Tebaldi in all her glory (mostly)
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 03/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These 5 budget CDs won't be of much interest to Tebaldi fans, who will already own the widely known operas, almost all in stereo, that have never left the Decca catalog. But anyone, like me, who has a deep fondness for the great soprano but neve really collected her records will find a treasury of great singing. She was gifted with the most feminine, full, powerful voice in Italian opera between 1950 and the mid-Sixties. Not a long career, and overshadowed by the supreme greatness of Callas, who lasted alamost exactly as long. But at the Met, where she was the reigning diva, Tebaldi was the last word in Puccini and almost the last in Verdi.
Amazon doesn't list the contents of this box set, so let me give a thumbnail sketch. The best Verdi excerpts come from Otello, La Forza del Destino, and Aida, often with her favorite tenor, Mario del Monaco. He's the featured player in the majority of the duets here. Lesser Verdi from Tebaldi includes the excerpts from La Traviata (she wasn't enough of a coloratura for Violetta), and Un ballo in maschera (she was caught too old, but the Act II duet with the young Pavarotti finds him in thrilling voice--incomparable, in fact).
The set includes a batch of verismo arias that to tell the truth are probably the best items--Tebaldi had just the right intensity and pathos for Adriana Lecouvreur, La Wally, La Gioconda, and Andrea Chenier. But as her reputation would attest, she was meltingly beautiful in Puccini roles, and it's a shame that her stereo versions found her a bit mature for the girlish parts, not to mention that her chosen conductor was the aging, slack Tulio Serafin. No matter. She sounds great in arias form all the major Puccini operas but especially Manon Lescaut and Suor Angelica, where her deep religiosity adds an especially touching note.
Less necessary--if not totally dispensable--are arias from French operas that Tebaldi sings in Italian (Carmen?), the greatest oddity being Elsa's Act I aria from Lohengrin, which sounds extremely odd in Italian. We also get a hodge podge fifth CD with some popular Italian songs, Christmas carols, and such, at which she is sometimes very charming, sometimes a bit too strained. But that's a minor quibble. I enjoyed this whole collection immensely, especially when it brought back memories of my own youth just learning about opera and the divas who rule them."