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Rolando Panerai
Rolando Panerai (baritone)
Mattiwilda Dobbs (soprano) (7, 8); Margherita Carosio (soprano) (13); and others
Philharmonia Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan (1, 2); Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan/Tullio Serafin (3); Philharmonia Orchestra/Alceo Galliera (4-12); Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan/Nino Sanzogno
rec. July 1954 (1, 2), March 1953 (3), October 1953 (4-12), March 1954 (13)

Experience Classicsonline

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
Così fan tutte:
1. Non siate ritrosi [2:33]
2. Donne miei la fate a tanti [3:03]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801–1835)

I puritani:
3. Or dovefuggo io mai? … Ah! per sempre io ti … Bel sogno beato [7:55]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792–1868)

Il barbiere di Siviglia:
4. Largo al factotum della città [4:57]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)

Il trovatore:
5. Il balen del suo sorriso [3:13]
La traviata:
6. Di Provenza il mar, il suol [4:19]
7. Pari siamo! … Figlia! Mio padre! [9:06]
8. Chi e mai [5:11]
9. Vanne; La tua meta gia vedo ... Credo in un Dio crudel [4:39]
10. E qual certenza … Era la notte [3:38]
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1858–1919)

11. Prologue: Si può? Si può? [7:53]
Umberto GIORDANO (1867–1948)

Andrea Chenier:
12. Nemico della patria [4:32]
Giancarlo MENOTTI (1911–2007)

Amelia al ballo:
13. Non si va! … Amelia cara [11:47]

This is an excellently chosen conspectus of early Panerai Columbias recorded in 1953 and 1954. It captures him in some of his familiar and accustomed roles, with some august conductor collaborators, even if it does also find him battling against some oddly intransigent then-prevailing recording standards.

The famous examples from Così are taken from the Karajan directed complete LP set. They show Panerai at something like his buffo best, joined by the mellifluous Simoneau. Later on Panerai essayed Don Alfonso – for Böhm in 1974. But twenty years earlier his Guglielmo is technically impressive, tonally beautiful the characterisation increased by his characteristically fast vibrato. He was a masculine singer but as his Bellini shows he could sustain the legato finely, the voice remaining well equalised throughout. And what a personable singer he was – try his Largo al factotum for instance. Although here I think the demanding critic will detect a distinct aggressively turn of phrase; one has certainly heard wittier, more bantering, less bullish singing. It’s a feeling that persists the further we drift from his august Mozart and Bellini.

Il Trovatore is not extracted from the 1956 Callas-Karajan recording. Admirable as far as vocal production goes there is something straining and over-emphatic about it as characterisation. Similarly another word of exclusion; Panerai recorded La Traviata in 1971 with Sills and Gedda and conducted by Ceccato but this obviously isn’t it. Again I sense some strain. His Rigoletto is better – there’s some probing musicianship on display here even though he and Mattiwilda Dobbs don’t always make an optimal match. His Otello is better still – darkly resonant and powerfully characterised; resilient, intelligent, thought-provoking singing. It’s in the extract from Andrea Chenier that we find perhaps the finest example of his lyric qualities – the legato is splendid, as is the power and the sense of projection. Rarer by far as repertoire, and therefore doubly welcome, is the longish extract from Menotti’s Amelia al ballo – attractive musically and showing Panerai in contemporary repertoire.

Panerai’s besetting sins were those little detonational moments, sudden over-emphatic blustering, that tended to detract from the legato but at his best he was a most attractive, perceptive musician. This selection shows his strengths and weaknesses with fidelity.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Goran Forsling


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