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Subject: Re: Tebaldi Aida under Karajan
From: "Takis Pavl." <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Takis Pavl.
Date:Mon, 26 Sep 2016 23:20:01 +0000

text/plain (57 lines)

Here are the Decca details, straight from the company's catalogue:

>V160Pr: James Walker (m) Eng: Gordon Parry (m)
Pr: John Culshaw (s) Eng: James Brown (s)

2-15 Sep 1959 Sofiensaal, Vienna
Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde,Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan
Renata Tebaldi (soprano) Aida
Giulietta Simionato (mezzo-soprano) Amneris
Carlo Bergonzi (tenor) Radamès
Cornell MacNeil (baritone) Amonasro
Arnold Van Mill (bass) Ramphis
Fernando Corena (bass) King of Egypt
Piero de Palma (tenor) Messenger
Eugenia Ratti (soprano) Priestess
(Dec59) LXT5539-41 = SXL2167-69; (Jan60) A4345 = OSA1313,
(Nov88) 414 087.2DM3.

After the June performances with Karajan and this complete recording in September 1959, Tebaldi recorded Ritorna Vincitor again in 1969 in surprisingly good voice and kept performing this aria in recitals as late as 1973! Of course she also recorded the Amneris/Radames duet with Corelli in studio. But the 1959 recording was the last time she sang the complete role.

Let's point out that until 1959, Aida was a main role in Tebaldi's repertoire and a role which she performed almost every year since her debut at La Scala in 1950. Only in 1954 and 1958 there were no Aida productions with Tebaldi (unless she was meant to perform the spring 1958 MET Aidas too after the late 1957 broadcast she didn't do due to the passing of her mother - the rest of the cast remained the same so I guess 1958 had a production for her too). She entered the studio three times to record the role which Toscanini found her suitable for and coached her. 

If you want to hear how ideal Tebaldi was as Aida, I would recommend one of the first two studio recordings. The 1952 London/Decca recording under Erede and my personal favourite despite the cuts, the video soundtrack of the Sofia Loren film recorded the same year. I found the CD in a shop in Milano a long time ago. I also find Giuseppe Campora there one of the finest Radames on record, better than both Bergonzi and Del Monaco.  

In 1959, Tebaldi's top became tighter and caused intonation problems but her interpretation and singing on the Karajan is still incredible. In the highest passages, her younger self is peerless but I also find enough to marvel at the more mature Tebaldi. It's the phrasing, the crystal clear diction and that steady tone I enjoy most with Tebaldi. The direction of the text is so natural and gripping, she gets my attention every time. Only perhaps Dusolina Giannini and Maria Chiara interest me as much in this role.
 I always wonder if this famous recording, because of its spaciousness, gives a more accurate impression of their voices. We're so used to having these voices in our faces but some say this recording made their voices sound smaller than they actually were. I can't tell, I wasn't there. I admit though, it's not my favourite recording exactly because the voices sound so distant. But the Peguin guide and Decca's marketing team tell us this legendary set is the recommended recording of this opera.  

Sadly, I'm not so enthusiastic about Simionato's Amneris. She sounds like Aida's aunt; old and frumpy. Yes she sings with conviction but hardly creates an attractive alternative for Radames. And though Bergonzi is my favourite tenor, his Radames comes across as a professor. He's also a bit tight on the top but sings the lyrical passages so beautifully making the duets with Tebaldi's Aida quite special. I find Karajan overrated again. He's trying too hard to show off his loud orchestra rather than give a nuanced performance of the score. 

Overall, not my favourite Aida or Tebaldi recording but one that I still return to hear her last take on the role. 



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