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Alan Blyth, Reviewing #OF5, Trovatore, #5013, Tosca and #5000, Trovatore, in Gramophone

Alan Blyth, reviewing in Gramophone

“These two sets have been issued primarily with Corelli fans in mind—and well may they be satisfied with his viscerally thrilling interpretations of both Manrico and Cavaradossi, but in the case of Il trovatore the fact that we can hear five Italians in the major roles, virtually an impossibility today, is of even greater significance. It lends the performance an authenticity and flavour others simply cannot equal now, let alone surpass. Corelli, Barbieri and Bastianini can be heard separately in other sets of the opera, but hearing them together, along with the fine bass Agostino Ferrin, is a special treat, though it has to be said that Barbieri is to be heard to greater advantage earlier in her career on the Callas/Karajan version (EMI). Parutto is a minor figure by comparison with her colleagues: she sings with true Italianate sound, but is no stylist. Fabritiis is, as he always was, a splendid exponent of Verdi, energising the score from within. Apart from some distortion on the soprano’s louder notes, the sound is good.

“Corelli is once more in prime form in the Parma Tosca so it is hardly surprising that an encore is urgently sought by the audience. He turns down the offer but returns at the end to sing ‘Core ’ngrato’, much to the delight of the fans. Gordoni, an American in spite of her name, had an appreciable career in Italy and turns in a very decent performance as Tosca. D’Orazi offers an incisively sung, imposing Scarpia that few better. This is indeed a superior version to the most recent, that conducted by Muti on Sony, and well worth having.

“Indeed, I very much enjoyed both sets for their idiomatic delivery of words and notes.”

John T. Hughes, writing in Classic Record Collector

“A connoisseur’s choice from operatic issues of the past quarter

“Bel Canto Society, known mainly for its videos, presents Tosca from Parma 1967. The protagonist is American soprano Virginia Gordoni (b. 1919), known from Concert Hall opera sets. Her lirico-spinto tone is well projected, firm, extracting the drama, with strong low notes: a positive Tosca. The selling-point, however, is Franco Corelli, not necessarily as Cavaradossi but just as Corelli. He is in magnificent voice, which he flaunts, to the delight of the noisy audience. Those critics who called Roberto Alagna self-indulgent at Covent Garden will undergo paroxysms of curmudgeonly grumpiness over Corelli. Top notes are held for ages (a 12-second ‘Vittoria’) and ‘E lucevan le stelle’ is spun on an elongated, elegant line. Narcissistic? Possibly. Self-indulgent? Certainly. Impressive? Oh, definitely. Attilio D’Orazi, who deserved a great career, is dark-voiced, well focused, but some Gobbi-like modulations would have been welcomed. Virgilio Carbonari is a Sacristan who sings. Bruno Grela is both Sciarrone and Jailer.

“We confront Il trovatore, and Corelli again, in Berlin in 1961, with Bastianini, Fedora Barbieri and a Leonora, Mirella Parutto, who later sang mezzo. Another Trovatore, from Covent Garden in 1939, has been issued often. Jussi Björling, Gina Cigna and Gertrud Wettergren are on hand. Three of the Berlin quartet recorded Trovatore commercially, so interest lies mainly with Parutto, who creates arches of lustrous sound. If you enjoy a lavish show of vocal splendour, hear her and Bastianini in ‘Mira d’acerbe lagrime’, but then a profligacy of vocal display is evident throughout. Corelli, in full sweep, does not spare himself, although he eschews the poetry he brought to parts of Tosca. Barbieri, Bastianini and the well focused Agostino Ferrin, who clearly enunciates the short notes in ‘Abbietta zingara’, create a tense ‘Giorni poveri vivea’ before Barbieri launches herself at ‘Deh, rallentate’ like a hound from hell, fangs flashing. Oliviero De Fabritiis augments the exuberance. Good sound.

“The poetry missed by Corelli was supplied by Björling in 1939. Sound here is less good but one can hear the fresh condition of Björling’s voice and how much warmer is Wettergren’s than Barbieri’s: less the virago than is the Italian. The Times wanted more fury from Wettergren. Her flame has a softer glow. The ‘italianità’ comes from Cigna, with her strong bottom notes and vocal power. Björling brings more variety to Manrico than Corelli but matches the Italian’s ardour when necessary. He is truly beautiful in Act 4. Mario Basiola treats ‘II balen’ more like a love-song than Bastianini does. Throughout the opera he is lighter of voice, in colour and weight. Vittorio Gui conducts as vitally as does De Fabritiis.”

Il trovatore | Tosca (both with Corelli)

Il trovatore (with Björling)