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Lebendige Vergangenheit: Carlo Morelli

Verdi / Mozart / Rossini / Morelli
Release Date: 09/14/2010 
Label:  Preiser Records   Catalog #: 89738   Spars Code: AAD 
Composer:  Giuseppe VerdiJules MassenetUmberto GiordanoRuggero Leoncavallo,   ... 
Performer:  Carlo MorelliLuigi MontesantoToti Dal MonteIva Pacetti
Conductor:  Lorenzo MolajoliAlfredo Antonini
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



LEBENDIGE VERGANGENHEIT: CARLO MORELLI/LUIGI MONTESANTO Carlo Morelli, Luigi Montesanto (bar); Toti dal Monte, Iva Pacetti (sop); various conductors; various orchestras PREISER 89738, mono (71:20)


Arias, duets, and songs by VERDI, MASSENET, GIORDANO, LEONCAVALLO, PONCHIELLI, MOZART, ROSSINI, MUSSORGSKY, PUCCINI, GREVER, DI CHIARA, DE LEVA, PONCE, TEJADA


Clan feeling to one side, there have been a number of instances among musicians of one member of a Read more family changing his name to avoid confusion with another. That underestimated conductor Fabian Sevitzky supposedly altered his surname from its original Koussevitzky at the urging of his older brother, Serge, who sugared the bitter suggestion with financial assistance. Other families, other reactions: Thomas Hayward, the Metropolitan Opera tenor, once told me that he’d changed his professional name from one that included its original Tibbett, to avoid coasting on his uncle Lawrence’s laurels. After Tom won the 1944 Met Auditions (shared that year with Robert Merrill), though, Lawrence Tibbett came up to him and in lieu of offering congratulations, snarled, “What the ... did you change your name for?” before storming off.


Carlo Morelli falls in the latter camp. Born Carlos Zanelli-Morales to a wealthy Chilean family, he dropped the “Zanelli” to avoid confusion with his older brother, the already celebrated baritone-cum-tenor Renato Zanelli, then Italianized Morales into Morelli. Unlike Renato, his gifts weren’t recognized at first, and both his music teacher and family felt he had no singing talent whatsoever. Morelli persevered, however, and came to be regarded in the end as a fine singer, and an excellent actor—the latter in large part, he always said, due to lessons given by Eugenio Giraldoni, the first Scarpia. A measure of his success can be observed in the casts he regularly sang with at the height of his career: a 1937 Met Aida with Cigna, Castagna, Martinelli, and Pinza; a 1939 Chicago Lucia with Pons and Schipa; a 1939 Chicago Tosca with Giannini and Tokatyan; and a 1940 Met Otello with Martinelli and Rethberg. In later years, he held well-regarded vocal classes, from which Domingo claims to have learned much.


On this album Preiser offers us a mix of seven selections from 1928 Columbias, all arias; another six, this time all Italian and Spanish pop songs, from 1940; and two off-the-air La Gioconda excerpts from 1939. (An article in the March 2000 Record Collector identifies these as deriving from a Met broadcast on December 30, 1940, with a cast that included Martinelli, Milanov, and Castagna. It sounds too forward and responsive to high frequencies to be a typical U.S. landline broadcast of the Met during that period, though. Perhaps a South American feed?) All demonstrate a “central” baritone with a hint of throatiness in its midrange, good bass support in the lower notes, and free, open production at the top. The chest is very resonant without any apparent forcing.


It’s the way he uses his voice that is most interesting, however. In an era when Italian, Spanish, and Hispanic singers were on the whole more interested in passionate, stentorian declamation than either the score or cantabile singing, Morelli was one of a few laudable exceptions. The songs exemplify this. The turns in the introduction to De Leva’s Canta il mare have a natural grace, and the voice spans lengthy phrases with the ease of one who sings as naturally as he breathes. Grever’s Alma mia is perhaps best of all: burnished tone, excellent enunciation, fine diminuendos, and above all, a way of subtly caressing a phrase to make it glow.


On the operatic front, “Cortigiani” reveals an excellent command of character, despite rushed tempos in the last section. “Zazà, piccolo zingara” is sung not to the audience but clearly to a lover, with a wonderful sense of bel canto . But the best in this division is the “Era la notte.” Many baritones and bass-baritones over the years have performed it with scant regard for Verdi’s detailed instructions; not so, Morelli. Cassio’s supposedly dream-inspired confidences do sound like feverish whispers; and before that, there’s the twist of the knife through the emphasis and prolongation of the last word in “del sogno ardente.” The correct parlando is applied, at the composer’s request, to “Ei disse poscia,” and the breathy fade at the end of “che al Moro ti donò” furnishes the perfect image of the last drop of distilled poison poured ever so effectively in Otello’s ear. Morelli also properly elides the phrases “Cauti vegliamo” and “L’estasi del ciel,” just as Verdi demands—though he blots his copybook by singing “Seguia più vago” at full strength, instead of anything remotely approaching the composer’s explicit, probably exasperated marking. (That celebrated pppppp is there for a reason.) But it is atypical of this highly distinguished reading.


The rest of this disc is given over to eight selections featuring Luigi Montesanto, a baritone who made his debut in 1909, and gave his farewell performance in 1942 (followed by the inevitable second final farewell, 15 years later). His international career was shorter than Morelli’s, but includes at its summit an important first: During his sole Metropolitan season in 1918, he sang the role of Michele in the first performance of Il Tabarro , with a cast that included Muzio and Crimi. In later years, like so many other singers, he took up teaching, his most distinguished pupil being di Stefano.


Montesanto’s 1921 “Zazà, piccolo zingara” makes for interesting comparison with Morelli’s. Both sing clearly, expressively, and possess strong voices, Montesanto’s lighter in texture. But where Morelli keeps his tone clear and unpressured throughout the aria, Montesanto pushes intensely at musical climaxes, causing his vibrato to increase. His version also lacks some of the finesse Morelli displays, taking a breath between the musical phrases, “Or la speranza è spenta” and “ora sei tu la libera,” for instance.


By 1928, and his recordings of the Credo from Otello , the Song of the Flea , and a duet from La Gioconda , the notes above A 3 have been rendered unsteady and poorly supported, though he’s still capable of achieving a ringing tone by pushing hard. Another group from 1933 reveal him in moderately better shape, but lacking the agility to cope with Figaro ( Il barbiere di Siviglia ) and the firmness required for Rigoletto’s “Lassù in cielo,” much less the cantabile line needed for Don Giovanni’s serenade. His partner for duets in the first two is Toti dal Monte in fine voice (the two were an item offstage, as well as on), but she can’t save the results.


Solid liner notes are furnished. Preiser provides its usual sound processing: no audible clicks, rumbling, or scratches, with light filtering in the upper treble range.


In short, definitely worth it for Morelli, who is all too little remembered, rather than for Montesanto, save in the two earliest of eight cuts. At the very least, sample Morelli in a store for the songs and “Era la notte.”


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1.
Rigoletto: Cortigiani, vil razza dannata by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Carlo Morelli ()
Conductor:  Lorenzo Molajoli
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1851; Italy 
Date of Recording: 04/30/1928 
Length: 4 Minutes 40 Secs. 
2.
Otello: Credo in un Dio crudel by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Luigi Montesanto ()
Conductor:  Lorenzo Molajoli
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1928 
Length: 4 Minutes 11 Secs. 
3.
Otello: Era la notte by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Carlo Morelli ()
Conductor:  Lorenzo Molajoli
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; Italy 
Date of Recording: 04/28/1928 
Length: 2 Minutes 39 Secs. 
4.
Hérodiade: Vision fugitive by Jules Massenet
Performer:  Carlo Morelli ()
Conductor:  Lorenzo Molajoli
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1881; France 
Date of Recording: 04/26/1928 
Length: 2 Minutes 40 Secs. 
5.
Andrea Chénier: Un dì m'era di gioia by Umberto Giordano
Performer:  Carlo Morelli ()
Conductor:  Lorenzo Molajoli
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Italy 
Date of Recording: 04/28/1928 
Length: 3 Minutes 21 Secs. 
6.
Zazà: Buona Zazà, del mio buon tempo by Ruggero Leoncavallo
Performer:  Carlo Morelli ()
Conductor:  Lorenzo Molajoli
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1900; Italy 
Date of Recording: 04/28/1928 
Length: 2 Minutes 1 Secs. 
7.
Zazà: Zazà, piccola zingara by Ruggero Leoncavallo
Performer:  Luigi Montesanto ()
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1900; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1921 
Length: 2 Minutes 12 Secs. 
8.
La Gioconda: O monumento! Regia e bolgia dogale by Amilcare Ponchielli
Performer:  Carlo Morelli ()
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876; Italy 
Date of Recording: 12/30/1939 
Length: 3 Minutes 44 Secs. 
9.
La Gioconda: Pescator, affonda l'esca by Amilcare Ponchielli
Performer:  Carlo Morelli ()
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876; Italy 
Date of Recording: 12/30/1939 
Length: 2 Minutes 31 Secs. 
10.
Alma Mia by María Grever
Performer:  Carlo Morelli ()
Conductor:  Alfredo Antonini
Period: Romantic 
Date of Recording: 01/22/1940 
Length: 3 Minutes 3 Secs. 
11.
La Spagnola for voice & orchestra by Vincenzo Di Chiara
Performer:  Carlo Morelli ()
Conductor:  Alfredo Antonini
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1880-1937; Italy 
Date of Recording: 01/22/1940 
Length: 2 Minutes 43 Secs. 
12.
Canta il mare by Enrico De Leva
Performer:  Carlo Morelli ()
Conductor:  Alfredo Antonini
Period: Romantic 
Written: Italy 
Date of Recording: 01/22/1940 
Length: 2 Minutes 17 Secs. 
13.
Violetas, for voice & piano by Miguel Lerdo De Tejeda
Performer:  Carlo Morelli ()
Conductor:  Alfredo Antonini
Date of Recording: 01/25/1940 
Length: 3 Minutes 10 Secs. 
14.
Perjura, for voice & piano by Miguel Lerdo De Tejeda
Performer:  Carlo Morelli ()
Conductor:  Alfredo Antonini
Date of Recording: 01/25/1940 
Length: 2 Minutes 29 Secs. 
15.
Il barbiere di Siviglia: Dunque io son la fortunata by Gioachino Rossini
Performer:  Luigi Montesanto (), Toti Dal Monte (Voice)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1816; Italy 
Date of Recording: 11/07/1933 
Length: 4 Minutes 21 Secs. 
16.
Rigoletto: Lassù in cielo by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Luigi Montesanto (), Toti Dal Monte (Voice)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1851; Italy 
Date of Recording: 11/07/1933 
Length: 4 Minutes 27 Secs. 
17.
La Gioconda: Così mantieni il patto? by Amilcare Ponchielli
Performer:  Luigi Montesanto (), Iva Pacetti (Voice)
Conductor:  Lorenzo Molajoli
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1928 
Length: 4 Minutes 24 Secs. 
18.
Boris Godunov: Canzone della pulce by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Luigi Montesanto ()
Conductor:  Lorenzo Molajoli
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1868-1874 
Date of Recording: 1928 
Length: 3 Minutes 25 Secs. 
19.
Tosca: Già! mi dicon venal by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Luigi Montesanto ()
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1900; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1921 
Length: 2 Minutes 3 Secs. 
20.
Si alguna vez, for voice & piano by Manuel Ponce
Performer:  Carlo Morelli ()
Conductor:  Alfredo Antonini
Date of Recording: 01/22/1940 
Length: 2 Minutes 28 Secs. 
21.
Don Giovanni, K 527: Deh vieni alla finestra [Serenade] by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Luigi Montesanto ()
Conductor:  Lorenzo Molajoli
Period: Classical 
Written: 1787; Prague, Czech Republ 
Date of Recording: 1928 
Length: 2 Minutes 0 Secs. 

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