Notes and Editorial Reviews
PEARL FISHERS DUET
Various conductors and orchestras; Gregory Cross (tn);
Carlo Bergonzi (tn);
Mario del Monaco (tn);
José Carreras (tn);
Carlo Cossutta (tn);
Gino Quilico (bar);
Ettore Bastianini (bar);
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (bar);
Piero Cappucilli (bar);
Leo Nucci (bar);
Gabriel Bacquier (bar);
Enzo Sordello (bar);
Nicolai Ghiaurov (bs);
Martti Talvela (bs);
Bonaldo Giaiotti (bs);
Richard Van Allen (bs)
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 2614 (79:48)
Les pêcheurs des perles:
Au fond du temple saint.
Dio, che nell’alma infondere;
Il Grande Inquisitor!
La forza del destino:
Solenne in quest’ora.
Si, pel ciel.
O Mimi, tu piú non torni.
ler altro, il consolato sen’ venne a visitor.
Ecco il magico liquore.
Il rivar salvar tu dêi
With “Pearl Fishers Duet,” Australia’s Decca Eloquence label copies the title of the often-reissued RCA recording of duets for tenor and baritone from 1951 with Jussi Björling (singing gloriously) and Robert Merrill. The five duets that they recorded are found here along with six others.
Les pêcheurs des perles
aside, this is a collection of male duets from Italian operas presented in no particular order, a generous sampling of highlights from Decca’s catalog of complete operas.
Baritone Gino Quilico is the star of the irresistible
duet, his voice and superior French diction perfect for the role of Zurga. His partner, the little-known tenor Gregory Cross, sings sensitively in this 1992 recording, well conducted by Charles Dutoit.
Critics usually have high praise for Carlo Bergonzi who is featured here in three duets, while reviews of Mario del Monaco almost always complain about his singing’s lack of nuance or quiet dynamics and then go on to praise the performance at hand. Bergonzi was a tasteful, musical singer and a master of Verdian style, but in the particular excerpts offered here (a random sample, to be sure), del Monaco thrills where Bergonzi merely impresses. Del Monaco is heard in the two tenor/baritone duets from
La forza del destino
. They come from what I consider to be the best studio recording of the opera, in spite of the somewhat routine conducting of Francesco Molinari Pradelli. Ettore Bastianini is in glorious voice as Carlo, and del Monaco is a fervent Alvaro, pouring out beautiful, ringing tone. Bergonzi is heard in the Carlo/Rodrigo duet from
and two Puccini duets, both conducted by Tullio Serafin. The echoey sound of Decca’s
recording gives the singing, particularly Bastianini’s, a distant, slightly impersonal quality, but it’s a fine performance. Puccini didn’t compose any other extended duets for his male characters, but the brief
excerpt comes close. Bergonzi is excellent and baritone Enzo Sordello is adequate, but Bergonzi sounds fresher in his earlier recording of Pinkerton on EMI with Barbirolli conducting and a better Sharpless, Rolando Panerai. The
duet comes from Solti’s 1965 version. Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau is Rodrigo in what may be his best performance of a Verdi role, less mannered than in most of his others, but still pronouncing Italian curiously at times. He and Bergonzi give a precise, unself-indulgent performance.
comes one of Verdi’s devastating dramatizations of the importance of separation of church and state, the scene between Phillip II and the Grand Inquisitor, an inspired duet for two basses that is one of the high points of his entire output. Ghiaurov and Talvela were each in their prime in 1965, and are perfect in these roles. This is the high point of Solti’s recording, as it is in Horst Stein’s live Vienna performance (with Corelli) with the same two basses. There is also a notable 1980 performance with Paul Plishka and Jerome Hines on YouTube. Ghiaurov also sings beautifully in “Il rivar salvar ti dêi” from
, the longest duet offered here. His partner is Piero Cappucilli whose sameness of delivery, despite his excellent voice and technique, makes him, for me, a frustrating singer. Nicola Zaccaria and Rolando Panerai give a more exciting performance on the EMI recording with Callas.
That my ear involuntarily dubs in Pavarotti’s voice when listening to the duet from
is no reflection on José Carreras, who sings Nemorino well, but a result of the indelible impression that Pavarotti made in the role. The vital, sensitive conducting of Peter Maag makes Decca’s
with Pavarotti, Caballé, and Milnes my favorite recording of that opera. It contains a lesser-known Verdi duet for two basses, “Egli delira,” a precursor to the one in
, excellently performed here by Bonaldo Giaiotti whose rich tone resembles that of the later Pinza, and Richard Van Allen who excels at characterization. The inevitable act II duet from
is taken from Solti’s 1977 recording. The musicality with which Carlo Cossutta and Gabriel Bacquier sing here indicates that the complete performance, which has been overshadowed by those with better-known Otellos, may be unfairly neglected.
The cover art pictures an intimate scene at sunset in which two fishermen cast exceptionally long fishing poles—probably not an authentic pearl-fishing method—but this enjoyable disc is recommended nonetheless.
FANFARE: Paul Orgel
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