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Subject: Re: Caballe's Lucia
From: Kenneth Bleeth <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Kenneth Bleeth <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 29 Dec 2016 22:41:31 -0500
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Here are a few footnotes to Mr. Mitnick's comments on the performing
history of *Lucia. *

The differences between "the 'conventional' Lucia" and what Donizetti
originally intended are, of course, many (standard cuts, most notably the
Wolf's Crag scene; the substitution, in the Mad Scene, of a flute for the
glass harmonica that Donizetti apparently wanted, etc.) But Mr. Mitnick
focuses on the transpositions (not only in the Mad Scene, btw, but most
famously there, from F major to E-flat---a tone lower) that allow the Lucia
to sing her E-flat in alt. The standardization of the E-flat tonality
occurred more-or-less simultaneously with the appearance of the elaborate
cadenza, which was the work not of Donizetti (his autograph score simply
outlines a cadenza, presumably to be filled by the soprano) but of Mathilde
Marchesi, who almost certainly composed the passage for her star pupil
Nellie Melba, who performed it for the first time in 1889 at the Palais
Garnier.

As for the voice-type Donizetti had in mind, the first exponent of the
role, Fanny Tacchinardi-Persiani, was apparently a dramatic *soprano
d'agilità* along the lines of Malibran and Pasta (and Callas). It was only
after Melba put her stamp on the part, with its calling card of the new
cadenza with flute, that the role began to be regularly assigned to *soprani
leggieri.*

On Thu, Dec 29, 2016 at 4:21 PM, Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> For years and years, I shunned this Phillips recording of Caballe's Lucia
> because I felt that it could not possibly be good.  I then learned the the
> "conventional" Lucia we always heard was not the way Donizetti had written
> it, and that tradition had dictated that it be at point that it be sung in
> a
> key where it was possible for the soprano to interpolate those top E flats.
>  And of course, this was the way we always heard it.  Then I heard an
> interview with Maria Callas, in which she stated that it was her belief
> that
> Lucia was actually a "dramatic soprano" role that should be sung with very
> dark colors.  She said that she regretted that she never sang the original
> version because she was afraid that the public would never have accepted
> it.
>  Whether she was right or wrong is a moot point.
>       As it turns out, I had a birthday years ago, and one of my well
> meaning friends gifted me with the Caballe set.  As soon as I saw it, I
> thought, "Well, THIS is going to be exchanged as soon as I get to the
> store".  But I felt curious about it, and figured, "Oh, what the hell?" and
> I opened it and played it.
>       I ended up liking it a lot more than I would have dared anticipate.
> While there are a few points where Caballe's uppermost notes are metallic
> and almost beyond herf endurance, I found much of the reading quite
> beautiful.  The opera took on a dark and brooding quality that I only found
> on the 1959 Callas recording (where Callas DOES attempt the top E flats in
> the Mad Scene, but with questionable results.
> Still, she sounds very, very dark.
>       I think that Caballe' took a huge risk in making this recording,
> since
> what she was presenting a Lucia in a version that had never been heard
> before.  While the top E flats are abjured, there are certain cadenzas she
> executes that are not heard elsewhere ---------------- and the recording
> incorporates none of the traditional cuts.  It opens out the two scenes
> that
> were heretofore cut from all the recordings (except for the Sills and
> Sutherland versions).
>       I'm not suggesting that Caballe should have tried this out on the
> stage, but there's something about her singing on this recording that I
> find
> extremely attractive and sometimes even beautiful.  This is a Lucia
> recording that should be placed "on the side" and listened to as a point of
> reference as to what Donizetti might have originally had in mind.
>       Only my opinion.
>
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