Largely unknown by younger film fans or forgotten by older fans, Lawrence
Tibbett, the American baritone, is still revered by opera enthusiasts as
one of the worlds greatest singers. He made six films between 1930
and 1937: Rogue Song (30); New Moon (30); The
Prodigal (31); Cuban Love Song (32); Metropolitan (36)
and Under Your Spell (37). At the time of the debut of this
Metropolitan Opera singer, Louella Parsons commented: "The long-awaited successor
to Rudolph Valentino has arrived!" Tibbetts singing of operatic arias
was an important feature in each of his films.
This historic collection of popular arias dating from 78s dating from 1926
to 1939 demonstrates the power and sensitivity of his singing.
The programme opens with the Prelude to Leoncavallos Pagliacci
(recorded in 1926). One is at once aware of the richness of the voice,
the perfect diction and the sensitivity to interpret shades of character
so that a commanding presence and a vulnerablity sit side by side almost
in the same bar. Then in Carmen (rec. 1929) he makes a dashing, swaggering
Escamillo as he boasts about his prowess in the bullring. As Scarpia he is
all sinister malevolence as he sings Tosca, You Make Me Forget God
in the Te Deum of Act I of Puccinis opera (rec. 1929). Anger, frustration
and fury mix in Tibbetts Eri Tu from Verdis Un Ballo in
Maschera (rec. 1930) when Renato discovers his wifes infidelity.
But it is the absolute command of Rossinis breathtakingly fast Largo
al factotum from The Barber of Seville (rec.1930) that really impresses;
this really is vocal risk-taking and listen to how much varied characterisation
he squeezes into the line Figaro., Figaro as a motley bunch of citizens shout
for the barbers services.
Romance, sentimentality and heroism all are caught in Valentines
aria from Gounods Faust (rec.1934) as the soldier bids his sister
farewell and marches off to war. Tibbetts seamless silken singing lifts
Wolframs ode to the evening star from Wagners
Tannhäuser (rec. 1934). In one of his most famous roles,
Rigoletto, Tibbett singing the aria Cortigiani, vil razza
dannata spits out all his spleen against the courtiers who have conspired
to bring about the ruination of his daughter by his employer the libertine
Three Iago arias are included from Verdis Otello (rec 1939).
In the Brindisi drinking song Tibbett thinly disguises malevolence
behind bonhomie as he plots the downfall of Otellos handsome young
lieutenant, Cassio. In Credo Tibbett is diabolical and scornful
as he states his demonic creed in this monologue. In Era la notte
he is all oily spite wrapped up in mincing good intent as he tells Otello
that he has heard Cassio dreaming about Desdemona.
Another of Tibbetts major operatic roles was that of Simon the Doge
in Verdis Simon Boccanegra (rec.1939). In the aria Plebe! Patrizi!
Popolo, he is commanding as he quietens the mob and in an emotionally
charged plea, calls for peace and an end to civil strife.
Then there is the impressive 18 minute item: Tibbetts majestically
tender interpretation of Wotans Farewell from Wagners Die Walkure
(rec. 1934 with Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra.)
Although the background sound often crackles, the refurbishment is first
class. This is a wonderful collection and a marvellous musical experience.