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?

  • southerndoc1

    Didn’t realize that Stella was so young during the peak years of her career.

  • QuantoPainyFakor

    Great day in the morning!
    More than 12,000 libretti from the Schatz collection have been added to the internet:
    “The Music Division of the Library of Congress announces that the Schatz opera libretti are available online at:
    https://www.loc.gov/collections/albert-schatz/about-this-collection/
    The scope of this digital presentation comprises all 12,253 Schatz libretti; the images were generated from the Library’s microfilm copy of that collection.”
    Downloading complete entries is presently an awkward process.

  • grimoaldo2

    Thank you for sharing this with us.
    Since you start off by mentioning the recent, much enjoyed Vienna performances with Nebs/Alagna/Tezier/D’intinto, I listened with that comparison in mind.
    Gavazzeni, the conductor here,makes much more of the dramatic effects in the orchestra than Armiliato in the Vienna performance who more or less provides a discreet accompaniment.
    There is a general tendency with the principals (except for Cossoto) to sing the music as if it were by Puccini or Cilea. The recent performance was much more in tune with the work’s bel canto roots,
    I remember an interview with Leontyne Price where she talked about the “nobilita” in Verdi’s music, very true.
    Corelli does not have any “nobilita”, he overuses portamento, adds ugly aspirates all the time,drops out of the music apparently at will, yes he has good high notes that the audience loves, but by the third act I started to find his singing almost unbearable, an ugly and egotistical display.
    Alagna was infinitely superior, imo, no he dd not rock the rafters in “Di quella pira” with a high C but his “Ah si ben mio”was so much more beautiful than the crass, tacky. tasteless bleating and blaring of Corelli.
    Stella, a singer I am not very familiar with, did an OK job with Leonora,, although she cannot or did not sing softly in “D’amor sull’ali rosee” and smudged what coloratura she attempted (“Tu vedrai”, as was the custom at that time, cut altogether). I much prefer the velvety beautiful voice and sensitive artistry of Netrekbo.
    Bastianini,like Corelli, has an intrinsically glorious instrument, but he also mars his singing by adding ugly aspirates all the time. Both of the men in this performance tend to sound merely aggressive or angry in much of the opera when there is so much more to the music.
    Tezier has just as beautiful a voice as Bastianini, if not more so, and finds much more of the poetry, beauty and elegance in the music.
    With Cossoto we come to the performance here that is for the ages.A glorious voice, used with sensitivity to the text, a superlative dramatic tour-de-force,
    All things considered, I think the recent performance from Vienna, despite annoying cuts and a lacklustre conductor does this, THE opera imo, more justice than this historic performance.

  • DonCarloFanatic

    Thanks for this. Enjoyed it.