Notes and Editorial Reviews
The Saint of Bleecker Street is, at least in my view, Menotti’s finest work. It is filled with memorable tunes, starting with Annina’s big aria, and including duets, ensembles, and a smashing tenor aria as well. The story is engrossing—set in New York’s Little Italy, pitting religion and Annina’s deeply spiritual and pure nature against her brother’s hatred of religion and what it stands for, and also pitting his love affair with Desideria against his excessive, and perhaps unnatural, love for his sister. The music underlines the emotions of the story and the characters, and Menotti’s post-Puccinian and Straussian expressionism fits the libretto perfectly. There is very little note-spinning here; the inspiration level is high throughout.
There is a modern recording on Chandos (9971), which was reviewed both by John Story and me in Fanfare 26:1. John was positive, I was enthusiastic—and on reflection and after being able to compare the Chandos with this reissue of the classic 1955 RCA performance, I am inclined to think he was more right than I. The Chandos is a very good performance. As the only available recording of this work for some years, it was extremely valuable. But despite more modern, stereophonic sound, and despite better overall orchestral execution, the fact is that the Chandos does not have the punch of this performance.
Part of that is Thomas Schippers, a friend and colleague of the composer and as wonderful an advocate as any composer could ask for. But there is also the singing of the leads here, each of whom is truly superb. The combination of fine singing and unremitting intensity from the three principals is quite remarkable. Gabrielle Ruggiero’s Annina is totally believable, and her stigmata aria shakes you to the core. Her performance may be the strongest reason for preferring this to the Chandos. Julia Melinek’s Annina does not throw caution to the winds in quite the same way as Ruggiero, nor does Melinek’s singing match Ruggero’s in tonal sheen and glow. Gloria Lane’s Desideria conveys both the love she feels for Michele and the dismissive anger that wells up in her because of his attachment to his sister. I cannot imagine a better Michele than David Poleri; his fury in the duet that ends with his killing of Desideria is completely believable. His voice has a lovely glow about it here.
All of the supporting singers are superb, and Schippers molds everything into a sweeping, unified whole, a performance of inevitability and unceasing momentum.
-- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
reviewing this recording previously issued in Europe as Naxos 8.111360-61
Works on This Recording
The Saint of Bleecker Street by Gian Carlo Menotti
Leon Lishner (Bass),
Maria Di Gerlando (Soprano),
Maria Marlo (Soprano),
Catherine Akos (Mezzo Soprano),
David Poleri (Tenor),
Gabrielle Ruggiero (Soprano),
Gloria Lane (Mezzo Soprano),
David Aiken (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1953-1954; USA
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