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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

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An Enchanted Evening with Ezio Pinza
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
From Don Giovanni: Deh! Vieni alla finestra [1.41]; Fin ch'han dal vino [1.15]; La, ci darem la mano [3.18] *
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Dormiro sol nel Manto mio Regal [3.54]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Vecchia zimarra, senti [2.23]
Giuseppe VERDI
Vergine degli Angeli [4.33] **
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Le Veau d'Or [1.47]
Giuseppe VERDI Infelice! [3.13]
Francesco TOSTI (1846-1916)
La serenata [2.51]
Henry BURLEIGH
Deep river [2.28]
LEVITZKI
Do you remember? [2.01]
Clara EDWARDS
Into The Night [3.13]
Richard RODGERS
From South Pacific: Twin Soliloquies [2.25] ***; Some enchanted evening [3.01]; This nearly was mine [3.29]; Bali ha'i [3.14]
Kurt WEILL
September song [3.13]
Agustin LARA
You belong to my heart [3.03]
Harold ARLEN
Let me look at you [3.32]
Isham JONES
I'll see you in my dreams [3.28]
Burton LANE
Everything I have is yours [2.55]
Jerome KERN
All the things you are [3.02]; The way you look tonight [2.39]
Salve D’ESPOSITO
Anema e core [2.13]
Antonio VIAN
Luna rossa [2.16]
Carl BÖHM
Calm as the night [3.23] ****
Ezio Pinza (bass-baritone)
* with Elizabeth Rethberg (soprano); ** with Rosa Ponselle (soprano); *** with Mary Martin (soprano); **** with Nathan Milstein (violin)
Accompanied by various orchestras, conductors, choruses and pianists.
Mono recordings made between 1927 and 1952. ADD.
LIVING ERA CD AJA 5618 [76.10]

 



Regular readers will know of my dislike for ‘crossover’, more for the results that are often produced in its name than for the concept itself. However, it’s nice to be able to make an exception to one’s own views once in a while. This disc is one such, as I must confess I am something of a sucker for Ezio Pinza’s luxuriantly rich tones no matter what the repertoire. There is something irresistible about the voice itself that to my mind puts him in the same bracket as Johnny Cash and Frank Sinatra.

Answer me this: how many people can you think of whose life encompassed being a champion racing cyclist, world class opera singer – many would claim he’s unsurpassed still as Don Giovanni or in Verdi’s Requiem, quitting classical music to take on starring roles in Broadway musicals, and trying his hand at film acting and being a TV chat show host? Indeed, Pinza must have been one helluva guy. Some people have it, whatever it is, and others don’t. You can’t learn it – you’re born with it – call it a desire to succeed or raw natural talent: Pinza had both by the spade-full. 

As the track listing shows this disc provides an overview of Pinza in opera, song and musicals. The emphasis is on light song rather than opera, as the bulk of the recordings he made in his later career for Victor or US Columbia focused on less demanding repertoire. Whilst he still had vocal allure and could produce a rich, commanding tone that was never forced whatever the volume, there is some slight loss of flexibility when placed alongside his operatic recordings of the early 1920s. Of course they are by and large of inferior sound quality overall, which is a shame, so maybe its understandable why collectors of Pinza’s arias may want several versions from throughout his career.

Don Giovanni became, despite initial misgivings, his signature operatic role. The three arias here are given with feeling and suavity. The voice alone could have made girls fall at his feet, and you can’t say that for every Don you encounter.  La, ci darem la mano with Elizabeth Rethberg captures a notable singing partnership of the mid-1920s. Pinza portrays the pain of Philip II’s predicament in Dormiro sol nel manto mio Regal and the sense of self-sacrifice made in Vecchia zimarra senti from La Boheme. More than some he brings to life the bacchanalian quality needed in Gounod’s Le Veau d'Or, even if the tempo is a touch considered.

The song and musical items are also mostly success. Some are outright winners as Pinza lends them his noble voice to make the music more than it intrinsically is. Tosti’s La Serenata, Levitzki’s Do You Remember? and Edwards’ Into The Night (a song written for Pinza) all benefit in this way. Many of the last ten tracks on this disc similarly impress.

There’s no denying that Pinza’s reading of Deep River has feeling, but when heard against that of, say, Paul Robeson, you realise it doesn’t get so much into the spirit of the piece. Of course, there is Pinza’s Italianate English to take into account – by and large it doesn’t bother too much – but it’s out of place in Deep River.

Inevitably, we come to South Pacific – perhaps the best example of Pinza’s ability to raise music to a higher level that we have here. The soliloquies capture tenderness with Mary Martin, and his mature tone is a notable asset for this item. Some Enchanted Evening is of course a classic of its kind and Pinza’s recording is one I wouldn’t want to without. It should not overshadow the fine singing he also gives in This nearly was mine or Bali Ha'i.

Supported by useful notes this disc provides enjoyable and varied listening. A good introduction to the lighter side of Pinza’s art.

Evan Dickerson

Further listening
: Pinza’s opera aria recordings 1923-1930 – Pearl GEMM CD 9306

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