Notes and Editorial Reviews
Lest long-time opera collectors be confused, this is indeed the same L’elisir d’amore available from Decca London nearly uninterrupted since it was first issued in 1955. Since the London CD is evidently only an import these days, this Urania issue may be the best way to obtain the recording, especially as there is a bonus of “Duetti d’amore” recorded by Giuseppe di Stefano and Rosanna Carteri.
As for the performance, it has never been surpassed on records. Perhaps many listeners will prefer Luciano Pavarotti in his two recordings to Giuseppe di Stefano, but I for one do not, since I never can reconcile Pavarotti’s enviable reputation as a bel canto tenor with his apparent inability to sing mezza voce. Here di Stefano shows
what he might have been had he stuck to lyric roles and, at his best, he’s incomparable, amusing and almost always spinning vocal gold. I wish he was at his best in “Una furtive lagrima,” but even so, he’s good enough. Yet, it isn’t the tenor who makes this set the finest available by far—it’s Fernando Corena, whose definitive Dulcamara (the opera’s key role) is in a class by itself.
When Fernando Corena (1916–84) was in his prime, as he certainly was in this recording, he was the most taken-for-granted great singer in the world. Let’s face it—no one writes about basso buffos; or, at least, no one has since Luigi Lablache moonlighted as the private vocal teacher of Queen Victoria. Just as Cesare Siepi, a stupendous dramatic bass baritone, was initially overshadowed by an even greater Ezio Pinza, so was Fernando Corena overshadowed by the beloved Salvatore Baccaloni. Yet, if not quite as flamboyant as his great predecessor, Corena was every bit as good and unquestionably the last in a line of genuine star Italian bel canto basso buffos, going back to the original Dulcamara, Giuseppe Frezzolini (1789–1861), Luigi Lablache (the first Don Pasquale), and Giuseppe de Begnis. As the last of this fabled line, Corena was absolutely unsurpassed in roles like Dulcamara, Don Pasquale, and, perhaps most especially, his sublimely ironical Leporello. Nowadays, if we can get a merely adequate buffo performance out of a basso typically past his prime, we’re lucky.
The lovely Hilde Güden has always been a favorite of mine. She had charm to burn and is an ideal Adina, a role that was originally created by a popular German diva, Sabine Heinefetter (1809–72).
The bonus duets from an RAI concert conducted by Antonio Tonini go a long way to prove that di Stefano had no business singing Otello, but was unrivaled in repertoire like Faust and Iris. Carteri and di Stefano are magnificent in “Oh, come al tuo sottile” from Iris, perhaps alone worth getting this set for, even if you already have the L’elisir from London. Rosanna Carteri is not very well remembered today. Though she was a beautiful and accomplished verismo soprano, with élan and style to burn, there were in those days so many more like her to choose from. If only she were around today!
The sound is fine. The only drawback is the lack of a libretto, but do not let this pass by!
FANFARE: James Camner
Works on This Recording
L'Elisir d'Amore by Gaetano Donizetti
Fernando Corena (Bass),
Luisa Mandelli (Soprano),
Renato Capecchi (Baritone),
Hilde Gueden (Soprano),
Giuseppe Di Stefano (Tenor)
Florence Maggio Musicale Orchestra,
Florence Maggio Musicale Chorus
Written: 1832; Italy
Date of Recording: 09/1955
Venue: Teatro Comunale, Florence, Italy
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