Following up Andrew Knapp’s extensive examination of La Gioconda recordings and in anticipation of the Anna Netrebko-Jonas Kaufmann broadcast from the Salzburg Easter Festival (by the way, might Herbert von Karajan be spinning in his grave at Ponchielli being performed at his festival?), Chris’s Cache offers three more street-singers: a live Renata Tebaldi performance–without Franco Corelli; Tebaldi cover Milka Stojanovic with Corelli; and Ghena Dimitrova’s second local appearance in which she was menaced by Piero Cappuccilli in only his third—but final–New York City opera.

Tebaldi’s Gioconda is the first performance of her second of two seasons performing the role at the Met. It features Biserka (my favorite mezzo first-name) Cvejic in her final Met season, and one of Rosalind Elias’s eighteen Met La Ciecas—by coincidence, she also sang Laura eighteen times! This 1967 Gioconda includes Paul Plishka’s Met debut as a Monk; nineteen years later, he’d return to Ponchielli as Dimitrova’s Alvise.

I had had the Stojanovic Gioconda stashed away for the next installment of “Forgotten Sopranos,” but Andrew’s sittingnext to her at a Tebaldi performance surely signaled it was meant for today. Stojanovic, the Serbian soprano who died last September, had one of those peculiarly fleeting Bing-era careers. In just thirteen months, she performed six wide-ranging roles. In addition to Gioconda, she made her debut in Forza, followed by Mimi and Amelia Grimaldi as well as Liù the night Marion Lippert made her Met debut as Turandot.  

I include the Opera Orchestra of New York Gioconda not only because it presents Dimitrova in a frequent role of hers but also because it was my first Gioconda. Even though I still lived in Ohio, I subscribed to an entire OONY season primarily to hear Aprile Millo and Carlo Bergonzi in I Lombardi and Gabriela Benackova in Libuse. And as a big Cappuccilli fan I was eager for a rare chance to hear him in person.

Both Dimitrova and Cappuccilli had had big OONY successes two years earlier—she in her local debut in Nabucco, he as Guglielmo Tell in his first local appearance since 1960! Sure, their Gioconda was fun, but a not-so-well-rehearsed but exciting all-Verdi Dimitrova-Cappuccilli concert two night later was even more memorable (he changed course, however, and chose Giordano for his encore!).

Ponchielli: La Gioconda

La Gioconda: Renata Tebaldi
Laura: Biserka Cvejic
La Cieca: Rosalind Elias
Enzo: Flaviano Labò
Barnaba: Sherrill Milnes
Alvise: Bonaldo Giaiotti

Conductor: Fausto Cleva
Metropolitan Opera
21 September 1967
In-house recording

La Gioconda: Milka Stojanovic
Laura: Rosalind Elias
La Cieca: Lili Chookasian
Enzo: Franco Corelli
Barnaba: Anselmo Colzani
Alvise: John Macurdy

Conductor: Fausto Cleva
Metropolitan Opera
2 December 1967
In-house recording

La Gioconda: Ghena Dimitrova
Laura: Alexandrina Milcheva
La Cieca: Diane Curry
Enzo: Giorgio (Casellato-)Lamberti
Barnaba: Piero Cappuccilli
Alvise: Paul Plishka

Conductor: Eve Queler
Opera Orchestra of New York, Carnegie Hall
6 May 1986
In-house recording

Each Gioconda can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a cloud with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

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