Del Monaco at His Most Thrilling
Norma, Barbiere (“Largo al factotum”), Walküre, Macbeth, Otello (2), song. (1969). 37m. B&W.
NTSC or PAL VHS
“Mario Del Monaco was a stentorian dramatic tenor who drove everyone crazy during his years as a superstar from 1950 till around 1970. Some in the audience went crazy with joy at his good looks, fine acting and the brilliance in his voice. Critics went crazy with frustration, perplexed by his frequent sharping and vexed by the lack of subtlety or velvet in his singing.
“I loved seeing and hearing him. But many were the times that I cringed when he missed a chance to sing a phrase gently and sweetly and chose instead to belt it out. In retrospect, we were all too hard on him. As seen in the Bel Canto video release Del Monaco at His Most Thrilling! he had such a rare talent that it’s petty to wish that he were something he wasn’t.
“There’s an excitement about Del Monaco that comes through vividly on this tape. The vitality is so palpable that it sweeps aside all quibbles.
“Appearing in front of a formally dressed orchestra and a studio audience, Del Monaco wears a sweater and slacks. He moves casually around the stage, sometimes singing intimately to the conductor, sometimes to the audience, and frequently to the camera. This is one of the most charismatic vocal performances ever captured on film.
“He sings the stentorian tenor highlights from Macbeth, Otello and Norma, also the baritone comic aria ‘Largo al factotum.’ Most interesting of all is the scene for Siegmund from Act I of Die Walküre. This is not just a novelty; Del Monaco’s performance is gorgeous in sound and artistic in concept.
“The Hi-Fi sound and the crisp black and white pictures are from a 1969 German broadcast. There’s been no quality tenor of this type since Del Monaco. He is greatly missed.
“My most vivid memory of Del Monaco on stage was at the end of Act I of Pagliacci in a Philadelphia performance, when he tore open his white clown’s costume to reveal a blood-red undershirt beneath. This tape is black and white, but it reveals much of the color of Del Monaco’s voice and personality.”–Steve Cohen, The Delaware Jewish Voice and The Philadelphia Jewish Times
This tape comes from a 1969 television concert, when the King Kong of tenors was 54 years old and had been giving unstintingly of an unremitting forte for almost 30 years. One might expect some falling off. Instead, the voice has the solidity of a large rock formation, and if the style has somewhat coarsened over the years, he knows exactly how to make even that coarseness part and parcel of his general interpretive concept. Of all the great Italian tenors Del Monaco was possibly the worst exponent of the Neapolitan song, yet his “O sole mio,” reprehensible as art, is thrillingly executed and awe inspiring as an example of what a truly phenomenal voice can get away with when means are allied to guts. You’ll love it! His Walküre performance would be accepted on bended knee today, his “Walse! Walse!” giving the great Lauritz a real run for his money.– Joe Pearce, President of The Vocal Record Collector’s Society
Michael Tanner, reviewing in Classic CD
“A still louder tenor [than Corelli] of the time was Mario Del Monaco, and there is an informal concert from 1969–late in his career but he could still make plenty of noise, much of it impressive.
“Del Monaco sings not only his usual numbers from Otello but also Siegmund’s Monologue from Act I of Die Walküre in passable German and ‘Largo al factotum’, a baritone aria in which he shows he can get his tongue round most of the patter.” (Rated four stars out of a possible five)