Il barbiere di Siviglia (1947)
(The Barber of Seville)
Corradi, Tagliavini, Gobbi, De Taranto, Tajo; Morelli. In Italian, no subtitles. (1947). 93m. B&W.
PAL VHS ONLY
Alan Blyth, reviewing in Gramophone
“The best transfer, visually and aurally, of this 1947 time warp, a real period piece most notable for enshrining the interpretations of regular stage partners, Gobbi and Tagliavini
“As Figaro, Gobbi revels–almost too ebulliently–in the plenitude of his youthful powers, always a lively presence. Tagliavini sings in that honeyed tone that made him famous, but acts poorly. The film is in some ways most worth catching for De Taranto, pompous and tetchy as Bartolo should be, and Tajo, a wide-eyed and zany Basilio, both giving an object-lesson in a kind of outrageous comedy and verbal acuity that is almost a lost art.”
Using a production from the Rome Opera, Gobbi’s irresistible Figaro is paired with Ferruccio Tagliavini’s velvety Almaviva, Nelly Corradi’s sparkling Rosina and Italo Tajo’s imposing Basilio. All are a delight, with the men setting standards for the performance of Rossini. This is one of Gobbi’s first operatic films that has the look and feel of an actual performance rather than a studio production. —John Ardoin
Tully Potter, reviewing in International Opera Collector
“The reissue of Mario Costa’s 1947 Il barbiere di Siviglia brings back one of the best operatic films of all time. It is a shame that the score is pruned to just 93 minutes but it is tastefully done; the only glaring omission is the florid section of Almaviva’s first aria, which Ferruccio Tagliavini would surely have sung well enough. He is in his finest voice here, as is Tito Gobbi, whose tone is still flexible enough to handle the demands of the music–he is like quicksilver in what remains of the recitative and all in all is in much better shape than on the ghastly EMI recording with Callas. Italo Tajo is a facially and vocally expressive but rather too benign Don Basilio, Vito De Taranto a splendidly pompous Dr Bartolo, nimble in his aria. Nelly Corradi is a soprano Rosina of the old school, better suited to the role than Callas but not in the league of Galli-Curci, Dal Monte, Pagliughi or Sciutti. Giuseppe Morelli conducts competently. The production has many delightful moments and BCS has gone to a lot of trouble to splice together the best possible print. The result still looks like a 50-year-old film but is both watchable and listenable.”
“The new tape of Rossini’s most popular opera is one I can recommend heartily. It has excellent production values, and it has been transferred impeccably. The leading roles are sung and acted well, particularly by the great singing actors Tito Gobbi and Italo Tajo. And there’s a pleasant surprise in seeing the legendary roly-poly tenor Ferruccio Tagliavini act ardently and romantically as Count Almaviva.
“After seeing him in middle age, at the end of his career, it became easy to forget that once he was considered sexy, at least by some. An aspiring young soprano sought him out backstage in Philadelphia around 1950 and later testified that he fathered her child.
“In this film, made in 1947 when he was 34, Tagliavini sings with velvety pianissimos and caressing sweetness.”–Steve Cohen, The Delaware Jewish Voice and The Philadelphia Jewish Times
“Tagliavini, Tajo and I shared our youth and many of our professional years together, and I think I can say that our voices and our personalities integrated particularly well on stage. Ferruccio’s voice was a true lyric tenor–full without being absolutely ‘robusto,’ with a marvellous color, a natural flexibility, and most admirably schooled. Italo Tajo, one of the real singing actors of my time, was, like myself, absorbed in the quest for a new degree of naturalness on the operatic stage.”–Tito Gobbi, My Life
The most personality of any Barbiere–no film or telecast since has come close. The voices are all at their peaks. The camera never leaves the singers.–Stefan Zucker
Over the years Bel Canto Society has acquired six masters of this Barbiere, including one of the few surviving 35mm prints, which we located in Australia. All the versions suffer from some audio overload in some loud passages. The 35mm has considerably less than the others, and we used it, with small inserts from other prints, in making this video edition.–SZ
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