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Puccini: La Boheme / Toscanini, Albanese, Peerce, Mcknight, Valentino

Puccini / Nbcso / Toscannini
Release Date: 10/11/2011 
Label:  Opus Kura   Catalog #: 7058/59   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Licia AlbaneseFrank ValentinoAnne McKnightGeorge Cehanovsky,   ... 
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony ChorusNBC Symphony OrchestraMilan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

PUCCINI La Bohème. Manon Lescaut : act III 1 Arturo Toscanini, cond; Licia Albanese ( Mimì ); Jan Peerce ( Rodolfo ); Francesco Valentino ( Marcello ); Anne McKnight ( Musetta ); Nicola Moscona ( Colline ); Salvatore Baccaloni ( Read more class="ARIAL12i">Benoit and Alcindro ); NBC SO &; 1 La Scala O & Ch OPUS KURA 7958/9 (2 CDs: 114:02)

These three performances are live, those of La Bohème drawn from two 1946 NBC broadcasts, that of act III of Manon Lescaut from an Italian aircheck also from 1946.The former, of course, is the major issue here. Its source is well-transferred HMV LPs, the resulting sound being very close to that of the still available, exceptionally well-recorded RCA CD edition. But sound alone is not a key issue here. Unlike the RCA release, Opus Kura offers no libretto and provides liner notes in Japanese only. Moreover the few pieces of information in English are offered in microscopic print that is almost impossible to read without some magnification.

Both La Bohème broadcasts celebrated the opera’s world premiere led by Toscanini in Turin on February 1, 1896. But this should not lead one to assume that these NBC accounts are replicas of that event. For one thing the half century that separates them from the premiere has allowed for an assimilation that was probably not possible in 1896. Moreover, the physical movement that a staged performance requires may well have imposed some limitations upon tempo that do not exist under concert-hall conditions. This in no way is meant to imply shortcomings in these concert performances. Indeed, Toscanini’s involvement is suggested by the comments of Jan Peerce, who sang the role of Rodolfo: “Tears were coming down [Toscanini’s] face; it wasn’t put on; nobody saw it, just us. We singers … could see the man and how much the music meant to him.” He added, “To satisfy Toscanini we had to undo a lot of things we had learned from others.” In short this remains a performance that anyone interested in Toscanini or Puccini should hear.

Where this Opus Kura release differs from its RCA predecessor is its inclusion of the third (penultimate) act of Puccini’s early (1893) Manon Lescaut in a 1946 performance led by Toscanini at a rebuilt La Scala during his first return to Italy since 1938. I believe it was also unstaged. Opus Kura identifies the singers, but does not specify who sang a particular role. (The only name familiar to me is Mariano Stablile.) In any event the sound here is considerably inferior to that of La Bohème , making the performance more of a curio than anything else. But it is listenable and well worth hearing for those interested in Toscanini. In short, though this release has limitations, it has virtues, even if it does not match RCA’s superior effort with La Bohème.

FANFARE: Mortimer H. Frank
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Works on This Recording

La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Licia Albanese (Soprano), Frank Valentino (Baritone), Anne McKnight (Soprano),
George Cehanovsky (Baritone), Nicola Moscona (Bass), Salvatore Baccaloni (Bass),
Jan Peerce (Tenor)
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony Chorus,  NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Italy 
Date of Recording: 02/1946 
Venue:  Live  NBC Studio 8-H, New York City 
Language: Italian 
Manon Lescaut: Act 3 by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Carlo Forti (Bass), Mafalda Favero (Soprano), Giovanni Malipiero (Tenor),
Mariano Stabile (Baritone), Giuseppe Nessi (Tenor)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Italy 
Date of Recording: 5/1946 
Venue:  Teatro alla Scala, Milan 

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