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Gian Giacomo Guelfi (baritone)
Arias and Duets
rec. live 1954 – 1968? (La forza del destino: studio, 1956) ADD
MYTO MCD00156 [79:32]

This is a rather odd issue from Myto, in that the label provides absolutely no information regarding the sources of these recordings beyond the names of the arias and Guelfi’s co-singers, saying that “These are rare recordings taken from the singer's own personal collection of recordings”, nor is a total duration time given or any timings for individual tracks. It is certainly as well-filled as a CD can be but I had to get the timings for myself as per the tracklists below by reading them off my laptop CD player. Lazy – especially as with a little research I have also been able to identify - I hope correctly but don’t hold me to it – whence all but one of the recordings have been lifted, so whether they are “rare” is debatable – but they are certainly valuable. They are all live, with the exception of the excerpts from La forza del destino which Guelfi and Corelli recorded together for Cetra in 1956.

Guelfi (1924-2012) was an under-recorded phenomenon, a baritone somewhat overshadowed by Ettore Bastianini until the latter’s premature death in 1967. He had a huge voice but was capable of singing with surprising delicacy, as you may hear from his beautiful half-voiced singing – properly done, without constricting his throat – in the excerpt from Luisa Miller track 11.

He is partnered here with some of the starriest names in the operatic firmament of the 50’s and 60’s in some juicy excerpts showcasing the volume and security of his baritone. The size of his voice meant that he would never be accused of undue subtlety; in that regard he is the baritone equivalent of Mario Del Monaco, who thrilled audiences but attracted the disdain of some critics with his heft, amplitude and resonance. He does little in the way of differentiation between the characters he portrays – one can sound disconcertingly like another, but the sound is still glorious. This was still an age of huge voices, as we can hear from the contributions of Filippeschi, Corelli and Cerquetti – and even though the precocious Suliotis tamps down her naturally big soprano to suggest Luisa’s vulnerability, you can hear that hers is fundamentally a large voice being temporarily tamed. Filippeschi is thrilling, ending on a ringing B flat rising to a top D.

The best sound here comes in track 13 with Corelli, when they sing the famous confrontational duet from La forza del destino, as that is the only studio recording here, part of excerpts from the opera made for Cetra in 1956. Otherwise, the sound is slightly distorted mono – perfectly listenable but hardly ear-balm. This account of the duet was made before Corelli’s stage debut in the role of Alvaro with Bastianini in 1958 and rivals that which we hear in the complete live recording of that Naples performance.

One oddity and a moment from history is preserved in the Aida excerpts from another live Naples performance in 1954. Guelfi and Cerquetti are enthusiastically applauded after the duet, where Guelfi massively prolongs the phrase on “Dei Faraoni tu sei la schiava!” and it is apparent that the audience wants them to encore the entire scene, but the conductor Gabriele Santini refuses, resulting in the cheering turning to booing.

I have been unable to trace the Otello performance from which Guelfi’s aria as Iago is lifted. The sound is very poor and muffled but the singing is riveting.

Obviously the bulk of the music here is from Guelfi’s forte, Verdi, but the arias from four other composer’s operas demonstrate his breadth and versatility. They are equally satisfying; Guelfi was born to sing villainous or conflicted characters like Barnaba, Gérard, Scarpia and Rance and is never afraid to underline their villainy by deploying his bronze voice to the maximum – and clearly his audiences loved it. Perhaps you will, too – I do.

Ralph Moore

Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Guillaume Tell
Resta immobile! [3:11]
Orchestra del Teatro di San Carlo di Napol/Previtali (1965)
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Dio di Giuda! [4:16]
Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala/Gavazzeni (1966)
I due Foscari
Questa è dunque l‘iniqua mercede [3:35]
Orchestra del Teatro La Fenice di Venezia/Serafin (1957)
Uldino, a me dinanzi [2:10]
Tardo per gli anni, e tremulo [3:48]
Ma se fraterno vincolo [0:58]
Vanitosi!... Che abbietti e dormenti [2:04]
with Boris Christoff (bass)
Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Bartoletti (1962)
Perfidi! All‘anglo contro me v‘unite! [1:49]
Pietà, rispetto, amore [3:48]
Orchestra del Teatro la Fenice di Venezia/Gavazzeni (1968)
Luisa Miller
Sacra la scelta è d‘un consorte [3:10]
Andrem, raminghi e poveri [4:28]
with Elena Suliotis (soprano)
Orchestra del Teatro Verdi di Trieste/Capuana (1965)
I vespri siciliani
Qual è il tuo nome? [6:03]
with Mario Filippeschi (tenor)
Orchestra del Teatro di San Carlo di Napoli/Serafin (1955)
La forza del destino
Invano Alvato ti celasti al mondo [9:48]
with Franco Corelli (tenor)
Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI /Basile (1956)
Cielo! mio padre! [1:18]
Rivedrai le foreste imbalsamate [2:44]
Su, dunque! sorgete, Egizie coorti [3:41]
with Anita Cerquetti (soprano)
Orchestra del Teatro di San Carlo di Napoli/Santini (1954)
Credo in un Dio crudel [4:35]
(rec. details unknown)
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834-1886)
La gioconda
O monumento! [4:48]
Orchestra of the Chicago Lyric Opera/Sanzogno (1966)
Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)
Andrea Chénier
Nemico della patria? [5:07]
NHK Symphony Orchestra/Capuana (1961)
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Tre sbirri... Una carrozza... [4:56]
Orchestra della RAI Torino/Basile (1955)
La fanciulla del West
Minnie, dalla mia casa son partito [2:21]
Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Firenze/Mitropoulos (1954)



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