Cher Public

Ready or not, here comes mama

The broadcast of Il trovatore from Wiener Staatsoper a few weeks ago seems to have pretty much set the standard for the opera for today’s Parterriani.  What was it like half a century ago?  Judge for yourselves from the audience response at the opening night of La Scala in 1962 when Franco Corelli, Antonietta Stella, Fiorenza Cossotto, Ettore Bastianini, and Ivo Vinco gave it a shot. 

Surprisingly, Corelli, at age 41, is the oldest cast member in this performance.  Bastianini was 40, Vinco 35, Stella 32 and, in a career milestone, Cossotto a mere 27. (Both of the ladies are still with us).

While almost everyone was pretty established in these roles (Corelli already delivers a typical late career “Di quella pira” with just a few lines, a long rest, and his trademark high note), Cossotto enters the race for leading Verdi mezzo of the era having been in the ranks of Cherubinos not long before.

t is interesting to hear the progress of the voice during this artist’s two-decade Met career—from Amneris, Laura, and Eboli to Santuzza, Adalgisa, and the Principessa di Bouillon—as it grew darker and more dramatic with enough chest voice to create a memorable Dame Quickly in the legendary Falstaff in 1985 featuring the debut of Giuseppe Taddei at age 69.  When Mignon Dunn was otherwise engaged, she was virtually the go-to Amneris (33 performances from 1968 through 1989) and Azucena (40 performances from 1973 until her farewell in a Saturday afternoon broadcast from January 1989).

I heard her quite often, even as Eboli in one of only three Met performances in which she shared the stage with Corelli (two in New York, one in Cleveland).  What remains most unforgettable for me is an Azucena from 1973 with Montserrat Caballé, Plácido Domingo, and Robert Merrill, the broadcast of which has yet to be made available on Sirius.  Do they take requests?