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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Includes a 44-page booklet with historic photos, a complete Italian libretto with a new original English translation, and an essay on the performance by Ira Siff.
“The cast of this 1967 performance is excellent, led energetically by Franco Capuana … But of course the center of the revival, and its raison d’etre, is Leyla Gencer. And what a remarkable artist! On this disc of a lost opera from a golden age of opera creativity, we are able to experience through Gencer an era of musical vitality and the great interpreters who encountered these works when they were new. Such is her vitality.” — Ira Siff
R E V I E W S:
Giovanni Pacini's opera Saffo is the only work of this contemporary of Rossini to make
it into the operatic repertoire, and even this slim popularity only extends to Italy and a few of the Spanish-speaking countries. Nonetheless, Opera d'Oro's Pacini: Saffo is the third recording of the opera that has appeared, all three of them live, and so far this Naples Teatro San Carlo Opera performance from April 7, 1967, appears to be the earliest complete recording of Saffo. The title role is essayed by the "queen of the pirates," mezzo-soprano Leyla Gencer with bass-baritone Louis Quilico as a robust Aleandro and little-known tenor Tito del Bianco just okay in the role of Faone. Quilico is very dynamic here, particularly in the opening scenes where he has most of the music and appears to be driving the whole production with the forcefulness of his performance. However, it is Gencer who, despite a rough start, eventually winds up owning this performance -- she obviously loves the role, and delivers up Saffo in strongly dramatic overtones that suggest a carefully considered combination of singing and acting, with an increasing reliance for the latter as the show progresses. This is one of the best of Gencer's many live opera performances.
Like most Opera d'Oro packages, this Pacini: Saffo has been around the block before, appearing on the Hunt Productions label in 1990 and on the Canadian Arkadia label a little later. This sounds like it was recorded with reasonably good fidelity originally, but with noticeable tape hiss, and then someone CEDARed it to death for reissue; it is somewhat boxy and constricted, yet still betrays a hint of high end. On a sound quality scale of 1 to 5, 5 being equivalent to a commercial studio recording and 1 being a Mapleson cylinder, Pacini: Saffo is about a 3.5, not bad for an Italian radio performance of the 1960s. The orchestra is a little scrappy and the chorus is none too distinguished, entering a little late for their cue on more than one occasion.
Saffo is a very good opera -- it has splendid ensemble passages, and ordinary recitative is set with the object of being as interesting as the set pieces, of which there are only a few. Stylistically Saffo is reminiscent of Bellini to some extent, but mostly of early Verdi of whom, it is said, this opera influenced considerably. Ultimately one would hope for a studio recording of Saffo, and so few new opera recordings are being made in the post-9/11 world it is not advisable to hold one's breath for that. But in the meantime, the Opera d'Oro disc will do... it is representative of both the star performers and the work itself, and it is priced right for those who are looking to experiment, rather than to invest.
-- Uncle Dave Lewis, AllMusic.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Saffo by Giovanni Pacini
Mario Guggia (Tenor),
Louis Quilico (Baritone),
Vittoria Maniachi (Soprano),
Maurizio Piacente (Bass),
Franca Mattiucci (Mezzo Soprano),
Leyla Gencer (Soprano),
Tito Del Bianco (Tenor)
Naples Teatro San Carlo Chorus,
Naples Teatro San Carlo Orchestra
Written: 1840; Italy
Date of Recording: 04/07/1967
Venue: Live Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Italy
Length: 130 Minutes 51 Secs.
Average Customer Review: ( 3 Customer Reviews )
Underappreciated Gem October 3, 2014
By Stephen Rutledge (Lake Bluff, IL) See All My Reviews
"Beautiful singing in an outstanding bel canto opera. Sound quality a bit fuzzy--this is a live recording from the late 60's-- but this is made up for by superb arias for the various voices. Pacini was accomplished as a librettist and composer, and Saffo shows off his latter skills. I'm very glad that I learned about this less well known opera and added it to my collection."
The unfairly unknown Giovanni Pacini July 25, 2014
By Dr. Stephen Schoeman (Westfield, NJ) See All My Reviews
"Giovanni Pacini is today hardly if at all mentioned in any of the major or minor opera houses of the world yet he was a very fine opera composer in his day. His masterwork "Saffo" influenced Verdi and may favorably be compared to Bellini's "Noma" for dramatic power and beauty of melodic line. Recording companies that gives us rarely if ever performed operas do a considerable public service. Opera is not just Verdi and Rossini and Mozart and Puccini and Donizetti among the other well known composers. There is a long and venerable history to opera and along the way have come great and even brilliant composers who, sadly, even tragically, would be eclipsed by composers who became more famous. The adventure is to find these lesser known or unknown composers and their works and then sit back and enjoy the beautiful and wonderful music that they composed. And do so without making comparisons other than to note that each composer had his or her particular style and theoretical and practical approach to opera. And let each composer stand on his or her own! Dr. Stephen Schoeman"
A Good Document of a Rarely Performed Opera December 1, 2013
By Joseph Erdeljac (West Chester, PA) See All My Reviews
"Although this is not a great work, it is however a great document of a rarely performed work that is well written in the style of the period. The cast is well chosen and handles the music with grace and ease in all cases."