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Download: Classicsonline


Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924)
Il tabarro, Opera in one act (1918) [51:57]
Tito Gobbi (baritone) – Michele, bargemaster; Giacinto Prandelli (tenor) – Luigi, bargeman; Piero De Palma (tenor) – Il Tinca (The Tench), bargeman; Plinio Clabassi (bass) – Il Talpa (The Mole); bargeman; Margaret Mas (soprano) – Giorgetta, wife of Michele; Miriam Pirazzini (mezzo) – La Frugola, wife of Il Talpa; Renato Ercolani (tenor) – A song peddler; Sylvia Bertona (soprano) and Piero De Palma (tenor) – Two lovers; Rome Opera House Chorus and Orchestra/Vincenzo Bellezza
rec. October 1955 in the Teatro dell’Opera, Rome
Appendix: Tito Gobbi – Opera Arias
La fanciulla del West
Minnie, dalla mia casa son partito [2:48]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 – 1791)
Don Giovanni
Deh, vieni alla finestra [2:08]
Le nozze di Figaro
Non più andrai [3:37]
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792 – 1868)
Il barbiere di Siviglia
Largo al factotum [4:51]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901)
La forza del destino
Urna fatale [3:36]
Vanne! … Credo in un Dio crudele [4:28]
Tito Gobbi with orchestras conducted by Umberto Berrettoni, James Robertson and Alberto Erede
rec. 1942, 1948, 1950


Experience Classicsonline

It is good to have the three one-acters from Il trittico issued separately, so that listeners can pick and choose. In the case of the 1950s mono Trittico on EMI Classics, from which this Tabarro comes, the three parts were recorded with different conductors and various singers in the leading roles. Gobbi also sang Gianni Schicci. Victoria de los Angeles was his daughter Lauretta there, besides assuming the role of Suor Angelica. On the Trittico closest in time to the EMI, Decca’s early 1950s recording, Lamberto Gardelli conducted all three operas while Renata Tebaldi, slightly past her best, sang all three of the heroines. That set, now available in a 15 CD box in harness with all the other mature Puccini operas at a true give-away price, is in stereo and good at that. Decca from the late 1950s were always at the forefront sonically. The drawback may be that the voices can seem too recessed in relation to the orchestra but there is clarity and the dynamic range is impressive. The EMI mono recording is small-scale in comparison but the voices emerge well and no one need fight shy of the disc on sonic grounds. The Rome Opera forces perform well under the rarely recorded Vincenzo Bellezza. This late example of verismo becomes a chilling experience.

There is some excellent singing in the comprimario roles. Piero de Palma, quite early in his career, has more sap in his voice than he could muster later and is as expressive as ever. Renato Ercolani in the wee small role of song peddler is likewise good. Those two also appeared on the Decca recording for which they swapped roles. Plinio Clabassi is a sonorous Il Talpa and Miriam Pirazzini’s grand mezzo-soprano is a pleasure to hear as Il Talpa’s wife.

But it is the three main characters that count and the trump-card is Tito Gobbi. He was at least as good an actor as he was a singer. His is a constantly illuminating impersonation of the bargemaster. This is evident from the initial everyday realism to the heart-rending scene with his wife who rejects him, followed by his monologue Nulla! Silenzio! and the final killing of Luigi. This is masterly acting – and singing. The French soprano Margaret Mas, whose only major recording this was, at the time just turned thirty, lacks the creamy tones of Tebaldi but her voice has character and a thrill of its own. Giacinto Prandelli was a more regular guest at the recording studios singing, among other things, Rodolfo opposite Tebaldi’s first Mimi. The owner of a well-schooled, rather bright but not too big voice, he sings a sensitive Luigi. Only in the ultimate love scene (tr. 8) is he strained.

Their counterparts on the Decca set are undoubtedly starry with Robert Merrill singing Michele’s role superbly. However as an interpreter he pales beside Gobbi. Tebaldi had retained most of her golden tone but Margaret Mas, though occasionally a bit ‘screamy’, is more involved. As for Luigi there is no denying that Mario del Monaco has a glorious voice but little feeling for nuance.

Providing one can accept the mono sound this is as good a version of Il tabarro as one is ever likely to come across. As a bonus there is more than twenty minutes’ worth of arias with Tito Gobbi, recorded during the 78 era when he was at his freshest. All six arias were included on a Nimbus disc with Gobbi that I reviewed less than a year ago. I refer readers to that review for comments on the music. I have done some comparative listening and technically the transfers are practically inseparable.

Are you in need of a recording of Il tabarro and feel you don’t want to spend a fortune on it? Here is the answer. Instead of buying a full price version you can have this one, which almost certainly is musically superior, and still have money left for two bottles of decent red wine.

Göran Forsling 



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