Notes and Editorial Reviews
This comfortable old set makes a welcome appearance on CD (as well as on mid-price LP), particularly when the companies have been surprisingly tardy in representing this favourite opera in the new medium. Under Serafin this vintage Rome recording is certainly idiomatic in a strong and gutsy way, even if in places it is a little too easy going and lacks the distinctive magic of the very finest versions, with slow speeds predominating.
As for the recording, it has come up remarkably well in this digital transfer allowing for the limitations of late-1950s sound. The very opening is the passage most likely to be disconcerting, for the string sound in the fugato is dry and boxy with rather too boomy a bass. Initially the tape hiss
is rather high and the thinness of the cymbal crashes reveals the age of the recording too. But all the sounds are very cleanly placed within the stereo scene and when the voices enter it is quite a revelation, for they are placed on stage very vividly. This is so throughout the rest of the set. The precision may be judged even by the fact that on the entry of Butterfly, Tebaldi is clearly placed only just off-stage while her companions in chorus are a long way behind her.
Tebaldi gives a vintage performance to remind us of her sterling qualities in this repertory, though I was surprised that the firm, golden tone which so consistently marked her singing gives way to a touch of rawness on the odd note, even in this 1958 performance. Regularly she floats pianissimo top notes ravishingly, but generally her portrait of Butterfly is lusty rather than subtle. Carlo Bergonzi makes a characteristically stylish Pinkerton, not so much of a cad as he ought to be. Enzo Sordello's singing as Sharpless brings some gritty tone, not rounded as one wants in the first scene. However, it is good to have Fiorenza Cossotto in one of her finest major recordings.
-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [7/1986]
reviewing a previous reissue of this recording, Decca 411634
Works on This Recording
Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini
Renata Tebaldi (Soprano),
Carlo Bergonzi (Tenor),
Fiorenza Cossotto (Mezzo Soprano),
Enzo Sordello (Baritone)
Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Chorus,
Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra
Written: 1904; Italy
Date of Recording: 1958
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