Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Bellini, Pagliughi, Panerai|
Listen to Samples
An attractive mono performance from 1952
L. E. Cantrell | Vancouver, British Columbia Canada | 08/30/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
Radio broadcast carried of Radiotelevisione Italiano in January 1952 and recorded by RAI engineers. It was first issued on disk by CETRA in 1986.
Overall, not bad. The sound is pretty good mono of the 1950s, a bit boxy and restricted in range but perfectly listenable. Digital remastering (in either 1986 or 2002) has pleasingly eliminated the notorious CETRA bite.
ELVIRA, daughter of Giorgio and niece of Valton who is deeply in love with and betrothed to Arturo - Lina Pagliughi (soprano)
LORD ARTURO TALBO, a royalist cavalier who loves Elvira - Mario Filppeschi (tenor)
SIR RICCARDO FORTH, a Puritan soldier who is besotted with love for Elvira - Rolando Panerai (baritone)
GIORGIO, a Puritan, brother to Valton and father of Elvira - Sesto Bruscantini (bass)
ENRICHETTA, the royalist of royalists, Queen Henrietta-Maria, daughter of a king of France, widow of the executed Charles I and mother of Charles II and James II - Unidentified (! mezzo-soprano)
LORD GUALTIER VALTON, a Puritan and governor of a fortress at Plymouth - Franco Calabrese (baritone)
SIR BRUNO ROBERTSON - a Puritan soldier who tries to talk some sense into the besotted Riccardo - Enzo Mmoro (tenor)
Fernando Previtali with the Sinfonica e Coro di Roma della RAI.
Urania's documentation for this set can only be described as a bit shabby. Not only does the cast list entirely omit a major character, the track lists fail to offer even a hint that she exists. The track lists also give the wrong impression about the musical numbers, since they list just one character name for each piece. Unless one knows in advance, there is no way to guess that Bruno's "O di Cromvell guerrieri" is merely a lead-in to an offstage ensemble singing a beautiful hymn. Or that "Son vergin vezzosa" is a quartet (which includes the strangely omitted Queen Enrichetta.) There is a short history of the opera and of this performance written with wonderful pomposity by Anna Gualtieri and translated by Djamel Founas, whose native language is pretty obviously not English.
The opera is complete as far as the actual musical numbers are concerned, however, there are enough internal cuts, presumably to meet broadcast time limits, to make following along in the score a moderately difficult task. The merry little tune for the soprano that Bellini interpolated into the middle of the last act finale does not appear. (I suppose that it had not been rediscovered back in 1952, for it would have been an ideal showpiece for Pagliughi.) Except from the point of view of a dedicated completist, the cuts do no harm to the performance.
Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835) was the great master of Italian operatic melody. And that is precisely what this, his ninth and final opera, has to offer. The melodies in "I Puritani" are as glorious as the plot is preposterous. This is an opera that fully justifies all those smirking comments from non-opera fans about silly operatic stories. Both the cast and the audience must simply accept on-again, off-again madness from the soprano, remarkable lack of observation on the part of a whole fortress full of soldiers, and a chorus as fickle as any created by Gilbert and Sullivan
Despite its English topic, "I Puritani" was based on a French play, "Têtes Rondes et Cavaliers," as can be seen from the way the name Arthur Talbot is rendered in Italian as "Arturo Talbo" to follow French pronunciation rather than the more natural "Arturo Talbotto."
This performance is one of the earliest examples of the great bel canto revival in the middle of the Twentieth Century. Recorded and broadcast in January 1952, it predates the first issued version of the opera on disk, the Callas-di Stefano version, by more than a year.
RAI unquestionably assembled a strong cast for its 1952 broadcast of an opera that had all-but faded out of memory/
Lina Pagliughi (1907-1980) was American-born, but her family returned to their native Italy when she was fifteen, and she had what was virtually an exclusively Italian career. She was a protege of the great Luisa Tetrazzini. She made her operatic debut in 1927 as Gilda in "Rigoletto" with such success that she was chosen to record the part in a full-length recording issued that very year, a part which she re-recorded with Giuseppe Taddet and Ferruccio Tagliavini 27 years later. She can also be heard in a good pre-War Lucia and in absolutely superb post-War versions of "La sonnambula" and "La figlia del reggimento."
Pagliughi developed great heft fairly early in her career, heft that was considered excessive even by the very loose standards that apply to operatic divas. This seriously limited her actual stage performances but she was a regular starring performer on radio and disk.
Besides her weight problem, Pagliughi also had the misfortune to be in the right time and place to be overwhelmed by the tsunami of change in singing initiated by the rise of Maria Callas. Pagliughi came to define the concept of "old-fashioned" and to be described slightingly by some fans as a "mere song bird." I do not agree with that too-casual dismissal. Although not a technician in the class of Callas-Sutherland-Caballe, Pagliughi gets to the heart of "Puritani," "La sonnambula" and "Lucia" in ways that Bellini and Donnizeti would have fully approved.
Rolando Panerai (b. 1924) was no more a natural bel canto singer in this version of "I Puritani" than Di Stefano was in his version a year later. And as in the case of Di Stefano, the fact is irrelevant. Panerai's Riccardo is good enough that one does not mind its stylistic inauthenticity. Panerai became one of the leading Italian baritones in the second half of the Twentieth Century and as recently as 2006--in his eighties!--was up to performing the lead in "Gianni Schicchi."
Sesto Bruscantini (1919-2003) also carved out a large career as a baritone in the second half of the Twentieth Century. He started out as a bass, and so he appears here in the role of Giorgio, which he sings with both elegance and eloquence. However, his voice, whatever its virtues, was just a bit too light to specialize in bass parts. He was a protege of Gigli, and it was the great tenor who eventually convinced him to move into the baritone range. Bruscantini was equally adept at comedy and drama. He made his operatic debut in 1947. He is reported to have sung about 130 different roles in a career that stretched into the 1990s.
Mario Filippeschi (1907-1979) was a big-league tenor who sang with all the major Italian operatic stars and made a goodly number of recordings. He made his debut in 1937, singing the major lyric tenor roles. As time progressed, he gradually abandoned the lyric roles for the dramatic tenor repertory. His voice was large and ringing. And to my ears, at least, just a little annoying. In every recording I've ever heard from the man, he seems to be shouting at me. In this "Puritani," he sings well enough, but in a manner far more suited for Ernani or even Manrico than for the slightly wispy Lord Arturo Talbo. His is by far the most questionable performance among the four main leads of "I Puritani." Nevertheless, what he offers here would be accepted on any stage today and probably greeted with loud cheers.
This is a slightly cut-down, rather old-fashioned version of Bellini's opera that was recorded by long-obsolete technology. I suppose that it should not be anybody's first or only version of "I Puritani." Having said that, though, I hasten to emphasize that it is a very good and enjoyable version.
I think that makes it worthy of four stars.
Michel | Montreal, Quebec | 01/08/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is the very first complete recording of Puritani - it is actually
a radio broadcast from 1952 made in Rome - while it cannot compete with
the later stereo studio versions it still has a lot to offer foremost
the performances of Lina Pagliughi as Elvira and Sesto Bruscantini as
Giorgio - the former girlish and plangent tonal quality and the latter
soft-grained and warm voice convey a good deal of Bellini's exquisite
lyricism - Mario Filippeschi brings a certain elegance and nobility to
Arturo and copes valliantly with the high tessitura - Rolando Panerai
is a fine Riccardo - Maestro Previtali paces the opera well and the
sound while a bit fuzzy is very acceptable - all in all a very interes-
ting and welcome release of a betwichingly beautiful opera."