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Subject: Re: Clarification of my Tebaldi - Manon Lescaut comment
From: Max Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Max Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 18 Nov 2016 22:46:04 -0800
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In late 1954 or early 1955, di Stefano signed a contract with Decca as his UK Columbia contract was not exclusive.  Decca planned to use him for a number of recordings that they felt needed a more lyric sound than Del Monaco (they didn't yet have Bergonzi in the picture).  Among the plans were Faust in "Mefistofele," Enzo in "Gioconda," Cavaradossi and Nemorino.  When they signed him, they were making recordings in stereo but not at all sure if/when those would see the light of day as consumer releases (the stereo LP format was not yet agreed on), so they didn't yet have the notion of "stereo remake" productions and so weren't, at that time, thinking of "Butterfly" or "Boheme."  He was a consideration for "Andrea Chenier."

Campora had moved to the HMV wing of EMI with promises of recordings that never happened, beyond the Adorno in "Simon Boccanegra."

Decca was still a "scrappy" company then, looking to acquire names that would compete with the impressive EMI and RCA rosters.  Aside from Tebaldi, they were stronger on the German/Viennese side (particularly for conductors) than on the Italian side.  Di Stefano seemed like a catch.

He made himself unpopular with the Decca production teams by being very erratic in appearance (ie, showing up) and ability to predict good vocal form.  During the "Elisir" he "disappeared" a few times, causing serious anxiety.  The "Gioconda" plans became complicated when Decca and RCA signed a collaboration agreement in late 1956.  RCA wanted the Decca team to produce a "Gioconda" and badly wanted to catch Milanov while there was still something to catch.  So Decca allocated their Rome sessions to the RCA project and let them have di Stefano.  They moved their own project (originally planned with Tebaldi but changed for Cerquetti) to Florence and tapped on Del Monaco.

The issues with di Stefano (which had already caused Decca to seek a lyric alternative, which they found in Bergonzi) came to a head during the "Mefistofele" sessions.  Del Monaco came to the rescue and got to replace di Stefano in the "Tosca" project (although di Stefano got to come back for the joint RCA/Decca Karajan "Tosca").

Like others on this list, I can be thrilled by the sheer squillo and virility of some of Del Monaco's best moments, but I also wince at the crude, hard-voiced yelling.  I find him most appropriate as Calaf and Otello, but hearing the sheer level of testosterone is a jolt in his Count in "Rigoletto."  (This one sounds like he could knock up Gilda from across town). Sometimes he surprises me as in moments of haunted introspection as Alvaro in "Forza."

During that time in the late 50s, di Stefano still had glorious days but it was hard to pin them to a recording schedule.  I think Mercury/Ricordi caught him sounding good for the 1959 "Lucia" with Scotto.

But Bergonzi's voice was phonogenic, he showed up on time, always knew his music and was well prepared, he was patient with retakes and, basically, cast and crew found him a refreshing delight to work with.

Max Paley

Sent from my iPad

> On Nov 18, 2016, at 15:49, Wadeworks <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> thinking more about this, I wonder how DiStefano got the l'Elisir d'amore 
> recording for Decca in 1955, while he was still active recording for EMI.  I 
> would never have imagined that it would be interesting to Del Monaco, but 
> maybe there was a spat going on with him and Legge at that point.  I don't 
> recall reading anything about that.  Maybe it was just that HMV had done 
> their Elisir in 1952 (1953?) with Gobbi/Monti/Carosio/Santini and the 
> Columbia powers-that-be weren't interested in the opera any more until 
> stereo (Carteri, Alva) came around.  
> 
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