 2 of the Naxos Schipa
Edition and covers acoustic and electric recordings from the
singer’s prime. These 1924–25 sessions are often overlooked,
overshadowed by the rarer early recordings and the later electric
disc opens with three duets recorded with Amelita Galli-Curci.
In the Rigoletto duet, Schipa displays his customary
elegance of line, though there is a suspicion of heaviness in
the more elaborate vocal ornaments. Galli-Curci is touching,
but a bit distantly recorded. In the Lucia di Lamermoor
duet, Galli-Curci’s white voice impresses with its fluency but
sounds far removed from modern interpretations of the role.
But it is Schipa that we want to hear and his voice is one that
would stand transfer to the modern age. For the Don Pasquale
duet the singers are well balanced. Rarely can this duet have
been better recorded.
recording schedule included a significant number of lighter
items, things with which he delighted the audiences in his recitals.
His own Ave Maria is not modern in style, but is surprisingly
passionate. Inevitably there are the necessary character numbers,
De Crescenzo’s Ce steve ’na vota has the aura of a Neapolitan
Song and Campero’s Madrigal Español is the first of a
number of Spanish and Latin American items on the disc.
La donna e mobile Schipa provides wonderful characterisation
within the music, his elegance of line rarely causing distortion;
the track is pure pleasure. Falla’s Jota is a pleasant
surprise and is remarkably successful. The arrangement of Liszt’s
Liebestraum is surprisingly intimate and shows us how
well Schipa scales down his voice.
Sole Mio is given
a startling tango/habanera makeover. Schipa’s own A Cuba
is attractively Latin-American. The two traditional songs are
done with piano accompaniment and again Schipa charms; you have
to love the performances because of the care that Schipa bestows
on this rather flimsy material.
M’appari from Flotow’s Martha we return to the
opera house and Schipa again impresses with his beautiful phrasing.
For the two duets from La Boheme Lucrezia Bori is a moving,
girlish Mimi with an attractive catch in her voice. You could
perhaps wish for a Rodolpho with a richer, more rounded tone
but Schipa is well balanced with Bori. These performances are
elegant and affecting rather than intense and vibrant. At Mimi’s
death, Schipa is suitable passionate and theatrical. In the
Massenet excerpt, Schipa sounds a little careful, but the final
track, from Lakmé, displays the singer at his elegant
problem with complete editions is that they give you everything.
Not everyone will want all the lighter items on this disc and
we get two versions of Una furtiva lagrima. But as both
are well nigh perfect, you can hardly complain. But, as ever
with recitals from this period, it amazes me how much of the
lesser known material was by living composers.
are sufficient interesting tracks on this disc and Naxos’s price
is so attractive that anyone interested in hearing Schipa in
his prime should invest in the disc.
see also Reviews
by Jonathan Woolf and Göran