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Giuseppe Di Stefano Sings Verdi & Puccini
George Cehanovsky, Leonard Warren, Tito Gobbi
Giuseppe Di Stefano Sings Verdi & Puccini
Genre: Classical
 
Giuseppe di Stefano, without any doubt, possessed one of the most beautiful natural tenor voices to be heard during the 20th century. The 1950 recordings featured on this compilation showcase the most lyrical and carefree ...  more »

      
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Giuseppe di Stefano, without any doubt, possessed one of the most beautiful natural tenor voices to be heard during the 20th century. The 1950 recordings featured on this compilation showcase the most lyrical and carefree stages of his career. Everything here is the work of an outstanding operatic performer.
 

CD Reviews

The best of Di Stefano's studio recordings
Ralph Moore | Bishop's Stortford, UK | 08/31/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This new Nimbus issue of two CDs features extended extracts from the best of the recordings made by Giuseppe Di Stefano (1921-2008) between 1950 and 1956. It also features some of the finest singers and conductors of the 1950s; chief among these is Maria Callas. These discs serve to commemorate her greatness almost as much as that of Di Stefano.

Seasoned collectors and Di Stefano fans will probably have most of the complete recordings, but anyone who wants to know what the fuss is about need only buy this set to find out. Over the years, I have moved my position on Di Stefano's voice; while I always admired the classic recordings of "Rigoletto" and "Tosca" I often balked at the too open, almost "shouty" quality of his top notes. That said, I increasingly value the combination of subtlety, energy and commitment he brought to his singing. For a more complete picture of his talents, it is perhaps necessary to hear some of his live recordings, such as the famous San Francisco "Salut demeure", in which he executes an extraordinary diminuendo on the climactic high C of "la présence" - a feat which Rudolf Bing described as "the most beautiful sound I ever heard come out of a human throat". We do not have that here but there is plenty else to admire. I for one was not familiar with the extracts from the 1950 "La Bohème" made in very distinguished company. It proves to be one of the most moving and accomplished interpretations I have ever heard - especially the searing closing scene. What a pity that it is not part of a complete recording. Having only just reviewed the equally attractive "La Bohème" which Di Stefano recorded with Callas, I am struck again by the tenderness and pathos of his Rodolfo.

The recital opens with extracts from "Un ballo in maschera", The role of Riccardo always suited Di Stefano ideally, and although his interpretation does not erase memories of that other prince among tenors, Carlo Bergonzi, Di Stefano has the boyish élan, the smile in the voice, the seamless legato and the temperament to do the music full justice, without having to push his voice too far into spinto territory.

Like his contemporary, Callas, Di Stefano had a mere ten years or so at the top. Like her, too, he could do nothing by halves and this took its toll, especially when he began to push in rôles simply too robust for his beautiful lyric tenor. Having said that, his account of Manrico's "Di quella pira" is entirely convincing and gives little indication of the travails to come - unless one is perturbed by the rather snatched and, yes, yelled, final top C. How fortunate it was that his and Callas's golden years coincided. They were co-stars in recordings of all the operas here - although the aforementioned "La Bohème" is preferred on this compilation. This perhaps on the sensible grounds that everyone knows the Callas version and will be grateful for a souvenir of Di Stefano in his early prime accompanied by the sterling talents of Albanese and Warren. The contractual obligation resulting in the misfortune of Callas being unable to record "La traviata" for EMI, having already done so for Cetra, is newly to be regretted when one hears the rather careful and anonymous Violetta of Antonietta Stella. It should have been Callas who committed her most celebrated role to disc with Di Stefano. As a consolation, a decent live 1958 performance from Covent Garden, with Callas partnered by the excellent Cesare Valletti, is now again available.

Reactions to De los Angeles' Butterfly have always been mixed. I find her a little shrill but suitably girlish and vulnerable and it is nice to have a snippet of Gobbi's knowing, incisive Sharpless. "Addio fiorito asil" really shows off Di Stefano's plangent top and honeyed mezza-voce. "Ah son vil" is suffused with remorse and manages to elicit from the listener rather more sympathy for the feckless Pinkerton than, for example, Jonas Kaufmann manages in the latest recording.

The benchmark "Tosca" is too well known and its manifest virtues too often praised to make it necessary for me to rehearse them once more. This is the definitive recording and nothing else has ever rivalled or ever will rival it. The "Rigoletto" has almost the same status. I would imagine that anyone who does not already possess these recordings will acquire them on the strength of these extracts.

The set comes with no libretto but an extensive and informative note by Alan Bilgora. There are two errors in the listing of track seven on Disc 2 (the Trio from Act 2 of "Butterfly"): it should read "Io so che alle sue pene". The transfers by Nimbus are impeccable; there always was a hint of overloading in the originals but with performances of this quality one doesn't give that a thought.

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The golden voice of Giuseppe di Stefano
R. D. Shaw | 10/27/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Giuseppe di Stefano had one of the most beautiful tenor voices of the 20th century, a voice perfectly suited to the roles of Verdi & Puccini romantic heroes. This CD covers the period from 1950 to 1956 when this glorious voice was in its prime. He undertook all these lyric and lyric spinto roles with great success. They are some of the best examples of his recorded work and include the voices of three of his notable soprano partners, Maria Callas, Antonietta Stella and Victoria de los Angeles. When he later took on heavier roles his vocal decline began, although there were notable recorded works right up to the early end of his mainstream career in 1964. The romantic timbre of his voice and his feel for the role of Rodolfo in 'La Boheme' makes him its perfect interpreter. One is less happy to hear him singing Manrico in 'Il Trovatore' which is the province of the tenore do forza, although his verve and commitment gives the performance credibility. Di Stefano's partners were awestruck by the beauty of the tone that poured from him, but equally impressive was the marvellous diction from his forward voice production and his colouring of words and phrases to convey the drama of the action. One of the very great voices of the golden period of Italian tenor singing and a very welcome offering from Amazon."