Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Di Stefano, Gounod, Flotow|
Giuseppe Di Stefano in Chicago: Recital 1950
Listen to Samples
Di Stefano at his best - on a totally mislabelled Myto disc
Ralph Moore | Bishop's Stortford, UK | 03/14/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These treasurable performances are not from Chicago at all; they are from three recitals given by Di Stefano in sequence in October 1950 with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, each with a different soprano partnering him. Myto have made a right royal mess of this: not only is "Chicago" wrong but the scanty liner notes state that the "Lucia" excerpts are with Bidu Sayao and I'm fairly sure that they are with Lily Pons. The superb "Manon" bonus tracks, from La Scala in 1947 are correctly identified but I am dubious that the voice we are hearing in the "Madama Butterfly" duet is actually Renata Tebaldi; it sounds like someone else to me - not Eleanor Steber, but similar; maybe this is Sayao. Perhaps I am merely unfamiliar with Tebaldi's younger sound and maybe some knowledgeable opera aficionado out there could affirm, contradict or enlighten me regarding exactly which excellent sopranos we are hearing? (There is also a misprint in "E lucevan le stelle".)
And you know what? None of this matters, because you get, at bargain price, some of the finest, most thrilling, headily beautiful tenor singing ever happily recorded for posterity, starting with the legendary diminuendo on the high C in "Salut demeure". Di Stefano is at his absolute peak, in freshest voice, channelling passion through a vocal apparatus which had not yet begun to suffer from its owner insisting upon (to paraphrase Del Monaco's pithy observation) using a lyric instrument to sing repertoire dictated by the aspirations of a dramatic temperament. Perhaps Di Stefano's career choices were unwise - but boy, was it good while it lasted - and that was over ten years. He had a voice which according to Caruso's widow sounded most like that of her husband and here you can believe it, even if I think Caruso's sound was always far more robust and pharyngeal, with very little of the tendency to "whiteness" or "shoutiness" which eventually did for Di Stefano's career. There are certainly imperfections: even the phrase containing the famous top C diminuendo wavers slightly after he has descended to the A-flat; he miscounts and makes a rhythmic mess of "que je remets entre tes mains" just before the climax of the otherwise splendid "O souverain" - but these are minor imperfections forgivable in a live recital and which pale into insignificance before so much wonderful singing. The sound is exceptionally good for so venerable a live radio broadcast and the audience, although hugely appreciative at the end of items, are silent throughout the singing - although the La Scala bonus tracks are in scratchier sound.
Buy this and marvel.
PS: I am reliably informed by my reviewer colleague Philip Griffey that Di Stefano's soprano partners are indeed as follows:
Bidu Sayao on "O soave fanciulla", Tebaldi in the Madama Butterfly, and Lili Pons in the "Verrano a te"."