Start staging Spontini operas again!
Armindo | Greece | 06/11/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I became intruiged by this opera when I heard 30 rare minutes with the young Renata Tebaldi in the title role. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this complete opera d'oro recording. Mix the sound of the Mozart, Cherubini and early Verdi and you get Spontini but with his own individual sound. In fact, I prefer his operas to Rossini's who can be fun but can bore me with their endless ensembles. The plots are also more interesting and Olympia's with a good cast can make for a fascinating and involved evening at the opera.
Maestro Gavazzeni was specialising in revivals at the time and the cast he choose was very good. Pilar Lorengar was in her prime and the voice is captured beautifully. Studio conditions were sometimes harsh on her vibrato but live, the voice floats and sounds lovely without coming across as self-indulgent. As Olympia she excels both in the florid and lyric passages and is always involved. If it wasn't for the more determined and opulent Tebaldi, I would have thought that there was no room for improvement and this is a compliment not a complaint. But in 1966, Lorengar is ideal casting for the role. Cossotto as Statira is in her absolute prime combining the stage charisma of her later years and the vocal security of her youth. The natural colour of her voice is downright perfect for the role of Alexander's widow and so is her singing (Elena Nicolai would have been a wonder in this role too).
The two rivals are well sung by Franco Tagliavini and Giangiacomo Guelfi. The former must have sounded better in theatre as his ringing voice sounds a bit 'tinny' on this recording. He recorded the role for Orfeo so it will be interesting to hear him there. Guelfi was past his best and the vocal line is not as smooth as it used to be but he can still deliver. Both guys have the attitude and the rivalry is believable. Ierophante is such a classic noble bass role that I'd love to hear with someone better equipped than Nicola Zaccaria. Under the circumstances he sounds like a decent, fully committed house bass, nothing more. I was dreaming of Ghiaurov, Siepi and Christoff singing the same lines and believing every word.
I thought Gavazzeni could have higlighted a couple of moments more but overall the music flows and there is a lot of energy that brings out the grandness of Spontini's superb music. The chorus often sounds underrehearsed and its pivotal role in classical themed operas like Olympia should have received more attention. The sound is your usual 60s Scala sound, think of the Nabucco with Souliotis; fine to enjoy a performance but I'd like it clearer for more study.
Despite the minor shortcomings, the team work impressed me very much and as a newcomer to Olympia I'm happy to give it 5 stars.
PS. I'm unable to add comments but thaks for your feedback.