Notes and Editorial Reviews
Mario Rossi, cond; Magda Olivero (
); Giulietta Simionato (
Princess de Bouillon
); Anna di Stasio (
); Franco Corelli (
); Mariano Caruso (
Abbé de Chazeuil
); Ettore Bastianini (
San Carlo O & Ch
OPERA D’ORO 7037, mono (2 CDs: 136:37
Text and Translation) Live: Naples 11/28/1959
This is yet another reissue of what is perhaps the most acclaimed performance of Cilea’s opera ever given, the San Carlo
that put Magda Olivero in the firmament of operatic superstars. Though no stranger to Italian audiences, Olivero had never been particularly popular. Her voice had an odd, wiry quality that dissipated somewhat in the house and, unlike many of her verismo sisters from the 1930s, was also generally very musical and not prone to dramatic exaggeration. (In earlier years, she’d even sung Monteverdi onstage, a rare feat indeed for fascist Italy.) Moreover, her marriage to a munitions dealer, which ended after World War II, cast a cloud of suspicion over her as being linked to someone who assisted Mussolini’s war machine, however innocently and under duress.
But this performance of
in which she stepped in for an indisposed Renata Tebaldi, simply could not be ignored. It literally galvanized a career stuck in second gear since her return to the stage in 1951 after a decade of retirement. From this point forward, Olivero would be a legendary soprano, at least in Italy. (She didn’t become legendary in America until after her 1967 performance of
this time stepping in for no less a personage than Callas.)
Cilea’s opera, more French in quality and texture than Italian, is often overlooked for its piquant charm, but the impassioned, soaring conducting of the vastly underrated Mario Rossi pulls it together very well. In retrospect, Olivero, though singing relatively cleanly, sounds a bit hammy, particularly in her spoken lines. When I saw her do the role in 1972, she toned this down a bit (at least for American audiences). And then there’s the questionably drawn-out final, floated high note of the first aria, “Io son l’umile.” Those who never heard her sing this in person have no clue why she did this, or the effect it produced, but I can tell you. She’d rise to that note on a continuous breath from the previous phrase and, without breaking the line, start it
and swell it until the rafters rang. And not
recording of her singing it really captures the power of her
, not even this one in which it is as well controlled as it ever would be.
Ettore Bastianini is our “luxury cast” Michonnet, and he acquits himself well. Those readers who may be wary of Corelli as Maurizio may rest comfortably in the knowledge that Rossi did
let him get away with his usual “murder” of the vocal line, and when Corelli sang cleanly (which was seldom) there was no one finer in his class. Sadly, though Olivero later recorded for Decca, they never let her record
because they already had a “classic” version in the vaults with Tebaldi, Simionato, Mario Del Monaco, and conductor Franco Capuana, so this live, mono recording remains the best overall performance (and cast) we have of this enchanting work. Simionato “live” and Simionato in the recording studio were two different animals. Just compare her performance here to the studio recording and you’ll hear what I mean.
I once heard parts of this
many moons ago when it was on LP, and also sampled the Hardy release on CD, but Opera d’Oro’s remarkably clean, clear restoration makes this the issue of choice. Since they already have a version available at half the price, the chief attractions of this one are its beautiful cover and packaging and the fact that it has a complete libretto. The sound quality is surprisingly good, clear, and clean for a mono live performance from Italy. This opera may be an acquired taste for some—it is very distinctly, to use a popular phrase that some think deprecating but I do not, a “chick opera”—but if you have any other version of it, whether Tebaldi or Scotto, this one is still essential.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Works on This Recording
Adriana Lecouvreur by Francesco Cilča
Mariano Caruso (Tenor),
Renato Ercolani (Tenor),
Augusto Frati (Tenor),
Ettore Bastianini (Baritone),
Anna di Stasio (Mezzo Soprano),
Rosanna Zerbini (Soprano),
Antonio Cassinelli (Bass),
Magda Olivero (Soprano),
Franco Corelli (Tenor),
Giulietta Simionato (Mezzo Soprano)
Naples Teatro San Carlo Chorus,
Naples Teatro San Carlo Orchestra
Written: 1902; Italy
Date of Recording: 11/1959
Venue: Live Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Italy
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act One: Michonnet, della biacca!
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act One: Il Principe di Bouillon e l'Abate di Chazeuil!
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act One: Del sultano Amuratte m'arrendo all'imper
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act One: Io son l'mile ancella
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act One: Eccoci soli alfin!
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act One: Ecco il segnale
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act One: Or dunque, Abate?
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act One: Ecco il monologo
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act One: Maledetta politica!
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Two: Acerba voluttŕ? O vagabonda stella d'Oriente
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Two: Principessa? Finalmente!
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Two: L'anima ho stanca
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Two: Vi cogliam, Conte, sul fatto!
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Two: Eccovi alfin, Divina
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Two: Ma dunque, č vero?
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Two: Ebbene?? Che granchio!
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Two: E sia! Non risponde.
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Three: Eh, via! Cosě non va.
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Three: Io son confusa
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Three: Non fatevi pregar
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Three: Dopo Marte, Tersicore
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Three: Č quella donna al certo!
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Three: "Giusto Cielo! Che feci in tal giorno?"
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Three: So ch'ella dorme
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Three: Amico mio!? Figliuloa!
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Four: Lieta sorpresa!
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Four: Un cofanetto? Scusate
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Four: E sia!? Poveri fiori
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Four: Adriana!? Non odi?
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Four: No, la mia fronte
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Four: Che? Tu tremi? trascolori
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Four: Dio!? Venite!
Adriana Lecouvreur: Act Four: Scostatevi, profani!
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