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Anita Cerquetti: A Vocal Portrait

Release Date: 11/08/2011 
Label:  Preiser Records   Catalog #: 93479   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Giuseppe VerdiVincenzo BelliniGasparo SpontiniGiacomo Puccini,   ... 
Performer:  Anita Cerquetti
Conductor:  Gianandrea GavazzeniVittorio GuiMario Rossi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Florence Maggio Musicale OrchestraItalian Radio Symphony Orchestra TurinMilan RAI Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ANITA CERQUETTI: A Vocal Portrait Anita Cerquetti (s); Gianandrea Gavazzeni, Mario Rossi, Vittorio Gui, cond; Giulietta Simionato (ms); Florence May Fest O; RAI Turin SO; RAI Milan SO PREISER 3479, mono (74:00)

Arias from VERDI Aida. I Vespri Siciliani. Nabucco. Ernani. La forza del destino. PONCHIELLI La Gioconda. BELLINI Norma. Read more SPONTINI Agnese di Hohenstaufen. PUCCINI Tosca. WEBER Oberon. CATALANI La Wally. GIORDANO Andrea Chenier. ROSSINI Guglielmo Tell

Anita Cerquetti was a meteor among singers. Her career lasted 12 years, of which only the second half was in the public eye as a major name. She made only two commercial recordings, the operatic recital reproduced here and a complete recording of La Gioconda (two excerpts from which are also on this disc). Her only vocal deficiency was the lack of a clearly defined trill. Her drawback as a stage performer was that she was very heavy, more than Callas at her biggest, which made it difficult for some audiences to appreciate her as an operatic heroine. Nevertheless, her voice was large and beautiful as well as flexible, capable of singing virtually any role with incredible musicianship and intensity of expression. When Callas changed her mind about singing Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera at La Scala in 1957, management hired Cerquetti, who was finishing up in Chicago at the time, to replace her. As soon as Callas heard who her replacement was, she flip-flopped once again and decided to sing the role.

Although I believe this is the first time her 1957 opera recital has appeared on CD, it did not and still does not fully represent Cerquetti at her best. Much of this is due to the lackluster conducting of Gianandrea Gavazzeni, who obviously didn’t give a toot about the session and so didn’t push his orchestra much beyond a sedentary run-through, but Cerquetti doesn’t sound very comfortable either, certainly not as comfortable as on the complete Gioconda (more on that in a bit) or the live performances conducted by Mario Rossi and Vittorio Gui. Her best moments are the arias from Aida, Norma, Agnese di Hohenstaufen, and Tosca, the last two roles she never sang on stage (though the Spontini aria was one of her favorite recital pieces). The Vespri “Bolero” is also taken at a funereal tempo, much slower than her live performance under Rossi. Yet Cerquetti’s incredible shaping of line and clean musicianship are so good that even so chaste a tenor as Jussi Björling sounds like a willful bel canto show-off by comparison. That was the reason musicians, in particular, loved her: She never distorted the score, not ever, yet sang with an intensity that belied her careful preparation of a role.

Many years ago I listened to the complete Gioconda when it was on LP and disliked it, but here the digital remastering reveals it as a potentially superb recording. Surprisingly, Gavazzeni is also the conductor here, yet his approach is entirely different. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that this is better-conducted than either of Callas’s studio recordings of the opera, though Cerquetti lacks just that extra shade of manic intensity that Callas had on her earlier Cetra version. Giulietta Simionato also sounds uncommonly good in the “mouth of the lion” duet.

The bonus tracks from RAI broadcasts in Turin and Milan show Cerquetti at her best, particularly the excellent performances of the Oberon and Guglielmo Tell arias. I would have preferred that they included the “Ernani, involami … Tutto sprezza” from her live performance under Dmitri Mitropoulos in 1957, if only to prove that Cerquetti had a wonderful trill as well. Still, it’s great to hear even these broadcast tracks cleaned up so beautifully after all these years, and if you’re a Cerquetti fan you’ll want the commercial recital even if you have live versions of some of these arias (there’s a live performance of the Agnese aria even more exciting than this one). Recommended for Cerquetti fans as well as those who have never heard her. Even at slightly subpar, Cerquetti was twice as good as anyone else from her time and place.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

I vespri siciliani: O patria, o cara patria by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Anita Cerquetti (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855; Italy 
I vespri siciliani: Arrigo! ah, parli a un core by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Anita Cerquetti (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855; Italy 
Ernani: Surta è la notte by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Anita Cerquetti (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1844; Italy 
Aida: O patria mia by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Anita Cerquetti (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Italy 
Norma: Casta diva by Vincenzo Bellini
Performer:  Anita Cerquetti (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1831; Italy 
Agnes von Hohenstaufen: O re dei cieli by Gasparo Spontini
Performer:  Anita Cerquetti (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1827/1837; Berlin, Germany 
Nabucco: Ben io t'invenni...Anch' io dischiuso un giorno by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Anita Cerquetti (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842; Italy 
Tosca: Vissi d'arte, vissi d'amore by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Anita Cerquetti (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1900; Italy 
La forza del destino: Pace, pace, mio Dio by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Anita Cerquetti (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1862/1869; Italy 
La Gioconda: É un anatema by Amilcare Ponchielli
Performer:  Anita Cerquetti (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876; Italy 
Oberon, J 306: Ozean! du Ungeheuer by Carl Maria von Weber
Performer:  Anita Cerquetti (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1825-1826; Dresden, Germany 
La Wally: Ebben?... Ne andrò lontana by Alfredo Catalani
Performer:  Anita Cerquetti (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892; Italy 
Andrea Chénier: La mamma morta by Umberto Giordano
Performer:  Anita Cerquetti (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Italy 
Guillaume Tell: Sombre forêt by Gioachino Rossini
Performer:  Anita Cerquetti (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Work(s) by Various
Performer:  Anita Cerquetti (Soprano)
Conductor:  Gianandrea Gavazzeni,  Vittorio Gui,  Mario Rossi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Florence Maggio Musicale Orchestra,  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Turin,  Milan RAI Orchestra

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