La Gioconda with Corelli
(Philadelphia, Feb. 18, 1964; complete performance). Corelli, Curtis-Verna, M. Dunn, Bardelli, Giaiotti; Guadagno, cond.; Philadelphia Lyric Opera.
Plus La Gioconda (October 18, 1966; 71 mins. of highlights). Corelli, Tebaldi, M. Dunn, Chookasian, Colzani, Hecht; Guadagno, cond.; Philadelphia Lyric Opera.
The CD format includes 3 CDs.
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Listen to two selections: In the first Enzo sings, “Come, oh woman, come to the kiss that gives life enchantment.” In the second, Enzo is about to stab Gioconda for defiling the corpse of his beloved Laura, when Laura awakens. (Gioconda had drugged her so that Laura’s husband would think she had obeyed his command to take poison.) The first excerpt is from the 1964 performance, the second from the one from 1966.
Corelli sang Gioconda many times with the Met but never elsewhere–apart from these two Philadelphia performances. These are his only available Enzos, and this is their first-ever release. The CDs were made from tapes supplied by Steve Cohen, the official recording engineer for The Philadelphia Lyric Opera.
Corelli uses a mechanistic vocal method involving manipulating the position of the larynx. In dramatic passages he sings with his larynx lowered to the bottom of his neck, to give his voice maximum heft, core and brilliance. In lyric passages he repositions his larynx somewhat upward.
He sings caressingly in the love scenes with Dunn and with anguish in the third-act ensemble. In both performances he is in wonderful voice and even interpolates a high C in Act I and another in Act IV. Above all, as in no other role, he expresses blind fury, in his confrontations with Curtis-Verna and Tebaldi.–Stefan Zucker
Act I: 17th-century Venice. As crowds celebrate the coming regatta, the spy Barnaba mocks them. Gioconda, a street singer, enters with her blind mother, Cieca. Gioconda repulses Barnaba’s advances. Hoping to ensnare the daughter through the mother, he advises the crowd that Cieca had bewitched the boat that lost the regatta. The crowd threatens her. The proscribed nobleman, Enzo, disguised as a Dalmatian sailor, protects the old woman. Alvise Badoero, head of the state inquisition, enters with his wife, Laura. At her insistence he saves Cieca. In gratitude she gives Laura a rosary and blesses it. Barnaba notices that Laura and Enzo recognize each other. The crowd enters the church, leaving Enzo and Barnaba behind. Barnaba tells Enzo he knows who he is and offers to arrange a secret meeting between Enzo and Laura for later that evening, on Enzo’s ship. Despite his suspicion of Barnaba’s motive, Enzo agrees. Barnaba dictates a letter to Alvise warning him about the rendezvous. Gioconda, herself in love with Enzo, is jealous when she overhears this. Barnaba gloats; revelers dance; voices inside the church sing hymns; and Gioconda conﬁdes to her mother her despair.
Act II: That evening, an island in the lagoon. The crew attends to Enzo’s ship. Barnaba, disguised as a ﬁsherman, sings a barcarole. Enzo’s heart beats for Laura, who is guided onto the ship by Barnaba. Enzo and Laura express their love and plan to ﬂee on his ship. Laura prays to the Virgin but is confronted by the jealous Gioconda, who is about to stab her. But Gioconda sees Alvise’s boat approaching and knows Alvise will avenge himself against his wife. Gioconda suddenly notices Laura’s rosary—the one her mother had given her—so she helps Laura escape. Enzo reappears to ﬁnd Gioconda, who tells him Laura has betrayed him. He calls Gioconda a cruel liar. Alvise’s henchmen arrive to capture the ship, but Enzo sets it on ﬁre and jumps into the sea.
Act III: In his opulent palace, Alvise declares he will restore his honor. He orders his wife to swallow poison and leaves. Gioconda appears and hands Laura a potion, which, Gioconda explains, will cause a deathlike trance. Laura drinks the potion. Alvise returns and thinks his wife dead. Gioconda laments that she has saved her rival’s life and sacriﬁced her hope of winning Enzo — the cost of love for her mother.
In the main hall, Alvise and his guests are entertained by the Dance of the Hours. Barnaba drags in Cieca, who says she was praying for the dead Laura. Enzo declares who he really is and mourns Laura. Alvise promises Enzo a horrible death. Cieca tells Barnaba he is guilty of Laura’s death. He tells Cieca he will kill her. Gioconda offers herself to Barnaba if he will save Enzo. Alvise exults over his wife’s body. Enzo tries to stab Alvise but is taken away by guards to prison. Barnaba kidnaps Cieca.
Act IV: In a ruined palace, Gioconda meets two other street singers who carry in the comatose Laura. Gioconda asks her friends to ﬁnd her missing mother. Left alone, Gioconda’s thoughts turn to a dagger, the vial of Alvise’s poison and suicide. She even contemplates murdering Laura, but Enzo suddenly arrives. He wants to go to her tomb, to join her in death. Gioconda reveals she has abducted Laura’s body. Enzo is about to stab Gioconda when Laura awakens. The lovers thank Gioconda, who tells them her friends will lead them to safety in Dalma- tia. Gioconda prays for protection from Barnaba and tries to ﬂee, but he comes to claim his prize. She stabs herself. Barnaba screams he has drowned her mother but then, enraged, realizes Gioconda can no longer hear him.
Cesare Bardelli was born December 24, 1911, in Genoa, and died December 23, 2000. His father was a tenor who took his son to the teachers Barsanti and Pizzi in Pisa, where the family had moved. The younger Bardelli made his debut in 1937, in Alexandria, as Amonasro. In 1938 he sang at the Cairo Opera as Scarpia, with Gigli and Caniglia. From 1944-46 he sang in Trieste in Chénier, Fedora, Barbiere, Lucia, Rigoletto, Forza, Traviata, Trovatore, Parsifal and Salome. In 1946 he appeared in Palermo. In 1947 he made has debut in Philadelphia, as Iago. In 1948 he appeared in San Francisco and Detroit. In 1955 he was at the Chicago Opera. In 1957 he made his Met debut as Alﬁo, with Milanov and Björling. There he sang Scarpia, Amonasro and Rance, until 1966. He also appeared in Vienna, Barcelona, Venice, Bologna, Naples, Philadelphia, Houston, Newark, Providence and Caracas. In 1968 he sang di Luna, Iago, Don Carlos (Forza) and Nabucco in Belgrade. In all, he sang Scarpia more than 950 times, possibly a record. On the Teatro Dischi label he is heard in a 1964 Cavalleria, with Farrell and Tucker.
Lili Chookasian was born in 1930 in Chicago, where she debuted, in 1953, in a concert under Bruno Walter. Her opera debut was in 1955, as Adalgisa, also in Chicago. Thomas Schippers engaged her for Spoleto, for Prokoﬁev’s Alexander Nevsky. Her Met debut was in 1962, as Cieca. There she also sang Ulrica, Azucena and Mary (Holländer). In 1961 she sang Herodias in Trieste and, in 1963, Amneris in Mexico City. In 1965 she was Mary and the First Norn for Bayreuth. She also appeared with the New York City Opera and, in 1966, at the American Opera Society and in Montreal. In 1972 she was the Met’s Ulrica. She recorded for DG (First Norn), Columbia (Mahler’s Second Symphony), BASF (Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony), Candide (Lied von der Erde) and MRF (Roberto Devereux).
Anselmo Colzani was born March 28, 1918, in Budrio, near Bologna, where he studied with Corrado Zambelli and debuted, in 1947, as the Herald in Lohengrin. From 1952 he sang at the Arena di Verona and, in 1954, made his Scala debut. There he sang in a staged performance of Milhaud’s David. In 1956 he sang in San Francisco, in 1960 in Chicago. In that year he made his Met debut as Boccanegra. On recordings he appears in Gioconda, Forza, Maria di Rohan, Iphigénie en Tauride (with Callas), Agnese di Hohenstaufen and Francesca da Rimini (Zandonai).
Franco Corelli sang 20 performances with The Philadelphia Lyric Opera, from 1962 to 1972: Tosca (2 performances), Carmen (2), Trovatore, Gioconda (2, 1 with Tebaldi), Roméo (3), Fanciulla, Forza, Turandot, Chénier, Don Carlo, Aïda, Bohème (with Tebaldi) and concerts (4, 1 with Tebaldi). To read or download an interview of Corelli by Stefan Zucker, visit www.belcantosociety.org.
Mary Curtis-Verna was born in 1926 in Salem, Massachusetts, but studied in Italy, making her debut, in 1949, at Milan’s Teatro Lirico. She appeared at La Scala, the Vienna State Opera, the Paris Opéra, the Maggio musicale ﬁorentino and in Munich and Stuttgart. In 1951 she sang in Philadelphia and in 1952 she appeared in San Fran- cisco as Aïda and Donna Anna. In 1957 she made her Met debut, as Aïda; there she also sang Ballo, Trovatore, Don Carlo, Donna Anna and Tosca. She returned to La Scala and appeared at the Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires) and the Arena di Verona. Her recordings include Aïda for both Cetra and Remington, Donna Anna for Cetra and Ballo on various live labels.
Mignon Dunn was born June 17, 1932 in Mem- phis. Her debut was in 1956 in New Orleans, as Carmen. Worldwide opera engagements took her to the Met, the New York City Opera, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Santa Fe, Covent Garden, the Paris Opéra, Brussels, the Bolshoi, the Teatro Comunale in Florence, La Scala, the Arena di Verona, the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds, Buenos Aires and Seoul. She appeared with the Istanbul Symphony, Dartmouth Symphony, Antwerpen Chamber Orchestra and the Buenos Aires Symphony, among others. Carmen, Azucena, Eboli and Dalila were among her most noted roles. In 1973 she was particularly successful in Troyens at the Met. She has recorded for DGG, Angel, Erato and New World Records, and she teaches at the Manhattan School of Music and Northwestern University.
Bonaldo Giaiotti was born December 25, 1932, in Ziracco, in Udine. He ﬁrst studied voice there, later with Alfredo Strano in Milan, where he made his debut, in 1957, at the Teatro Nuovo. After Basilio (Barbiere), in 1959, in Cincinnati, in 1960 he made his Met debut, as Zaccaria (Nabucco). He remained with the Met for 25 years, singing more than 300 performances. His more than 30 roles there included Oroveso, Ramﬁs, Timur and Raimondo (Lucia). Other appearances were in Paris, London, Bordeaux, Geneva, Vienna, Hamburg, Madrid, Zurich, Genoa (as Noah in Donizetti’s rare Il diluvio universale), Verona, Luxor (as Ramﬁs), Chicago (as Alvise), Turin, Palermo and Rome. His Scala debut was not until 1986, as Rodolfo (Sonnambula). In 1970 he made a South American concert tour. His recordings include Trovatore, Juive and Forza (Guardiano) for RCA, Luisa Miller for Decca, Aïda, Traviata and Turandot for HMV, Masnadieri, Zaccaria, Ramﬁs and the Commendatore for a number of live labels.
Anton Guadagno was born in 1923 in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily. From 1966-72 he was music director of The Philadelphia Lyric Opera. He conducted regularly at the Vienna State Opera, Covent Garden, the Paris Opéra, the Arena di Verona and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. His Met debut came in 1982. He became principal conductor of the Palm Beach Opera, in 1984, and can be heard on more than a dozen recordings, including aria albums with Caballé, Domingo, Pavarotti and Tebaldi. Corelli respected Guadagno’s opinions about opera, and the two were in periodic contact until the latter’s death, in Vienna on August 16, 2002.
Joshua Hecht was born 1929 in New York City. He studied with Lili Wexberg and Eve Hecht, his wife, in New York, and with Walter Cataldi Tassoni in Rome. After his debut, at the Baltimore Opera in 1953 as Le Comte Des Grieux in Manon, he sang in Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, San Diego, Seattle, New Orleans, San Francisco, at the New York City Opera and from 1964 at the Met. His international career took him to the Vienna Volksoper, Naples, Palermo, the National Opera in Bucharest, the Liceo in Barcelona, Johannesburg, Graz, Dublin and Vancouver. Holländer, Wanderer, Amfortas, Rigoletto, Iago, Scarpia and Tevye were his major roles. He sang the title role in Dessau’s Einstein, also oratorios and lieder and recorded for MGM and Columbia.
Gladys Kriese, a k a Gladys Kriese-Caporale, a k a Claudia Caporale, was born January 11, 1931, in Winnipeg and studied with Doris Mills Lewis there and with Sidney Dietch in New York. She made her Met debut as the Mother’s Voice in Hoffmann, in 1961, and remained at the house until 1966, singing such roles as Mary (Holländer), First Norn and Magdalene (Meistersinger). In 1961-62 she sang at the New York City Opera, where she created a part in Ellstein’s The Golem. She also appeared with the San Carlo Opera Company. From 1966-72 she was a member of the Deutsche Oper, Berlin and appeared at Hannover and Karlsruhe. In 1970 she sang Eboli at the Vienna State Opera and over the next four years appeared in Leipzig, Hamburg, Turin, Stuttgart and Chicago. Her roles included Erde, Waltraute, Fricka, Brangäne, Azucena, Ulrica, Amneris, Countess (Pique Dame), Klytämnestra, Herodias, Annina (Rosenkavalier), Marcellina (Figaro) and Mother (Consul).
Renata Tebaldi sang 10 performances with The Philadelphia Lyric Opera, from 1964 to 1972: Bohème (2), Tosca (2), Gioconda, Otello (3) and concerts (2).
The Philadelphia Lyric Live
by Steve Cohen
Aurelio (Ray) Fabiani deserves credit for this recording. He founded the ..Philadelphia Lyric Opera, an organization that produced star-studded operas at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music between 1958 and his death in 1973. Fabiani also was then the American manager of Franco Corelli and frequently booked him as the lead tenor in his Philadelphia productions. Fabiani had enough foresight and ambition to arrange for recordings of Lyric performances, starting in 1963.
I was with Fabiani the day he went to the musicians’ union to seek permission for the tapings. Ray spoke with the union’s board members familiarly. “Look, boys,” he said. “I’ve given employment to lots of musicians. Now I need a favor. I want to record our performances. This young man here will try to sell them to a sponsor for broadcasts, and if we get paid, you’ll get a share.” They agreed, and so did other unions. We arranged for Ben Grauer, familiar as the host of Toscanini’s NBC broadcasts, to be our commentator, and I started to produce intermission interviews. The ﬁrst broadcast was to be Traviata with Joan Sutherland and John Alexander. I lined up Broadway actress Susan Strasberg to talk about the parallels between La Dame aux Camèlias and Traviata, and I recorded a conversation with Sutherland for the second intermission. We never found a sponsor and the series never got on the air, but we did preserve several seasons of historic performances.
Fabiani spoke with a heavy Italian accent and had an Old World aura. That, however, was showmanship. He said he was born in Naples and that may be so, but he gave various years for his birth. His age when he died was reported as 78, 82 and 84. He was raised from early childhood in Philadelphia, where his uncle and adoptive father was a physician who owned and managed his own hospital. Ray was well educated, studied pre-med at the University of Pennsylvania and trained as a violinist. So, clearly, his accent was an affectation. He ran off to Chicago in the 1920s where he became a promoter of bicycle races, marathon dances and wrestling. He developed some ties with Al Capone and his mob. Fabiani, during this same period, played violin at Chicago opera performances.
He returned to Philadelphia as a wrestling promoter, then turned to concert and opera production. He joined the board of the venerable Philadelphia Grand Opera in 1956 but quit to form his own, more adventurous company. Ray booked the star singers you’ll hear here, used ﬁrst-class stage directors, such as Nathaniel Merrill and Irving Guttman, and ambitious set designers and choreographers. He told me his ultimate ambition was to stage Berg’s Lulu.
Fabiani hired as his assistant manager William Warden, a bear of a man who resembled Giulio Gatti-Casazza and whose family was prominent in society. When announcements had to be made on stage, Fabiani sent out Warden, whose eloquence and appearance impressed audiences. Warden later was given the title of Co-General Manager, probably for his family’s fund-raising efforts, but Fabiani always remained in charge. When you saw them working in the ofﬁce you realized that Warden was subservient.
Rival tenors sometimes complained that Corelli received favored treatment in Philadelphia. Giuseppe Di Stefano refused to go on with a November 1963 Philadelphia Lyric performance of Ballo because a record company advertised Corelli as “the world’s greatest tenor” in the program. Fabiani was not to blame; he was scrupulous about such things. But Di Stefano stalked out and sulked in a parking lot, minutes before curtain time. Fabiani dispatched ushers to conﬁscate the programs and sent Warden in front of the curtain to apologize for the ad. Only then did Di Stefano agree to sing.
Fabiani was thrifty about the tapes he had me make because they were merely tests to entice a sponsor. We used only one recorder and one mike, suspended above the pit at the front of the stage. Listeners today will feel the close presence of the orchestra, drawn from the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Curtis Institute of Music and experienced freelancers. The closeness of the mike provides moments of intimacy lacking in pirate tapes made from the audience. Listening to these performances, I feel as if I’m right there on stage, almost able to touch the singers’ lips.
A Note About Mastering
Steve Cohen taped these performances with an Ampex tape recorder. Before giving the tapes to Fabiani, he copied them from the Ampex to a Concertone tape recorder, for his own enjoyment. Fabiani’s wife threw out her husband’s tapes on his death. Steve, however, kept the copies in storage— until he gave them to us. We released only 70-odd minutes of the 1966 Gioconda because that was all he copied.
All tape recorders prior to the introduction of servo-controlled motors varied in speed. We found that on each tape the speed varied so that pitch ﬂuctuated by a half step. Because even small pitch changes substantially affect the sound of a voice, we corrected the ﬂuctuations in 10th and 20th of a percent increments, usually at chord changes. Each correction is virtually unnoticeable. We decided on the changes by simultaneously listening to the performance and an electronic tone generator, which we typically preset to the tonic or dominant of the appropriate key. Each correction is consistent with a tuning pitch of A=440.
The only exceptions were at the ends of some big ensembles, where we allowed the recording to go slightly sharp, in accordance with what happened in live performance. We did not compensate for performers’ intonation lapses but instead assumed the orchestra to be essentially in tune— someone who sings a note off pitch on our CDs would have been no less sharp or ﬂat in the theater or if the recording were a half- step higher or lower.
To obtain a favorable signal-to-noise ratio and avoid tape overload, Steve attenuated the volume on loud passages and boosted it on soft. The tapes also had a fair number of clicks and other mechanical or electronic noises. Most producers do not compensate for compressed dynamic range. Occasionally they use dynamic- range restorers that yield an artiﬁcial-sounding result in classical music. With regard to clicks and pops, they program in one-size-ﬁts-all noise suppression for the entire recording or for extended segments that removes or reduces the problems economically. Unfortunately, such noise suppression dulls the attacks of certain notes and consonants. Percussion instruments are among the ﬁrst to suffer, as do, sometimes, the consonants d and t. More, it veils the sound.
Our method was different. As we did with pitch restoration, we approached each problem note by note, making many hundreds of changes. The signal path: a Studer tape recorder, to a Meitner DSD analog-to-digital converter, to a workstation called Sonic Solutions. Using Sonic Solutions, we made the changes (which took 13 expensive months). Far from seeming contrived, we feel the they yield a more natural-sounding result.
We used the same approach to noise suppression and pitch restoration for Trovatore (#5000), Ernani (#5011), Tosca (#5013) and, to a lesser extent, Trova- tore (#5012) and took into account that some of the performances were given at tuning pitches other than A=440.
—Stefan Zucker, producer
Corelli & Tebaldi backstage after Gioconda
Kenneth Meltzer, writing in Classical CD Review
“This release documents two of Franco Corelli’s appearances in Philadelphia, a city the Italian tenor returned to with frequency and great success. In many ways, Philadelphia offered Corelli an ideal venue. Its close location to New York allowed the Italian tenor to coordinate appearances at the Metropolitan Opera and the Academy of Music. And a bit of separation from the pressures of New York and the Met seemed to put Corelli in a more relaxed frame of mind. As a result many of his Philadelphia performances capture Corelli in a freewheeling mood and sterling voice.
“That is certainly the case with the two Gioconda performances included on this Bel Canto Society release. The first two discs encompass the complete performance from 18 February 1964. The third disc features extended highlights, starting with Act II, from a staging 18 October 1966. In both cases Corelli is in glorious form. The upper register has amazing security and power. In fact Corelli interpolates some unwritten high notes, including blazing Cs in the Act I ‘Enzo Grimaldo’ duet and the final-act trio. Corelli’s trademark mastery of the long line and dynamic shading is very much in evidence, perhaps most notably in the stunning ‘Cielo e mar!’ from the 1966 performance. Throughout Corelli is entirely convincing as the passionate, heroic Enzo. It’s a shame Corelli never recorded Enzo commercially. Fortunately we have this Bel Canto Society release, plus a 1962 Met broadcast, to show how impressive Corelli was in a role tailor-made for his unique gifts.
“In both performances Corelli is joined by worthy partners. American soprano Mary Curtis-Verna is a fine Gioconda, floating a lovely B-flat in Act I, and lavishing ample voice and temperament throughout. The lack of a strikingly beautiful or individual timbre consigned Mary Curtis-Verna to a ranking below such stars as Zinka Milanov, Renata Tebaldi, and Leontyne Price. But she was a most valuable singer, and would certainly be an important presence on the current opera scene.
“And speaking of Renata Tebaldi, the 1966 Gioconda finds her in representative form for this stage of her career. The middle of the voice is absolutely glorious, the upper register less so, both in terms of tonal quality and pitch. Tebaldi, whose acting skills were often given short shrift, throws herself completely into the role, and to great effect. Overall Tebaldi gives a riveting performance, and her Gioconda is a welcome addition to this set.
“Mignon Dunn is a fresh-voiced and passionate Laura in both the 1964 and 1966 performances. Gladys Kriese contributes a heartfelt ‘Voce di donna’ in the 1964 Gioconda. Cesare Bardelli (1964) and Anselmo Colzani (1966) exude the kind of masculine, vibrant Italian vocalism that was so plentiful among Italian baritones of their generation. Bonaldo Giaiotti, always a reliable singer, is a fine Alvise.
“The 1964 Gioconda is marred by a frequent lack of coordination between the orchestra pit and stage. Anton Guadagno, the conductor on both occasions, achieves a much more disciplined performance two years later.
“The 1964 performance, recorded for potential broadcast, is in clear sound, with a realistic balance between singers and orchestra. The 1966 performance seems to have been taped from a prime location in the audience. Again, the sound is quite fine.” [Steve Cohen taped both recordings from more or less the same location.]
John T. Hughes, reviewing in Classic Record Collector
“Philadelphia was the venue in 1964 and 1966 for Franco Corelli’s assumption of Enzo, a role to which he brought that exciting, virile sound, virtually unmatched at the time. It is not a matter of barnstorming vociferation, for Corelli alters the weight of his tone to suit the situation. The 1966 recording starts at ‘Cielo e mar’, but the 1964 offering is complete and presents Mary Curtis-Verna as a Gioconda lightish but effective, her voice focused. The sonorous bass of Bonaldo Giaiotti is well suited to Alvise, and one hears Cesare Bardelli (1911-2000), of whom I know no studio recording, as a biting Barnaba. In 1966 Gioconda is Renata Tebaldi at her most dramatic, even using chest-notes.”
Robert Levine, reviewing in Classics Today
“What we’re presented with here is a complete Gioconda from 1964 in Philadelphia with Franco Corelli, Mary Curtis-Verna, Mignon Dunn, and Cesare Bardelli, and 71 minutes from a 1966 performance (Act 2 from ‘Cielo e mar’ to the end, Act 3 somewhat abridged, and all of Act 4) in which Corelli is joined by Renata Tebaldi, Dunn, and Anselmo Colzani. Both performances are led by Anton Guadagno. There are thrills galore–sometimes pretty sloppy thrills in ensembles, in the orchestra, and in the stage-pit relationship, but they’re thrills nonetheless. Most of them come from Corelli, who is in crazily big voice, with every note secure, and a bonus high-C at the end of the first-act duet with Barnaba and in the trio in the last act. His animal magnetism comes through and it can’t help but make you tingle. That having been said, there are very few moments when he sings softly (the gorgeous melody, marked pianissimo, that begins the Act 3 finale with the words ‘Già ti veggo…’ has little effect here sung so loudly) and it’s a pity–you just know he can do it if he wants to.
“The other cast members are not dismissable: Mary Curtis-Verna was a fine spinto soprano with a good career in the ’60s; she’s reliable, concerned, and manages a glorious, soft high B-flat in Act 1. She’s everything but unique or interesting. As Laura, Dunn is the same in both performances–workmanlike and big-toned. Colzani outsneers Bardelli, but both make pretty vivid impressions. The Alvises and Ciecas are good enough. Happily, Tebaldi turns in a thrilling late-career performance, singing her heart out, pushing excitingly at both ends of her range. Too bad the first act of her performance is missing.
“These performances catch the spirit of this blood-and-guts opera.”
Alan Blyth, reviewing in Gramophone
“In much better sound [than a La Wally on another label] is the Bel Canto issue of a 1966 Tebaldi appearance at the Philadelphia Opera as Gioconda. The tapes, lovingly restored, unfortunately excluded Act I. Tebaldi is in magnificent form, both as singer and vocal actress, bringing out all Gioconda’s confused feelings in her tragic situation, culminating in a superb account of ‘Suicidio!’, her Act 4 solo.
“This set also records one of the few examples of Tebaldi’s partnership with the equally legendary Franco Corelli, now also an octagenarian. He may be as self-indulgent as ever as Enzo, but that is abundantly forgiven for his glorious, vital tenor, in peak form. The rest of the cast, especially Mignon Dunn as Laura, and conductor Anton Guadagno, provide suitable support. This issue also includes a complete account of the same work, made two years earlier at Philadelphia, again with Corelli (who didn’t record the part elsewhere) but with a lesser soprano in Maria Curtis-Verna.”
“Stefan, you have outdone yourself with this restoration. We all had tapes of these Giocondas, in poor sound–what great performances. Alas, I won’t live long enough to hear their equal.”–Dr. Doug Fox, host, “Evening at the Opera,” WMNR-FM, Monroe, CT
Comments from Our Customers
“The Gioconda set with Corelli is legendary. How do you guys achieve transfers of such astonishing quality? Best in the business.”–Ian Rowlands, Bedford, Great Britain
For the answer, scroll down to the sections on mastering and our CD process.
Click for additional reviews of this and other Corelli titles by Richard Fawkes in Opera Now.
A Note About Mastering
Steve Cohen taped these performances with an Ampex tape recorder. Before giving the tapes to Aurelio Fabiani (head of the Philadelphia Lyric Opera), he copied them from the Ampex to a Concertone tape recorder, for his own enjoyment. Fabiani’s wife threw out her husband’s tapes on his death. Steve, however, kept the copies in storage–until he gave them to us. We released only 70-odd minutes of the 1966 Gioconda because that was all he copied.
All tape recorders prior to the introduction of servo-controlled motors varied in speed. We found that on each tape the speed varied so that pitch fluctuated by a half step. Because even small pitch changes substantially affect the sound of a voice, we corrected the fluctuations in 10th and 20th of a percent increments, usually at chord changes. Each correction is virtually unnoticeable. We decided on the changes by simultaneously listening to the performance and an electronic tone generator, which we typically preset to the tonic or dominant of the appropriate key. Each correction is consistent with a tuning pitch of A=440.
The only exceptions were at the ends of some big ensembles, where we allowed the recording to go slightly sharp, in accordance with what happened in live performance. We did not compensate for performers’ intonation lapses but instead assumed the orchestra to be essentially in tune–someone who sings a note off pitch on our CDs would have been no less sharp or flat in the theater or if the recording were a half-step higher or lower.
To obtain a favorable signal-to-noise ratio and avoid tape overload, Steve attenuated the volume on loud passages and boosted it on soft. The tapes also had a fair number of clicks and other mechanical or electronic noises. Most producers do not compensate for compressed dynamic range. Occasionally they use dynamic-range restorers that yield an artificial-sounding result in classical music. With regard to clicks and pops, they program in one-size-fits-all noise suppression for the entire recording or for extended segments that removes or reduces the problems economically. Unfortunately, such noise suppression dulls the attacks of certain notes and consonants. Percussion instruments are among the first to suffer, as do, sometimes, the consonants d and t. More, it veils the sound.
Our method was different. As we did with pitch restoration, we approached each problem note by note, making many hundreds of changes. The signal path: a Studer tape recorder, to a Meitner DSD analog-to-digital converter, to a workstation called Sonic Solutions. Using Sonic Solutions, we made the changes (which took 13 expensive months). Far from seeming contrived, we feel that they yield a more natural-sounding result.
We used the same approach to noise suppression and pitch restoration for Trovatore (#5000), Ernani (#5011), Tosca (#5013) and, to a lesser extent, Trovatore (CD sold out but available as a download) and took into account that some of the performances were given at tuning pitches other than A=440.–Stefan Zucker, producer
One reason why ours are the best-sounding CDs of historical performances
The contents of this CD were transferred from analog sources using the improved high-resolution technology called DSD (Direct Stream Digital). DSD operates at one bit and 2,822,400 samples per second. The result sounds more like analog than conversions using Pulse Code Modulation technology (even at the emerging PCM standard of 24 bits and 96 kilohertz) because it creates fewer digital artifacts, such as glassiness, glare and harshness. CDs made from DSD conversions sound better than other CDs, so I’m able to listen to them hour after hour without audio fatigue.
All PCM technology incorporates filters that chop off high frequencies beyond the range of human hearing. Moreover, most PCM incorporates filters that “decimate’ the sound into 8, 16, 20 or 24 bits, which then must be “requantized.” All this causes most digital artifacts. DSD is better in part because it has no filters. DSD also conveys more sonic detail than PCM conversions. With DSD conversions, virtually all digital artifacts you may hear are added by your CD player.
Mastering was by A. T. Michael MacDonald and Rich Lamb of AlgoRhythms, New York City.–SZ
Corelli Interviews: Free Webcasts
Franco Corelli: Tenore del Mondo Reprint of an article in Opera News
Corelli vs. Del Monaco: Tenor Fanatics Speak Their Minds