Notes and Editorial Reviews
An enthralling performance, with three great stars showing just how and why a career dedicated to the correct repertory can become monumental.
There was real excitement surrounding the release of these records in 1970. A few months after they were recorded, in Monte-Carlo in April and May 1969, Magda Olivero returned to the Edinburgh Festival (she had made a highly acclaimed appearance there in 1963 as Adriana Lecouvreur in the San Carlo Opera, Naples production of Cilea's opera) as the deranged mother in Malipiero's Sette Canzoni. Although she was on stage for less than ten minutes, her searing dramatic commitment, the individuality of her phrasing, the high notes and spine-tingling diminuendos, summoned by visibly
steely will-power, will stay in the memory of anyone who saw her on that occasion, or in the long series of performances she gave during the blazing Indian summer of her career which lasted well into the 1980s.
Fedora is an example of what Shaw called the higher Sardoudledum—based on Sardou's play, a mishmash of Czarist spies, noble Nihilists drowned in cellars (the news arriving by cable), the heroine swallowing poison. Giordano took his lessons from Tosca seriously, while one could not wish his opera on to any sensible theatre manager, it resides perfectly in this enthralling performance.
Del Monaco was by this stage in his career even less subtle about the relentless forte at which he sang, but although he occasionally strays off-pitch the positive elements, the roaring tone, crystal-clear diction and phrasing worthy of a prize-fighter, make him a superb match for Olivero. If you are in some doubt, try track 5 on the second disc, the scene in which Fedora extracts a murder-confession from the noble Loris. Their intense conversation, backed by the playing of Pascal Roge as the Polish pianist-spy ''a nephew of Chopin'', is one of the supreme examples of verismo acting on record.
Gobbi doesn't get a lot to sing, except the adaptation of Alabiev's Nightingale song, ''La Donna Russa'', but his conversation with Olivero at the beginning of Act 3, in which he relates the series of disasters that have been triggered off by her vengeance, is another terrific example of Giordano's craftsmanship, their whispered exchanges sung against a marvellous Wagnerian obbligato on the basses. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa takes the tiny role of a groom, and the Monte-Carlo opera chorus and orchestra play the piece for all it's worth under the always reliable Gardelli. I'm sorry to go over the top, but Fedora really is one of the most satisfying examples of recorded opera from this already far-off age, with three great stars, each of them in their later fifties, showing just how and why a career dedicated to the correct repertory, not chopping and changing, can become, well, monumental.
The three scenes from Zandonai's Francesca, an opera that del Monaco and Olivero had appeared in together at La Scala a few years before the recording, are equally convincing, a real wallow: Olivero's aria in the extract from Act 3, ''Paolo, datemi pace!'' is one of those nagging tunes that once heard is difficult to banish. The recordings are as clear and fresh-sounding, with no gimmicks, as they were on the original releases. A pity about the booklet for Fedora; in the LP issue it contained an excellent essay by William Weaver as well as set designs by Benois and a stunning photograph of Gobbi as de Sieriex in plus-fours, Argyle socks and waxed moustache, wheeling in his bicycle in Act 3: Fedora has some Trivial Pursuits claim to be the first opera to feature bikes in the plot.
-- Patrick O'Connor, Gramophone [3/1992]
reviewing a previous reissue of this recording, Decca 433033
Works on This Recording
Fedora by Umberto Giordano
Tito Gobbi (Baritone),
Magda Olivero (Soprano),
Mario Del Monaco (Tenor),
Athos Cesarini (Voice),
Ricardo Cassinelli (Voice),
Magda [Soprano Vocal] Olivero (Voice),
Leonardo Monreale (Voice)
Monte Carlo Opera Orchestra
Written: 1898; Italy
Be the first to review this title