Classic Gobbi-de los Angeles "Gianni Schicchi" from 1959
L. E. Cantrell | Vancouver, British Columbia Canada | 04/27/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"SOURCE: EMI studio recordings. "Gianni Schicchi," complete opera, 1959; "Simon Boccanegra" excerpt, 1958; "Don Carlo" excerpt, 1955.
SOUND: "Gianni Schicchi" was recorded in legitimate, if early stereo back in 1959 and adequately re-mastered for this issuance in 2004. (Throughout most of its history, it has been available only as part of a complete set of Puccini's "Il trittico" that featured Gobbi in "Il tabarro" and de los Angeles in "Suor Angelica." Although the performances are fine, the "stereo" in the other two parts of "The Triptych" has always encountered skepticism from audiophile fans.) In the previous Amazon review, the Santa Fe listener quite properly pointed out the existence of some shatter at intense moments, nevertheless the sound ought to be more than satisfactory for all but those who place higher value on mechanical reproduction than on art.
CAST FOR "GIANNI SCHICCHI." THE SCHICCHI: Gianni Schicchi, a clever fellow with a gift for mimicry who lives near Florence - Tito Gobbi (baritone); Lauretta, his daughter - Victoria de los Angeles (soprano); THE DONATI : Zita, "La Vecchia, "the Old Woman," cousin to the recently deceased Buoso Donati - Anna Maria Canali (contralto); Rinuccio, Zita's nephew, in love with Lauretta - Carlo Del Monte (tenor); Gherardo, Buoso's nephew - Adelio Zagonara (tenor); Nella, Gherardo's wife - Lidia Marimpietri (soprano); Gherardino, Gherardo and Nella's little boy - Claudio Cornoldi (mezzo-soprano); Betto di Signa, Buoso's brother-in-law - Saturno Meletti (bass); Simone, a cousin - Paolo Montarsolo (bass); Marco, Simone's son - Fernando Valentini (baritone); La Ciesca, Marco's wife - Giuliana Raimondi (mezzo-soprano); MISCELLANEOUS FLORENTINES: Maestro Spinelloccio, a physician / Ser Amantio di Nicolao, a notary - Alfredo Mariotti (baritone); Pinellino, a cobbler - Virgilio Stoco (bass); Guccio, a dyer - Paolo Caroli (bass).
CAST, "SIMON BOCCANEGRA" EXCERPT: Simon Boccanegra, Doge of Venice - Tito Gobbi; Amelia, Simon's daughter (who has been reared as Amelia Grimaldi) - Victoria de los Angeles.
CAST, "DON CARLO" EXCERPT: Rodrigo, a Spanish nobleman - Tito Gobbi; Don Carlo, son and heir to King Phillip II of Spain - Mario Fillippeschi (tenor).
CONDUCTOR: Gabriele Santini, with Orchestra dell'Opera di Roma.
TEXTS: This CD contains a complete version of "Gianni Schicchi" (52:56) and excerpts from Act I, Scene 1 of "Simon Boccanegra," beginning with "Favella il Doge / ad Amelia Grimaldi?" (13:52) and Act III, Scene 2 of "Don Carlo" beginning with "Per me giunto è il dì supremo" (8:53).
DOCUMENTATION: No libretto for "Gianni Schicchi." Complete texts for the "Simon Boccanegra" and "Don Carlo" excerpts in German, Italian, English and French. Short essay on the life and career of Tito Gobbi. Track list is tied to a summary of the plot for "Gianni Schicchi."
COMMENTARY: Dante Alighieri (c.1265-1321) was one of the great poets. He has been hailed as the founder of the Italian language (as opposed to the many descendants of Latin scattered across the Italian peninsula.) Early in the 14th Century, at the beginning of a lifelong exile, Dante began "The Divine Comedy," his account of a voyage in the year 1300 through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise.
Dante was far more than just a poet. He had been a cavalryman in war and an active politician in peace. For a short time, he was even a member of the supreme ruling council of Florence. As a member of the vaguely anti-Papal Bianchi (Whites) Party, he had been on the losing end when the pro-Papal Neri (Blacks) conquered Florence and purged their enemies. Dante had been in Rome at the time. He never returned to Florence, for the Neri had decreed that he be burnt alive if ever he set foot in the city again.
In Canto XXX of "Hell," lines 22-44, Dante mentions his countryman, Schicchi. Dante is in the Eighth Circle of Hell, among such liars and falsifiers as Sinon, the Greek soldier left behind on the plains of Troy to explain to the Trojans that the big wooden horse was a friendly gift and monument to their bravery; Potifar's wife, who had sworn that Joseph had attempted to rape her in the Genesis story; a famous counterfeiter, and of course, Gianni Schicchi. Schicchi had been called in by the Donati family to help falsify the will of old Buoso Donati for their benefit. Schicchi had done so, but not before inserting a clause that gave him the best of the herd (whether a mule, as in the opera, or a horse, as others suggest, no-one knows.) In death, true to form, he chases down and clamps his jaws onto the throats of the others in his circle. The poor, condemned souls are quite frightened of him.
Quite clearly, the Donati family had no use for wily old Gianni. But Dante Alighieri must have had his own mixed feelings about the Donati. His wife, the mother of his children, had been born Gemma di Manetto Donati. On the other hand, the head of the Neri who had permanently exiled him had been Corso Donati.
In "La Boheme" and even "Tosca," Puccini had demonstrated that he could handle comic elements but he composed only one comedy, this unlikely farce about the old sinner hilariously perpetrating his great crime. "Gianni Schicchi," the opera is unlike anything else in Puccini's collected works. It has only two pieces in it that might be plucked out as independent arias, and only one of them, Lauretta's "O mio babbino caro," can be called a hit tune. Even though its audiences do not typically depart while whistling its airs, "Gianni Schicchi" is unquestionably a small-scale masterpiece. It works on sound recordings. It works still better on stage--when performed in accordance with Puccini's elaborate stage directions, that is, for then it becomes a genuinely funny musical gem.
Gianni Schicchi was one of the great Tito Gobbi's signature roles. This version is the first and better of his two studio recordings. This performance has always been regarded as a winner. And don't forget that Victoria de los Angeles is as much a star in this set as Gobbi. The rest of the cast is first-rate, too ... except for the unspeakable Carlo del Monte (whose unwelcome presence also blights de los Angeles' otherwise attractive recording of "La Traviata.")
Forget about minor imperfections in the technology, though. Just grit your teeth when del Monte moans and groans. Snap this one up!
A great performance, now on one remastered CD
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 12/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This early stereo Gianni Schicchi withTito Gobbi has been considered definitive from the day it was issued, but EMI made it frustrating to acquire since one had to buy all three parts of Il Trittico into the bargain. The Suor Angelica features de los Angeles, as does this Schicchi, but that recording sounds like re-processe mono, and Il Tabarro, the inferior entry in the tritych, rarely wins any partisans, even though Gobbi sings the black-hearted lead role.
Now we have Gianni Schicchi alone in best sound (thought not perfect -- there's some microphone shatter in climaxes), and it's a joy. Gobbi is a commanding trickster, more fierce than genial, and all the greedy relatives are played by superb Italian character singers. The young lovers are also winning (if only the tenor didn't try to reach the back row), the highlight being de los Angeles's 'O mio babbino caro.' It helps to have seen the opera's comic potential acted out onstage, but even if you have to hear it only on CD, the satire is totally engaging."