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Subject: Re: Tebaldi Aida under Karajan
From: Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 25 Sep 2016 19:39:15 +0000
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I've long had mixed feelings about this particular Aida recording, for what I think are valid reasons. The real bone of contention for me is the manner in which it was recorded. I understand what John Culshaw was aiming for, and of course it is natural that the orchestra be placed in front of the singers. All well and good. However, when a voice like Simionato's comes off sounding like Cherubino, something is definitely wrong. Amneris was one of her greatest roles, and there are many live recordings which substantiate that (not only that early Cetra recording either). Carlo Berganzi produces a beautiful lyrical tone, but in no way does he sound like Radames. His singing is beautiful and refined, however, and he certainly fits well into Von Karajan's conception of the opera. I don't find Tebaldi as much of a problem as I used to in this recording, though she sounds like Mimi instead of Aida. That she experiences difficulties with the top C in "O Patria Mia" is not surprising. Her pitch sags badly, and she relinquishes the note pretty quickly. Her high B flats in the Tomb Scene are hardly any better. Despite the number of times she performed it, I wonder whether Tebaldi's voice was really intended for this role to begin with, though her opulent singing in the middle register is always beautiful and creamy. 
What I DO admire this recording tremendously for is the way Von Karajan's orchestra plays the orchestral accompaniment. The strings and brass are incredible. If I were left to choose only one recording of this opera, it would have to be the Milanov/Bjoerling/Barbieri version on RCA, (now newly remastered). And probably the Price/Vickers/Gorr under Solti. 



----- Original Message -----

From: "Maxwell Paley" <[log in to unmask]> 
To: "OPERA-L" <[log in to unmask]> 
Sent: Sunday, September 25, 2016 1:32:03 PM 
Subject: Re: Tebaldi Aida under Karajan 

Scott, I think it’s a very different view of the opera that, at least from my experience, grows on you. If you compare any particular section with another recording, it’s not likely to seem best. However, I find that the performance has a cumulative impact that shows the care put into it by conductor and producer. 

Tebaldi wasn’t happy with the experience of making that recording. She wasn’t feeling well and had cancelled some of her Vienna State Opera performances during the time the recording was made (September of 1959). She’d also lost her confidence with the “O patria mia” high C in Paris performances a few months before and I don’t think she ever sang Aida again after the recording. Some tape speed trickery was involved in getting out a reasonable high C for the recording in that aria. She also hated the morning sessions (a common complaint from singers involved in Decca Vienna productions of the time). 

All that said, I think there’s a level of nuance and musical finesse in this performance that tops her previous ones, even if the actual vocal production (particularly on top) is more labored. But she found Karajan’s beat heavy and it took immense persuasion from Karajan and Culshaw to get her to come back a couple years later to work with him again on the “Otello” recording, which she later said was one of her most satisfying studio experiences. 

Heard on good equipment, this recording has an immensely deep soundstage. I find the layering of different distance perspectives in the larger scenes to be really beautiful. The more distanced miking of the singers makes them project out over the orchestra as if in performance and has one big advantage, which I find thrilling. In the big Triumphal Scene, in the “Ma, tu re” section when the full chorus comes in and Aida sings the word “pieta” on a G, you hear Tebaldi cut right through the massed orchestra and chorus in such a way that you never can get when the soloist is just a foot away from the mic. In the late 1990’s, it was superbly remastered onto LP by the German Speaker’s Corner company. 

But it’s an expansive and leisurely paced presentation that certainly isn’t going to appeal to everybody. 

Max Paley 
. 
> On Sep 25, 2016, at 11:03 AM, Scott Grunow <[log in to unmask]> wrote: 
> 
> I had to work at job number two yesterday, and to supposedly relieve the tedium, I found the complete Aida with Tebaldi, conducted by Karajan, with Bergonzi, Simionato, McNeil et al. on youtube. I remember many years ago the Penguin Guide to CDs ranked this recording number one, saying her "creamy tone color rides the phrases beautifully" and praises her "detailed imagination." In lyrical moments the mid-range, yes, but I actually find her sounding tired and unimaginative. In the final duet, Bergonzi is elegant, while Tebaldi is mostly good in the middle range, but the B flats are hard and screamy. Quite the difference from her first recording with Del Monaco, where she is often peerless (except for the high C in O patria mia). Simionato also sounds tired and under par, only rising to the occasion and her usual quality in the Judgment Scene. I felt sorry for the basically lyrical Bergonzi, having to sing his big moments in Act I so slowly (during the first act I kept saying in general and in parts of the Triumphal Scene, pick up the tempo, it feels like someone keep trying to lift barbells or drag a safe across a floor), but he is intelligent and nuanced and doesn't force or scream like Carreras in the later Karajan recording. Overall, disappointing. I wish Toscannini could have conducted this recording with the same cast but a younger Tebaldi. Overall,disappointing. 
> 
> 
> BTW, Simionato is a total knockout on the Cetra recording with Mancini. Vocally and dramatically. 
> 
> 
> 
> Mezzomaniac 
> 
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