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Tito Gobbi
rec. 1942-1953

Tito Gobbi
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)

Don Giovanni:
1. Deh vieni alla finestra [2:12]
Le nozze di Figaro:
2. Non più andrai [3:38]
3. Aprite un po’ [2:51]
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792–1868)

Il barbiere di Siviglia:
4. Largo al factotum [4:54]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797–1848)

L’Elisir d’amore:
5. La donna è un animale … Venti scudi! [7:34]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)

Don Carlos:
6. Convien … Per me giunto [3:46]
7. O Carlo ascolta … Io morrò [4:12]
8. Vanne … Credo in un Dio crudel [4:26]
9. Era la notte [2:56]
La forza del destino:
10. Urna fatale [3:37]
La traviata:
11. Di Provenza il mar [4:49]
12. Pari siamo! [4:12]
Un ballo in maschera:
13. Alzati ... Eri tu [7:16]
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1858–1919)

14. Buona Zazà del mio buon tempo [2:05]
15. Zazà, piccolo zingara [2:38]
16. Si può (Prologue) [7:58]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858–1924)

La fanciulla del West:
17. Minnie, dalla mia casa [2:48]
Francesco CILEA (1866–1950)

18. Come due tizzi accesi [4:07]
Tito Gobbi (baritone)
Nicola Monti (tenor)(5); La Scala Orchestra/Umberto Berrettoni (1, 6, 7, 14, 15, 17, 18); Philharmonia Orchestra/James Robertson (2, 3, 8, 10); Orchestra/Alberto Erede (4, 9, 16); Rome Opera Orchestra/Gabriele Santini (5); Philharmonia Orchestra/Walter Susskind (11, 12); London Symphony Orchestra/Warwick Braithwaite
rec. July 1942 (1, 6, 7, 14, 15, 17, 18); 2 February 1948 (4, 9, 16); 14 March 1950 (2, 3, 8, 10); 24 September 1950 (11, 12); 30 September 1950 (13); June 1953 (5)

Tito Gobbi was born near Venice on 24 October 1913 and made his professional debut in 1937. He is perhaps best remembered today for the series of complete operas he recorded mainly during the 1950s and 1960s, but for nearly ten years before that he had been recording extracts from these and other roles for HMV. Nimbus have brought together here a selection of these recordings, in well transferred versions which bring out their considerable merits much better than earlier transcriptions that I have heard. They are presented in roughly the date order of the operas concerned – by far the best way for anyone intending to listen to them in succession. In the case of the Verdi extracts it would however have been better to keep even more exactly to the date order as going backwards from Otello to La Traviata does involve some mental adjustment. This is a very minor complaint compared with the apparently wholly random order in which other recitals I have heard recently have been presented. It is certainly no serious problem.

Right from the first track – the Serenade from Don Giovanni – the listener is aware both of the considerable beauty and character of the voice, and of the detailed characterization that Gobbi applies to each extract. Even though the singer is plainly the same, there is a clear difference between Don Giovanni, Figaro and Sergeant Belcore. It is this ability to illuminate the individual characters and the place in the drama that is Gobbi’s greatest strength. I regret never hearing him on stage, although when I see photographs of the elaborate makeup that he made use of, apparently including a whole battery of funny noses, I am not sure that it is not better to enjoy his vocal acting on its own without what might have been an unhelpful distraction. No one listening to any of these tracks could doubt his gift to project the character and the drama purely by vocal means.

Naturally all of the extracts are sung in Italian, their original language, and the vivid way in which he points the words is both an immense pleasure to the listener and an object lesson to many current singers who seem to aim solely at a big, beautiful and unvaried tone. Gobbi certainly could produce a beautiful tone when he wanted to, but it was his ability to do this at just the right moment rather than continuously which makes his performances so intensely memorable. These early performances do not always show the complete mastery of the various roles that there is in his later recordings, but by way of very substantial compensation the beauty of the voice itself is at its peak.

A succession of seventeen arias and one duet is perhaps not the best way to celebrate the artistry of a singer whose key ability was always to be a part of the musical and dramatic whole. For instance I find it hard to keep patience when a well characterized performance of Rigoletto’s soliloquy "Pari siamo" ends with a held note rather than the breathless music which accompanies Gilda’s entrance in the opera. In the complete recording he made later with Maria Callas the full effect of the soliloquy is realized as this continuity is preserved. Nonetheless this is to nitpick. What we have here is a well chosen and presented set of performances from an interesting early part of the career of one of the greatest Italian baritones of the twentieth century. There is a good and lengthy biographical essay by Alan Bilgora, albeit with no text or even any explanation of the context of the individual extracts. This is however to nitpick again. Here is a disc that should be an essential purchase for anyone with a love of Italian opera or of singing in general.

John Sheppard

see also review by Goran Forsling



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