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Giuseppe Di Stefano The Opera Singer
Various accompanying artists
rec. 1947-1957. ADD
Detailed contents of each CD are listed at the end of this review
EMI CLASSICS ICON 2060752 [3 CDs: 76.10 + 75.37+ 79.28]


Experience Classicsonline

This is the second of this EMI series to come my way for review. Like the first, devoted to Mirella Freni (see review), it is of an Italian lyric voice. The Sicilian-born tenor Giuseppe Di Stefano emerged in Switzerland after fleeing there when the Nazis took over Italy. There he made his first recordings after appearing on local radio in opera broadcasts. He made his operatic debut as Des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon at Regio Emilia on 20 April 1946 after which his rise was rapid. He débuted at La Scala in the same role in March 1947 and as the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto at the Metropolitan Opera the following year with Leonard Warren in the title role. These were Di Stefano’s golden years, singing roles such as Fenton in Verdi’s Falstaff, Almaviva in Il Barbiere de Siviglia, Nemorino in L’Elisir d’amore and Alfredo in La Traviata. His early 78rpm recordings from this period reveal a voice of great lyric beauty (CD 1 trs1-5) and when the repertoire was right and when he resisted putting pressure on his open-throated forward tone. His outgoing and exuberant, if insouciant, personality did not take restriction to heart. If he could sing a note or a phrase full out he did so and even on these early tracks in the revealing sound of CD one can detect a touch of dryness, even rawness, at the top of the voice although without detracting from the attraction of his pianissimo and mezza voce singing.

In 1951 Di Stefano was cast alongside Maria Callas for the first time as Alfredo in La Traviata, Tito Gobbi was Germont. Di Stefano’s association with Callas was defining for his career in the 1950s. She had been signed up by Walter Legge, head of A&R at British Columbia/Angel to record core opera for the newly arrived LP. He joined her in many recordings and these are the basis of most of the remaining tracks in this collection. He had also offended Rudolf Bing at the Met by his casual attitude to commitments. As a consequence Di Stefano did not sing there between 1952 and 1955. During this period he was involved in memorable stage performances at La Scala with Callas in Lucia di Lamermoor under Karajan and La Traviata with Giulini on the rostrum.

In the first of their joint recordings made in February 1953 he sang Edgardo to her Lucia in Lucia di Lamermoor (see full review). As Lucia’s lover Di Stefano gives one of his best performances in the series of their recorded collaborations (CD 1 trs 6-7). However, by this time he was already singing heavier roles and its effect on his voice is evident in the second of the recordings, I Puritani (CD 1 tr8) made in March 1953. There his singing, whilst having elegance, tends too easily towards the crude can belto tradition (see full review). In the following August he sang Cavaradossi to her Tosca with Gobbi as Scarpia under the baton of Victor de Sabata (CD 1 trs.11-12). Di Stefano is on nearly best vocal behaviour, caressing the phrases, characterising with aplomb and only occasionally opening his voice to full power (see full review). Regrettably in the same month, the duo set down the verismo Cavalleria Rusticana with the more indulgent Serafin on the rostrum (CD 1 trs.9-10). Like the I Pagliacci that followed in 1954, Di Stefano did not stint his open tone in roles really a size too large for his lyric tenor (CD 1 tr.15). At least he was not cast in the spinto role of Pollione in Callas’s first recording of Norma in 1954 nor was he cast as Alvaro in the August 1955 La Forza del destino or as Radames in the Aida recorded the same month, the latter two roles being sung by Richard Tucker. His rendition of La vita e inferno of the same year is included (CD 1 tr.16). It was only published in 1973 and really should have been kept under wraps. His tone is coarse and one has only to compare Bergonzi on the complete 1969 EMI recording to appreciate the beauty in the aria when sung by a tenor with the appropriate vocal resources.

Walter Legge was not always as circumspect in his casting of Di Stefano. When it came to the recording of Verdi’s Il Trovatore in August 1956, the preferred Manrico was Richard Tucker. But Tucker, a devout Jew, would not sing under Von Karajan in view of the latter’s suspect Nazi connections (see full review). Di Stefano was called on (CD 2 trs.2-4 and CD 3 tr.6). Again it is a question of an over-generous artist trying to get more from his instrument than nature intended. His portrayal has moments of beauty and others of strain. In the following month Di Stefano and Callas recorded Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera. His voice, despite raw patches, still has ring and his diction is exemplary (CD 2 trs.6-8). The role of Riccardo was one that suited Di Stefano well as was the Duke in Rigoletto. The latter was recorded in 1955 before too much wear was evident in his voice. In my review of the Fonit Cetra re-issue, I recount how my family decided in favour of that issue on the basis of Ferruccio Tagliavini’s singing as the Duke over that of Di Stefano. Whilst the latter was no longer capable of employing the honeyed mezza voce of the former, his Duke has much to commend it (CD 2 trs.1-2 and CD 3 trs.3-5).

The vocal grace of Di Stefano's Riccardo in the 1956 recording of Ballo in Maschera was still in evidence in his British debut performances as Nemorino alongside Callas's Adina in L'elisir d'amore at the Edinburgh Festival in the summer of 1957. Although he had recorded Calaf's Non, piangere liù and Nessun dorma in a recital under Votto in 1955 (CD 1 trs.20-21), Eugenio Fernandi undertook the role in the complete recording of the opera made in July of that year with Callas in the title role. Covent Garden heard him for the first time in 1961, but by 1963 when he sang Rodolfo at the theatre he lasted only one performance and then withdrew; a certain Luciano Pavarotti made an unscheduled début. The best of what was left of his operatic voice can be heard on Karajan’s 1962 studio recording of Tosca now available as a Decca Legend (466 384-2). There is nothing of the beauty of the De Sabata La Scala recording of ten years before, although the open tone and good diction are still present.

After this time Di Stefano’s stage appearances became more sporadic and he gave his last performance at La Scala in 1972; he was fifty-one years of age. His last stage appearances were in the minor role of the Emperor Altoum in Turandot in Rome in 1992. By comparison, Mirella Freni, who I referred to in my opening paragraph, by taking a much more circumspect approach to her repertoire and its suitability for her lyric voice, was still singing at some of the best operatic addresses in her seventh decade.

The plangent tenor voice of Di Stefano’s early years is best heard in the first tracks of CD 1 already referred to, whilst his singing of his native Sicilian folk songs, recorded in 1955 is also enjoyable (CD 2 trs. 14-15). Of interest, and not as far as I know previously available, are the arias in Italian from Carmen and Faust (CD 3 trs.13-14) and also Otello’s Gia nella notte densa (tr.11). This collection records what might have been as well as what was. As such it is a record of a singer who had so much to give but gave too prodigiously and without care for the consequences to his gifts. He preferred the lifestyle of smoking and the fast track to that of dedicated artist. It was his choice and his life. It ended on 3 March 2008.

Robert J Farr
Detailed contents

CD1 [74.37]
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)
Mignon, Act 2 - Addio, Mignon! [3.07]
Act 3. Ah! Non credevi tu [4.11]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Manon, Act 3. Io son' solo ... Ah! Dispar vision [4.39]
Francesco CILÈA (1866-1950)
L'arlesiana, Act 2. E la solita storia- Francesco’s Lament [4.10]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1912)
La traviata, Act 2. Lunge da lei ... De' miei bollenti spiriti [3.47]
Philharmonia and London Symphony Orchestra/Alberto Erede
rec. November and December 1947. Abbey Road Studios, London.
La forza del destino, Act 3. La vita è inferno ... O tu che in seno agli angeli [
Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan/ Antonino Votto
rec. June 1955. La Scala, Milan
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Lucia di Lammermoor,
Act 3 - Fra poco a me ricovero darà negletto avello [3.32]. Tu che a Dio spiegasti I'ali [5.15]
Chorus and Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale, Florence/Tulio Serafin
rec. February 1953. Teatro Communale, Florence
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
I puritani, Act 3. Son già lontani [3.17]
Orchestra of La Scala, Milan/ Tulio Serafin
rec. March 1953. Basilica di Santa Eufemia, Milan.
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
Cavalleria Rusticana, Intanto amici qua ... Viva il vino spumeggiante [3.05]…Mamma, quel vino [4.15]
With Ebe Ticozzi and Maria Canali
Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan/ Tulio Serafin
rec. June 1953. Basilica di Santa Eufemia, Milan.
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Tosca, Act 1. Recondita armonia [2.43]. Act 3 - E lucevan Ie stele [2.42]
Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan/ Victor de Sabata
rec. August 1953. La Scala, Milan
Madama Butterfly,
Act 1.Dovunque al mondo [2.44] Act 3. Addio, fiorito asil [1.58]
Orchestra of the Rome Opera/Gianandrea Gavazenni
rec. July 1954. Rome Opera House
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919)
Pagliacci, Act 1. Recitar! ... Vesti la giubba [3.31]
Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan/ Tulio Serafin
rec. June 1954. La Scala, Milan
La fanciulla del West, Act 2 - Una parola sola ... Or son sei mesi [3.56]
Act 3. Ch'ella mi creda libero [2.18]
Gianni Schicchi, Avete torto! ... Firenze è come un albero
Turandot, Act 1. Non piangere, Liù [2.41]
Act 3. Nessun dorma! [3.13]
Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan/ Antonino Votto
rec. June 1955. La Scala, Milan

CD2 [74.08]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1912)
Rigoletto, Act 1. Questo O quella
Act 2. Ella mi fu rapita! ... Parmi veder Ie lagrime
Act 3. La donna è mobile
Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan/ Tulio Serafin
rec. September 1955. La Scala, Milan
Il trovatore,
Act 3. Ah sì, ben mio [2.53]….Di quella pira [1.57]
Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan/ Herbert von Karajan
rec. August 1956. La Scala, Milan
Un ballo in maschera, Act 1. Di' tu se fedele [3.19]
Act 2. Teco io sto ... Non sai tu che se I'anima mia ... Oh, qual soave brivido (with Maria Callas) [9.27]
Act 3. Forse la soglia attinse ... Ma se m'e forza perdita [5.23]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
La boheme,
Act 1. Che gelida manina! [4.48]
Act 4. In un coupé? ... O Mimì, tu più non torni [4.26]
Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan/Antonino Votto
rec. August 1956. La Scala, Milan
Manon Lescaut,
Act 1. Donna non vidi mai [2.26]
Act 2. Oh, sarò, la più bella! [8.19]
Act 3. No! Pazzo son! Gaurdate! [2.43]
With Maria callas
Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan/Tulio Serafin
rec. July 1957. La Scala, Milan Sicilian Folk Song
Trad. Arr. Favara. A la barcillunisa [2.22]
Trad. Arr. Favara. Cantu a timùni [2.07]
New London Opera Orchestra/Alberto Erede
rec. December 1947. Abbey Road Studios, London. Italian Songs
Eduardo Di CAPUA (1865-1917)
O sole mio [3.35]
Francesco Poalo TOSTI (1846-1916)
Marechiare [3.28]
Salvatore CARDILLO (1874-1947)
Core 'ngrato [3.41]
Ernesto DE CURTIS (1875-1937)
Torna a Surriento [3.21]
Recorded in Italy. No dates or orchestral details known
CD3 [79.28]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
I puritani, Act 3. Nel mirarti un solo istante [4.03]…. Vieni fra queste braccia [2.49]
Bellini: I puritani, Act 3 -
With Maria Callas
Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan/Tulio Serafin
rec. March 1953. Basilica di Santa Eufemia, Milan.
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1912)
Act 1 - Giovanna, ho dei rimorsi [3.12]… E iI sol dell'anima [4.18]… Addio, addio ... Speranza [0.52]
With Maria Callas and others
Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan/Tulio Serafin
rec. October 1955. La Scala, Milan
Il trovatore,
Act 4. Miserere ... Ah! che la morte ognora [4.58]
Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan/Herbert von Karajan
rec. August 1956. La Scala, Milan
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
I pescatori di perle,
Act 2. Leila mia! Leila mia! [2.20]…. Non hai compreso [5.59]
 Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Madama Butterfly,
Act 1. Bimba dagli occhi pieni di malia [3.27]… Vogliatemi bene, un bene piccolino [6.40]
With Victoria de los Angeles
Orchestra of the Rome Opera/Gianandrea Gavazenni
rec. July 1954. Rome Opera House
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1912) Otello, [10.47]
Act 1. Già nella notte densa [10.47]
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
Act 2. Oh, come al tuo sottile [14.23]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Act 1. Ah! mi parla di lei! [6.02]
Georges Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Act 3. Tardi ni fa, Addio! [9.33]
With Rosanna Carteri
Milan Symphony Orchestra/Antonio Tonino
rec. June 1957. Milan
Mastering Details

Mignon (1989 Digital Remaster)

Addio, Mignon (Act II) (1989 Digital Remaster) - Thomas

Ah! non credevi tu (Act III) (1989 Digital Remaster) - Thomas

Manon: Io son sol...Ah! dispar, vision (Act III) (1989 Digital Remaster) - Massenet

L' Arlesiana (1989 Digital Remaster)

E la solita storia - Cilea

La traviata: Lunge da lei...De' miei bollenti spiriti (Act II) (1989 Digital Remaster) - Verdi

Lucia di Lammermoor (1997 Digital Remaster)


Scena seconda

Fra poco a me ricovero dar࠮egletto avello (Edgardo) - Donizetti

Tu che a Dio spiegasti l'ali (Edgardo/Raimondo/Coro) - Donizetti

I Puritani (1997 Digital Remaster)

ATTO TERZO (1997 Digital Remaster)

Son giࠬontani (Arturo) (1997 Digital Remaster) - Bellini

Cavalleria rusticana (1997 Digital Remaster)

Intanto amici qua...Viva il vino spumeggiante - Mascagni

Cavalleria Rusticana (1997 Digital Remaster)

Mamma, quel vino Teneroso (Turiddu/Mamma Lucia/Santuzza/Una donna) (1997 Digital Remaster) - Mascagni

Tosca (1997 Digital Remaster)

ACT 1 (1997 Digital Remaster)

Recondita armonia - Puccini

Tosca (1997 Digital Remaster)


E lucevan le stelle - Puccini

Madama Butterfly (1998 Digital Remaster)

Dovunque al mondo (Act I) - Puccini

Addio, fiorito asil (Act III) - Puccini

Pagliacci (1997 Digital Remaster)

Act 1: Recitar!....Vesti la giubba - Leoncavallo

La forza del destino

Act 3

La vita 蠩nferno ... O tu che in seno agli angeli - Verdi

La fanciulla del West

Una parola sola...Or son sei mesi (Act II) - Puccini

La Fanciulla del West, '(The) Girl of the Golden West' (1989 Digital Remaster)

Ch'ella mi creda libero - Puccini

Gianni Schicchi

Avete torto!...Firenze dome un albero - Puccini

Turandot (1989 Digital Remaster)

Non piangere, Liu - Puccini

Nessun dorma! - Puccini


Act 1 (1997 Digital Remaster)

Scene 1 (1997 Digital Remaster)

Questa o quella (Duca) - Verdi

Ella mi fu rapita!...Parmi veder le lagrime (Duca) from Rigoletto (1997 Digital Remaster) - Verdi

Act 3 (1997 Digital Remaster)

La donna Mobile (Duca/Sparafucile/Rigoletto) - Verdi

Il Trovatore (1997 Digital Remaster)

ACT 3 Scene Two (1997 Digital Remaster)

Ah si, ben mio, coll'essere io tuo (Manrico) (1997 Digital Remaster) - Verdi

Il trovatore (1997 Digital Remaster)

Di quella pira (Atto III) - Verdi

Un Ballo in Maschera (1997 Digital Remaster)

ACT 1 (1997 Digital Remaster)

Scene 2 (1997 Digital Remaster)

Di' tu se fedele (Riccardo/Coro) (1997 Digital Remaster) - Verdi

Un ballo in maschera (1997 Digital Remaster)

Teco io sto...Non sai tu che se l'anima mia...Oh, qual soave brivido (Act II) - Verdi

Un ballo in maschera (1997 Digital Remaster)

Forse la soglia attinse...Ma se m'forza perderti (Atto III) - Verdi

La boh譥 (1997 Digital Remaster)

Che gelida manina (Atto I) (1997 Digital Remaster) - Puccini

In un coupe. O Mimi tu pitorni (Atto IV) (1997 Digital Remaster) - Puccini

Manon Lescaut (1997 Digital Remaster)


Donna non vidi mai (Des Grieux) - Puccini


Oh, sari pi?la! (Manon/Des Grieux) - Puccini

Manon Lescaut

No! Pazzo son! Guardate! (Atto III) - Puccini

A la barcillunsia (1989 Digital Remaster) - Traditional

Cantu a tim?1989 Digital Remaster) - Traditional

'O sole mio (1988 Digital Remaster) - Di Capua

Marechiare (1988 Digital Remaster) - Tosti

Core 'ngrato (1988 Digital Remaster) - Cardillo

Torna a Surriento (1988 Digital Remaster) - De Curtis

I Puritani (Act 3): Nel mirarti un solo istante (2008 Digital Remaster) - Bellini

I Puritani (Act 3): Vieni fra queste braccia - Bellini

Rigoletto (2008 Digital Remaster)

Giovanna, ho dei rimorsi - Verdi

Eil sol dell'amina - Verdi

Addio, addio....Speranza - Verdi

Il trovatore, Act 4 - Miserere...Ah! che la morte ognora (2008 Digital Remaster) - Verdi

I Pescatori di Perle, Act 2 - Leila mia! Leila mia! (2008 Digital Remaster) - Bizet

I Pescatori di Perle, Act 2 - Non hai compreso - Bizet

Madama Butterfly (2008 Digital Remaster)

Bimba dagli occhi pieni di malia - Puccini

Vogliatemi bene, un bene piccolino - Puccini

Otello, Act 1 - Gioella notte densa - Verdi

Iris, Act 2 - Oh, come al tuo sottile - Mascagni

Carmen, Act 1 - Ah! mi parla di lei! - Bizet

Faust, Act 3 - Tardi ni fa, Addio! - Gounod


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