Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Un ballo in maschera (1859) [119:36]
Riccardo - Ferruccio Tagliavini (tenor)
Renato - Giuseppe Valdengo (baritone)
Amelia - Maria Curtis Verna (soprano)
Ulrica - Pia Tassinari (mezzo)
Oscar - Maria Erato (soprano)
Silvano - Alberto Albertini (baritone)
Samuele - Marco Stefanoni (bass)
Tom - Vito Susca (bass)
Un Giudice - Emilio Renzi (tenor)
Un servo - Emilio Renzi (tenor)
Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro do Torino della RAI/Angelo Questa
rec. 16 November, 1954, Turin. AAD mono
WARNER FONIT 2564 66143-9 [75:06 + 44:30]

This was presumably a radio broadcast performance, one of many issued by Cetra in the 1950s. They still form a valuable repository of some of the best Italian voices of that era singing mainstream and even somewhat rarer repertoire. Many tended - and understandably still tend - to be overshadowed by the EMI and Decca output of the day yet they cannot be overlooked by any serious collector. Many are of great artistic and historical interest and one or two, in the estimation of some, even lead the field despite their mono sound - I am thinking here of Taddei’s Rigoletto also conducted by Angleo Questa and featuring the elegant tenor here, Ferruccio Tagliavini. For some reason I had previously overlooked this 1954 recording but now wonder why. “Gramophone” was decidedly lukewarm in its reception back in its 1957 review and Lord Harewood cursorily dismisses it in few words in “Opera on Record” but with the current dearth of true Verdi singers, we are surely now disposed to be more appreciative of its considerable merits. 
Questa is not especially celebrated today but he conducts a thoroughly idiomatic performance, just as he does in the Cetra Aida with a young Corelli and Maria Curtis Verna in the title role.
The latter was American-born spinto soprano Mary Curtis. She began her considerable career in Italy, having married her teacher Ettore Verna and italianised her name. She has a smooth, powerful, but not very distinctive voice which is quite up to the demands of the part without providing many thrills. Had she not been active at the same time as Callas and Tebaldi she might have been more celebrated but she is still an estimable artist who sang a formidable Gioconda to Corelli’s Enzo in Philadelphia in the 1960s.
Ferruccio Tagliavini, whose 70th birthday party I attended at Asti’s in 1983 in the company of various Met luminaries such as Jerome Hines, is a glamorous, stylish Riccardo very much in the Bergonzi mould, with a sweetness and delicacy typical of one renowned for his “honeyed mezza voce” but the heft to convey passion in “Forse la soglia attinse”. He incorporates a charmingly infectious chuckle into his voice for “È scherzo od è follia” and is in many ways a very attractive singer of the old school.
Baritone Giuseppe Valdengo will chiefly be known to aficionados as a superb Falstaff for Toscanini; he has a firm, vibrant, authentically Italianate baritone with a fast vibrato, a slightly strained top and superb diction. His legato in “Eri tu” is exemplary.
Pia Tassinari is a surprisingly successful Ulrica with a booming lower register while the Oscar - a part Verdi always feared would be under-cast - is a singer previously unknown to me, Maria Erato, who has a slightly husky, boyish timbre and considerable coloratura facility, thus ideally suited to the role.
The sound is clear, clean, undistorted mono. No libretto but the evocative original LP cover artwork is reproduced. This is a vintage Ballo.

Ralph Moore

A vintage Ballo.