In his 1993 Gramophone review, Michael Oliver said of the recording
of Il Trittico from which this Il Tabarro comes
‘this is the classic Trittico, and
the obvious first recommendation’. Naxos
issuing of the opera separately enables people to pick and choose,
though as yet they do not seem to have issued the other two operas
from the trio.
is dominated by Tito Gobbi’s bleak and pitiful Michele. Though
he played a wide range of role types, Gobbi’s performances often
seem to develop extra resonance when the characters are unsympathetic.
He excelled in portraying nastiness in all its myriad subtleties.
This means that his Michele is not very sympathetic and you
rather wonder what Giorgetta saw in him. Sometimes, on-stage,
singers manage to convey something of the past attraction between
Giorgetta and Michele, but I didn’t think there was any of that
here. Not that that is a bad thing; it just makes the opera
a little bleaker.
Not that Gobbi’s
performance is one-dimensional - far from it. He creates a fully
rounded and believable character, someone trapped in a misery
not entirely of his own making. You can sympathise with him
even if you don’t like him.
The general bleakness
of the performance is emphasised by Margaret Mas’s Giorgetta.
Mas’s voice sounds rather mature and mezzo-ish in timbre, with
a significant vibrato. It makes perfect dramatic sense for Giorgetta
to be older and for Luigi to be her last chance at happiness.
But I am not sure that I really want to hear Mas’s Giorgetta
every day. In the more lyrical moments I longed for something
a little lighter and more focused - a voice with a greater degree
of loveliness of tone. Mas’s voice never really opens up so
that in the big passionate moments you do not get the feeling
of release that a good Puccini performance can bring.
Prandelli’s Luigi is rather effortful and lumbering. It makes
perfect dramatic sense, but does not lend the recording a feeling
of beauty of tone. This is a performance which radiates dramatic
commitment rather than extreme beauty of line. Again I can sympathise,
but in an ideal world I would like to get a bit of both.
But almost as important
as the principals is the background atmosphere which Puccini
creates with the orchestra and the team of smaller roles. The
casting here provides some strong character singers and one
of the beauties of the set is the believable naturalness of
the other characters. Miriam Pirazzini’s La Frugola makes a
very strong impression. Ordinarily there would be greater contrast
between her voice and Giorgetta’s, but here the two are rather
close in timbre, almost as if Tullio Serafin - assuming he did
the casting - is saying that Giorgetta is simply a younger version
of La Frugola. This only goes to emphasise the tragic nature
of Giorgetta’s plight as you listen to La Frugola and Il Talpa
(Plinio Clabassi) go off dreaming about their cottage in the
Serafin knits all
this incident into a coherent and seamless backdrop,
supported by a wonderfully atmospheric performance from the
Rome Opera Orchestra. There is a lot to be said for having a
modern recording of this work, but Serafin and his forces come
over remarkably well.
add a selection of Gobbi’s aria performances to render the
set even more fascinating. His Jack Rance from La Fanciulla
is another of his dark-hearted creations. But this darkness
seems to spill over into his Don Giovanni and Figaro (Le
nozze de Figaro). I found the Don’s serenade less than seductive
in tone, though I know others will disagree and Figaro’s ‘Non piu andrai’ came over as positively harsh at times. Surprisingly
the Largo al factotum from
Rossini’s Figaro shows that Gobbi could work his magic
in lighter roles.
But the final two
arias revert to the darker heart of his art with arias from
La forza del destino and Otello.
The CD booklet contains
background notes and a detailed synopsis for Il Tabarro.
For the opera arias, you are on your own.
All in all this is
an essential buy. If you don’t have it already, then get it. You
will probably want other more modern accounts of the work, though
there are not many in the current catalogue. But for dramatic
truth this one can hardly be bettered.
see also Review
by Göran Forsling