MASCAGNI Cavalleria Rusticana • Gianandrea Gavazzeni, cond; Franco Corelli (Turiddu); Giulietta Simionato (Santuzza); Giangiacomo Guelfi (Alfio); Gabriella Garturan (Lola); Maria Grazia Allegri (Mamma Lucia); La Scala O/Ch • OPERA D’ORO 7083Read more (74:16 Text and Translation)
This live performance from December 7, 1963, is one of those legendary recordings that has been making the circuit of opera lovers for decades, usually accompanied by such statements as, “They don’t sing them like that anymore,” and “They were gods, back then, gods, I tell you!” None of this is true, but what is undeniable fact is the visceral power of communication on display in this Cav, a matter of theatrical expressivity employed by three of the best Italian opera singers of the day at the top of their careers.
Franco Corelli is sometimes typed as a typically hamfisted Italian lirico-spinto; certainly, there were occasions when he was out of his stylistic depth (Karajan’s Carmen, anyone?), or unsympathetic with his material. But in operas he knew and understood, he was not just a tenor but a living presence, and one capable of finesse. The serenade here is about as ardent and splendorous as they get, just as it should be, but Corelli’s attention to phrasing in “Viva il vino spumeggiante” (the fade on “giubilo,” the extra crisp g’s in “spumeggiante,” the pointed slide in “scintillante”) begins to show just how much he went beyond the stereotype. Then there’s the perfect lightness of tone to the start of “Mamma! Mamma, quel vino è generoso,” and even more so with a marvelous floating tone on “E poi, mamma, sentite,” and the diminuendo on “s’io non tornassi.” When volume is required, Corelli has it, along with a golden sound that never feels pushed; but what really makes this and many of his other finest performances work is that he creates credible human beings out of music.
So does Giulietta Simionato. She had been on the stage for more than three decades by the time of this performance, and her once bright mezzo had darkened and grown richer with the years. There’s a regular beat to the voice in the chest, but she’s frankly incandescent: “Voi lo sapete” could hardly be bettered, nor “No, no, Turiddu, rimani,” such an earnestly floated cri de coeur. The adder-like venom with which she gets Alfio’s attention (“È tardi ormai, ma per voi”), the self-flagellating misery as she explains the love triangle (“Uso a mentire il labbro mio”), all this and much more point to a major interpretative artist giving the performance of a lifetime—and none of this, mind you, at the sacrifice of the written note.
Her Alfio, Giangiacomo Guelfi, was a Ruffo pupil, and that has a symbolic significance, given the size of his voice. His role here doesn’t present anything near the opportunities that Corelli’s does, and there are early difficulties with the high notes in “Il cavallo scalpita.” But his menacingly dark tone and control of the line makes something entirely memorable out of “Compar Turiddu, avete morso a buono, c’intenderemo bene a quell che pare!”
None of this would matter if this trio didn’t have a sympathetic conductor at the podium. In some quarters today that’s viewed with distaste, as though a relic from some naive musical past. Fortunately, Gianandrea Gavazzeni didn’t buy into this view at all. He maintains the mix of dramatic tension and heartfelt lyricism with ease. Nor does he push his singers, but seconds them ably.
The sound is good for live recordings of its period, with clarity, effective frequency response, and little evidence of that high tape hiss picked up from numerous generations of copies. Yes, you can hear some audience noises (and quite a bit of applause), but the singers are very forward, and the orchestra caught in better balance to them than on some modern studio recordings I’ve reviewed.
In short, this is one of the best Cav versions you can get, archival, modern, live, or studio. If you haven’t heard it already and enjoy the opera, you owe it to yourself to give this one a listen.
Cavalleria Rusticanaby Pietro Mascagni Performer:
Giulietta Simionato (Mezzo Soprano),
Franco Corelli (Tenor),
Giangiacomo Guelfi (Baritone),
Gabriella Carturan (Mezzo Soprano),
Maria Grazia Allegri (Alto)
Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,
Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Period: Romantic Written: 1890; Italy Date of Recording: 12/07/1963 Venue: Live Teatro Alla Scala, Milan, Italy Length: 73 Minutes 52 Secs. Language: Italian
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
All you want from from Verismo OperaApril 12, 2012By r. corrado (virginia beach, VA)See All My Reviews"Gavazzeni is an ideal accompanist. He has to be with the musical liberties the principals take. That said, you don;t get more exciting or more great vocalising than these three giants of interpretation.Simionato is simply spectacular in this role I also have her in the commercial recording on Decc-London. Corelli in this role is awesome.Guelfi is severely overlooked as Alfio. His power is unsurpassed by any baritone of the era. This is a must buy for any lover of verismo opera. Cavalleria is the tonesetter of this repertoire. R. Corrado
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