A Must for "Franco"philes
Paul A. Dunphy | Bogota, New Jersey USA | 06/27/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Contracted to rival recording companies (Decca and EMI), Renata Tebaldi and Franco Corelli made very few commercial recordings together and so this performance of "Andrea Chenier" is one to cherish. The main attraction is Corelli who blazes forth in the climaxes of Giordano's music.
Unfortunately, the rest of the performances falls somewhat short of his. When Tebaldi joins voices with Corelli the result is fabulous but otherwise her Maddalena is tepid - even her "La mamma morta" comes up short compared to her other recordings of the aria. Ettore Bastianini practically phones in the role of Gerard: he is definitely better on the Decca/London commercial recording as is Tebaldi. The main fault would seem to lie with the conductor, Lovro von Matacic, who tries to make this all-stops-out rousing Italian opera into something more staid by pulling the tempi back. Most follow his lead but Corelli just let's it rip (with a bit of a tug of war during the first act, "Improvviso").
Veteran Hilde Konetzni makes an exemplary Madelon but Elisabeth Hongen is a vocally threadbare Contessa. The chorus seems to do more shouting than singing which ruins the Act Two ensemble.
After a rather inaudible first act, the sound steadily improves. But no matter how bad the sound, Corelli comes right through - and his fans love it!"
Corelli, Tebaldi and Bastianini: live in Vienna
L. E. Cantrell | Vancouver, British Columbia Canada | 07/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Source: Live performance by the Wiener Staatsoper, Vienna, June 26, 1960.
Sound: Consistent with live recordings of its date, the sound here is somewhat compressed and boxy. There is some variation as singers move about the stage. Voices are favored over the orchestra and the chorus is quite distant. Despite all this, if heard with a little goodwill, the recording quality is adequately satisfactory. The Viennese audience is generally well-disciplined throughout.
Cast: Andrea Chenier - Franco Corelli; Maddelena di Coigny - Renata Tebaldi; Carlo Gerard - Ettore Bastianini; Bersi - Margaret Sjostedt; La Contessa di Coigny - Elisabeth Hongen; Madelon - Hilde Konetzni; Il Romanziero Pietro Fleville - Kostas Paskalis; Fouquier Tinville, accusatore pubblico - Ludwig Welter; Roucher - Edmund Hurshell; Il Sanculotto Mathieu called "Populus" - Alois Pernerstorfer; L'Abate, poeta - Fritz Sperlbauer; Un "Incredibile" - Renato Ercolani; Schmidt - Andre Koreh. Conductor - Lovro von Matacic with the Orchestra and Chorus of the Vienna State Opera.
Documentation: Typical Opera d'Oro package. No libretto. Essay on the opera, its history and a plot summary--all this constricted by severe space limitations. Track listing.
"Andrea Chenier" may be regarded as the very best Puccini opera that Puccini did not happen to write, and better than some he did write. For those not familiar with its plot, I shall say only that it is a sort of weirdly distorted reflection of "Tosca" in which all the political polarities are reversed.
While "Andrea Chenier" occupies a space at the very edge of the standard repertory, it has been fortunate in its recording history. For those with a taste for historic sound, I cannot recommend too highly the brilliant version made by Gigli and Caniglia more than sixty years ago. Chenier was a major role for Mario del Monaco, whose famous live performances with Callas and Tebaldi, respectively, are both fabulous and gut-wrenchingly badly recorded. Corelli, himself, has a generally admirable studio recording with the sadly under-appreciated Antonietta Stella.
Corelli, Tebaldi and Bastianini are top-ranking members of the A-list of mid-Twentieth Century singers. Corelli is in excellent voice in this live performance, certainly better than in his studio recording of "Chenier" made three years later. He is very good as Chenier in an opera that is as much the tenor's as "Tosca" is the soprano's. I have seen comments to the effect that Tebaldi does not provide a particularly dramatic Maddelena and that she is not her best vocal shape in this performance. Maybe, but never forget that even second-rate Tebaldi is better than first-rate virtually anybody else! Ditto for Bastianini.
For those desiring the cool perfection of a studio recording, look elsewhere. Neither the orchestra nor the chorus are especially flattered by this recording. There are some rough spots and a more than adequate supply of stage noise. That is the nature of live performances. Despite all that, the dynamism and power generated on that Viennese stage in June 1960 are worth more to me than artificially-constructed perfection.
The remainder of the cast, such people as Paskalis, Konetzni, and Hongen, are a fair cross-section of the excellent Wiener Staatsoper repertory company of the time.
The conductor is hardly a born leader of Italian opera of Serafin's sort, but he keeps things moving well enough.
Rating this recording is more difficult than most. Elsewhere, I have slagged a different Od'O edition of this very performance with a miserly two stars. The rating in that instance was largely based on the effective doubling of Od'O's price in return for new cover art and an Italian language libretto. [See comment below.] For this older, barebones version at the original lower price, I must consider the three principal singers, Corelli particularly, to be well worth five stars. On the other hand the Wiener Staatsoper isn't exactly an Italian house, nor is its orchestra a truly Italian band.
Four stars, just falling short of five.
A NOTE ON COMPARISONS: Naxos has re-issued a nicely remastered version of the 1941 "Andrea Chenier" with Beniamino Gigli, Maria Caniglia and Gino Bechi. Even with its dated soundscape, I regard it as the finest "Andrea Chenier" I have ever heard. To fill out Disk 2 of that set, Naxos provided highlights of "Chenier" featuring some of the great singers of the 1930s. Corelli was a great singer. Let there be no doubt about that, but he pales in comparison with such extraordinary older tenors as Gigli, Francesco Merli and Corelli's own mentor, Giacomo Lauri-Volpe."
Stupendous singing from the three principals
Ralph Moore | Bishop's Stortford, UK | 05/11/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a famous performance, caught in slightly murky but very listenable sound, featuring three of the greatest Italian post-war singers in Corelli, Tebaldi and Bastianini, singing the daddy of all verismo operas to the manner born. The rest of the cast, being Vienna regulars, is less impressive; there are too many wobbly comprimarios - especially an execrable Mathieu - and the orchestra and chorus are hardly idiomatic. Matacic conducts with spirit and the drama emerges with raw vigour. I still favour the clarity of the EMI studio recording but Stella is bland in comparison to Tebaldi, Corelli is even more unbuttoned here and Bastianini's animal attack is more impressive even than Sereni's less refulgent instrument - but you can have Tebaldi and Bastianini in the excellent Decca set with the clarion-voiced Del Monaco, too. I have read complaints about Tebaldi being in less than her best voice here, but she sounds great to me.
In fact, this opera has been lucky on record, going back to the stupendous Gigli/Caniglia wartime recording, but this set is a cheap way to obtain a souvenir of a style of opera singing now extinct."