Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Gaetano Donizetti, Gianandrea Gavazzeni, Rome RAI Orchestra|
Donizetti: L'Elisir d'amore
Genres: Rock, Classical
First-rate 1952 CETRA recording with top-flight cast and muc
L. E. Cantrell | Vancouver, British Columbia Canada | 01/06/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
Professional recording of a live broadcast performance from Auditorium del Foro Italica in Rome on February 20, 1952. It was subsequently published on LPs by CETRA.
Those who had the misfortune to encounter the original CETRA LPs will clearly remember their characteristic harshness of tone. It is with no little relief that I can report that digital restorations carried out a half century later yielded vastly improved sound quality. This is unabashedly a mono recording--but now it is a pretty good mono recording.
ADINA, a prosperous country landowner inclined to be flirtatious and flighty - Alda Noni (soprano)
NEMORINO, a country bumpkin and prize chump hopelessly in love with Adina - Cesare Valletti (tenor)
BELCORE, a sergeant in a regiment encamped near Adina's farm, even though he is hopelessly in love with himself, he's also inclined to marry Adina - Afro Poli (baritone)
DOTTORE DULCAMARA, a traveling quack, a purveyor of bogus nostrums and love potions, who is in love with money and his next meal - Sesto Bruscantini (bass-baritone)
GIANETTA, a country girl who is not entirely averse to snagging a wealthy husband - Bruna Rizzoli (mezzo-soprano)
Gianandrea Gavazzeni with the Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro di Roma della Radiotelevisione Italia (RAI).
~ Libretto in Italian (which includes and identifies texts that have been cut in this recording.)
~ Brief history of the opera and short summary of the plot, combined with a very Italianate commentary. Track list that identifies the principal singers on each track, with timings.
~ Engravings of Donizetti, looking every inch the Romantic-era composer, and Romani, looking like a very dyspeptic librettist.
~ Photographs of Gavazzeni, Noni, Valletti and Bruscantini, all cerca 1950.
This recording includes performance cuts that were traditional for more than a century. Most of the cuts related to small bits of orchestral development. The most significant cuts are some eight lines of chitchat between Adina and Nemorino in Scene 9 of Act II and then sixteen lines of the libretto in the final scene.
Some current listeners are so appalled by cuts that they quite evidently suffer the vapors at the very thought. I do not adhere to the cult of recording every note ever written and re-affirming every preliminary draft and bad idea. The simple fact is that original intentions sometimes do not survive encounters with real audiences. Opera is theater and theatricality at their very largest and not every academic restorer understands that. (If you have any doubts on the matter, just consider the cataclysmic effect on "The Tales of Hoffmann" when "restored" to Wagnerian length, as it has been on some recent recordings.)
"L'elisir d'amore" is yet another opera that can be traced back to that ubiquitous hack of all seasons, Eugene Scribe. Scribe's original libretto, "Le philtre," had been set to music by Auber in 1831, to no particular effect. In 1832, Donizetti needed a libretto on fairly short notice. His hack librettist, Felice Romani, knew a good thing when he could steal it. "Le philtre" was quickly paraphrased into Italian doggerel as "L'elisir d'amore" Donizetti devoted a long time--a full month!--to setting it. "L'elisir d'amore"opened to triumph in Milan in May 1832.
This 1952 recording was issued early in the great bel canto revival. Those who subscribe to the notion that "authenticity" to the original period--however dubiously determined--is the one true standard, may for that reason be inclined to dismiss this performance. They should not. While our current notions of "authenticity" were still far in the future in 1952, the goal of providing a good performance was certainly firmly in place. And, it should be noted in the words of the unidentified commentator in the accompanying booklet, "The rebirth of bel canto restored the good style and taste of singing to the world of opera. But the performers of this L'elisir already possessed a vocal clarity which is musically respectful and electrifying. Their interpretation does not ring of ostentatious virtuosity--as often happens today--but rather of expressive ease and agility, of embellishments grafted onto the logical synthesis of the composer." Yes, no ostentatious virtuosity--and much the better for it!
Cesare Valletti was a true tenore di grazia who made his operatic debut in 1947. He was the pupil of Tito Schipa and in some ways even better than that smooth old singing con man. Valletti was ... well, a truly graceful singer. There was no ostentation about his performances, just a simple feeling of rightness. And rightness is precisely what I feel about his Nemorino. We have since become accustomed to more powerful tenors in the part, such as Bergonzi and Pavarotti and, recently, to the more spectacular Flores, but Valletti, it seems to me, is precisely the kind of singer for which the score calls: smooth, sweet, not too bright in any sense of the word ... and innocent.
(I had the privilege of seeing Valletti as Count Almaviva in "The Barber of Seville" with the San Francisco opera. Heaven knows, he couldn't act, but, ah, he sang like an angel!)
Alda Noni had a basically Italian career lasting from 1942 to 1955. She specialized in the Bellini-Donizetti-Rossini roles, although she would stray as far as a "Magic Flute" for Karajan, an "Ariadne auf Naxos" with Maria Reining and a "Falstaff" with Stabile and Tebaldi. She, Valletti and Bruscantini were regularly teemed and can be heard together in a fine recorded version of "Don Pasquale," also from CETRA.
Sesto Bruscantini, who debuted in 1946, was one the greatest and, alas, one of the last true basso buffos, singing into the 1990s. He is a natural for Dulcamara.
Afro Poli was a bit older than the other three and an outstanding fixture on the great 1938 Gigli recording of "La Boheme." He was a great "primo uomo" of the Italian operatic stage in the years straddling the Second World War.
Gianandrea Gavazzeni was a leading conductor at La Scala in Milan. Along with Tullio Serafin, he was one of the leaders in the mid-20th Century revival of the bel canto operatic repertory. He had strong ties with "L'elisir" and can be found as the conductor of the famous recording of the live performance of the opera at the Florence May Festival of 1967 that featured Carlo Bergonzi as Nemorino, Renata Scotto as Adina and Giuseppe Taddei as Belcore.
This performance is not the best recorded, nor the most complete, nor a showcase for the most spectacular singers. It is merely the most satisfying one--and the one that I think Donizetti would most have enjoyed.
NOTE TO POTENTIAL PURCHASERS:
Having performed the mitzvah of re-issuing these largely forgotten CETRA opera sets in wonderfully improved sound, Warner-Fonit seems to have turned their backs on them. A few years ago, my local record stores reported that Warner-Fonit was simply not responding to their re-orders. Not overly long ago, Amazon had page after page devoted to their products. Now they are few and far between. Grab this set before it disappears or, worse, returns in the hands of some secondary dealer who will demand $200 or $300 for it.