CILEA Adriana Lecouvreur • Mario Rossi, cond; Magda Olivero (Adriana); Giulietta Simionato (Princess de Bouillon); Anna di Stasio (Mlle Dangeville); Franco Corelli (Maurizio); Mariano Caruso (Abbé de Chazeuil); Ettore Bastianini (Michonnet);Read more San Carlo O & Ch • OPERA D’ORO 7037, mono (2 CDs: 136:37 Text and Translation) Live: Naples 11/28/1959
This is yet another reissue of what is perhaps the most acclaimed performance of Cilea’s opera ever given, the San Carlo Adriana Lecouvreur that put Magda Olivero in the firmament of operatic superstars. Though no stranger to Italian audiences, Olivero had never been particularly popular. Her voice had an odd, wiry quality that dissipated somewhat in the house and, unlike many of her verismo sisters from the 1930s, was also generally very musical and not prone to dramatic exaggeration. (In earlier years, she’d even sung Monteverdi onstage, a rare feat indeed for fascist Italy.) Moreover, her marriage to a munitions dealer, which ended after World War II, cast a cloud of suspicion over her as being linked to someone who assisted Mussolini’s war machine, however innocently and under duress.
But this performance of Adriana, in which she stepped in for an indisposed Renata Tebaldi, simply could not be ignored. It literally galvanized a career stuck in second gear since her return to the stage in 1951 after a decade of retirement. From this point forward, Olivero would be a legendary soprano, at least in Italy. (She didn’t become legendary in America until after her 1967 performance of Medea, this time stepping in for no less a personage than Callas.)
Cilea’s opera, more French in quality and texture than Italian, is often overlooked for its piquant charm, but the impassioned, soaring conducting of the vastly underrated Mario Rossi pulls it together very well. In retrospect, Olivero, though singing relatively cleanly, sounds a bit hammy, particularly in her spoken lines. When I saw her do the role in 1972, she toned this down a bit (at least for American audiences). And then there’s the questionably drawn-out final, floated high note of the first aria, “Io son l’umile.” Those who never heard her sing this in person have no clue why she did this, or the effect it produced, but I can tell you. She’d rise to that note on a continuous breath from the previous phrase and, without breaking the line, start it pianissimo and swell it until the rafters rang. And not one recording of her singing it really captures the power of her crescendo, not even this one in which it is as well controlled as it ever would be.
Ettore Bastianini is our “luxury cast” Michonnet, and he acquits himself well. Those readers who may be wary of Corelli as Maurizio may rest comfortably in the knowledge that Rossi did not let him get away with his usual “murder” of the vocal line, and when Corelli sang cleanly (which was seldom) there was no one finer in his class. Sadly, though Olivero later recorded for Decca, they never let her record Adriana because they already had a “classic” version in the vaults with Tebaldi, Simionato, Mario Del Monaco, and conductor Franco Capuana, so this live, mono recording remains the best overall performance (and cast) we have of this enchanting work. Simionato “live” and Simionato in the recording studio were two different animals. Just compare her performance here to the studio recording and you’ll hear what I mean.
I once heard parts of this Adriana many moons ago when it was on LP, and also sampled the Hardy release on CD, but Opera d’Oro’s remarkably clean, clear restoration makes this the issue of choice. The sound quality is surprisingly good, clear, and clean for a mono live performance from Italy. This opera may be an acquired taste for some—it is very distinctly, to use a popular phrase that some think deprecating but I do not, a “chick opera”—but if you have any other version of it, whether Tebaldi or Scotto, this one is still essential.
Adriana Lecouvreurby Francesco Cilča Performer:
Mariano Caruso (Tenor),
Augusto Frati (Tenor),
Antonio Cassinelli (Bass),
Rosanna Zerbini (Soprano),
Anna di Stasio (Mezzo Soprano),
Giulietta Simionato (Mezzo Soprano),
Magda Olivero (Soprano),
Franco Corelli (Tenor),
Renato Ercolani (Tenor),
Ettore Bastianini (Baritone)
Naples Teatro San Carlo Chorus,
Naples Teatro San Carlo Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1902; Italy Date of Recording: 11/1959 Venue: Live Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Italy Language: Italian
Olivero/Corelli/Adriana/San Carlo OperaFebruary 1, 2014By Ralph Cavaliere (No. Massapequa, NY)See All My Reviews"What a combination...I could not have seen them live at the Met, and I'll treasure this performance from the San Carlo. Even for 1959, the sound is great and added to the artistry of Corelli and Magda singing together, and, the beautiful music of Cilea's Adriana...I had to have it. I was not disappointed. In fact. I was overwhelmed. I wish I could put into words how Stefan Zucker, (tenor and critic), would have said it for me. For all opera lovers, this is definitely, a must. I have two other great,complete recordings of Adrian and it's interesting to compare notes. I haven't forgotten, Simionato and Bastianini, the mezzo and baritone. I should have said "What a quartet!""Report Abuse