Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


Lawrence TIBBETT in Opera NIMBUS Prima Voce NI 7825 [77:14].

Arias from: Pagliacci, Carmen, Tosca, Un Ballo in Mascherra, Il Barbiere Di Siviglia; Die Walkure; Rigoletto; Otello; and Simon Boccanegra.

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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 world’s 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!" Tibbett’s 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 Leoncavallo’s 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 Puccini’s opera (rec. 1929). Anger, frustration and fury mix in Tibbett’s Eri Tu from Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera (rec. 1930) when Renato discovers his wife’s infidelity.

But it is the absolute command of Rossini’s 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 barber’s services.

Romance, sentimentality and heroism – all are caught in Valentine’s aria from Gounod’s Faust (rec.1934) as the soldier bids his sister farewell and marches off to war. Tibbett’s seamless silken singing lifts Wolfram’s ode to the evening star from Wagner’s 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 Duke.

Three Iago arias are included from Verdi’s Otello (rec 1939). In the ‘Brindisi’ drinking song Tibbett thinly disguises malevolence behind bonhomie as he plots the downfall of Otello’s 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 Tibbett’s major operatic roles was that of Simon the Doge in Verdi’s 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: Tibbett’s majestically tender interpretation of Wotan’s Farewell from Wagner’s 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.


Ian Lace.


Ian Lace.

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