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CD: MDT AmazonUK

Albert da Costa
Full track listing at end of review
Albert da Costa (tenor) with orchestral accompaniment
no recording dates available

Experience Classicsonline

On 28 December 1959 Birgit Nilsson was to sing her third performance of Tristan und Isolde at the Metropolitan Opera. Her Tristan in the two previous performances, Ramon Vinay, backed out due to influenza and neither of the two ‘covers’ felt able to sing a full performance that day. After some negotiations Rudolf Bing managed to persuade the three tenors to sing one act each. This, naturally enough, became first page stuff in the newspapers with headlines like ‘Swedish Isolde consumes one Tristan in each act’. Bing afterwards said: ‘Fortunately, Tristan only has three acts’. More off the record he told Birgit Nilsson: ‘I saved the fattest tenor for the last act to offer you something soft to sink down to during the love death’. The fattest of them was Albert da Costa.

He was born in New York in 1927 and studied at the Juilliard School. He made his debut as a baritone but after a couple of years switched to tenor. In 1955 he was engaged by the Metropolitan Opera and made his debut there as the sailor in Tristan und Isolde. After some years he was selected to sing Walther von Stolzing in Die Meistersinger with a cast including Paul Schöffler and Lisa Della Casa. From then on he sang roles like Siegmund, Erik, Radamès and Manrico until 1962 when he moved to Europe and joined the ensemble at Zurich Opera. There Tristan was one of his most successful roles. His life was cut short in 1967 in a car accident. He was only forty.

His recorded legacy is not very extensive and it was issued by smaller companies. His only recording for a major company was for Columbia in 1959 when he was the tenor soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under Bruno Walter.

The arias on the present compilation are, as one would expect from his biography, mostly from the heroic repertoire. His was a strong dramatic voice, baritonal in the middle register but with imposing tenoral brilliance up high. The high Cs are perfectly in order and in the Puritani aria he sails even higher, seemingly effortlessly. To sing Bellini is not perhaps the most natural thing for a Tristan. There’s no doubt that he lacks the flexibility for bel canto repertoire. Also in the rest of the programme there is very little of inventive phrasing or light and shade. With a couple of exceptions it’s full throttle from beginning to end – imposing but almost deafening in the long run. Some repose is offered in the Faust cavatina, which he actually begins at something reminiscent of mezzo-forte. The other exception is Celeste Aida, where he also begins softly – at least comparatively speaking. His stamina is indisputable and the quality of the voice is OK. However, as readings the arias are quite uninteresting. Readers for whom high decibel attainment in their tenors is a major criterion, will no doubt have a field-day with this disc. The recording quality is fully acceptable.

It seems then that Albert da Costa is best remembered as the tenor on whose belly Birgit Nilsson spent parts of the third act in Tristan und Isolde on 28 December 1959.

Göran Forsling

Full track listing
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801 – 1835)
I Puritani
1. Credeasi, misera! da me tradita [3:07]
Fromental HALÉVY (1799 – 1862)
La Juive
2. Rachel, quand du Seigneur [5:37]
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791 – 1864)
Les Huguenots
3. Plus blanche que la blanche hermine [3:27]
Le Prophète
4. Pour Bertha [1:53]
5. Roi du ciel [1:53]
6. Versez que tout respire [2:02]
7. O Paradiso [3:02]
Charles GOUNOD (1818 – 1893)
8. Salut, demeure [4:37]
Georges BIZET (1838 – 1875)
9. La fleur que tu m’avais jetée [4:03]
Richard WAGNER (1813 – 1883)
10. In fernem Land [5:51]
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
11. Morgenlich leuchtend [4:06]
Die Walküre
12. Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond [2:53]
13. Nothung! Nothung! Neidliches Schwert [2:58]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901)
14. Se quel guerrier io fossi … Celeste Aida [4:21]
15. Esultate! [1:09]
16. Ora e per sempre addio [2:24]
17. Dio! mi potevi [4:06]
Amilcare PONCHELLI (1834 – 1886)
La Gioconda
18. Cielo e mar [4:43]
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857 – 1919)
I Pagliacci
19. Un tal gioco [2:48]
20. Recitar! … Vesti la giubba [3:29]
21. No, pagliaccio non son [2:56]























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