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Subject: Re: Cetra CD reissues. Some more.
From: Art McManus <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Art McManus <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 10 Jul 2017 13:41:23 -0400
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Thank you, Albert, for your beautiful retrospective of Taddei and Gobbi.  I
agree with you about Gobbi's vocal shortcomings. When I finally saw him (a
1970 Met Tosca, with Amara subbing for Crespin) they were very much in
evidence.  Yet I was still bowled over by him, starting with his Act I
entrance -- like the Devil himself sweeping onto the stage and sucking the
oxygen out of the entire theater. I was so impressed, I ventured to Newark
five years later to see him again. And again, on a much shallower stage, his
entrance had the same impact - so perfectly timed were his steps to the
music. I've never since seen a Scarpia create the same effect, even in the
production that Gobbi directed (with MacNeil). A shame we don't have video
of his Act I to go along with the Covent Garden Act II.
If the master class you describe was at Juilliard, I was there too. As he
explained "Un bel di" to that soprano, he used a marvelously theatrical
gesture -- a flick of two fingers followed by a tap of his shoe -- to evoke
the drip, drip, passage of time that was eroding Butterfly's confidence in
the story she was telling Suzuki. As you say, he sang/performed the whole
aria. His buildup to "e un po … per non mo-RIR-e'al primo incontro" was
shattering.  At another point (maybe another aria), he whipped off his thick
eyeglasses to demonstrate how much acting is done with the eyes.
Yet he didn't neglect purely vocal matters. For a baritone, there was a
drill on rapid scales, demonstrating how to start slowly so every note is
there and gradually get it up to tempo without losing accuracy.  In "Largo
al factotum," he quickly forbade the hackneyed falsetto "FI-ga-ro." Musical
values were married with characterization: he insisted (and again
demonstrated) to a mezzo how the words "O mio Fernando! Della terra il trono
a possederti avria donato il cor" must be sung with intense legato to convey
Leonora's anguish. Another soprano didn't heed the fermatas at the end of
"Tu che di gel sei cinta."  Within an allargando measure, he explained, each
note should be longer than the preceding. So "per non … ve-…… der-………lo…………"
built up to a desperate last breath before the final "più" and Liu's
musically delayed and dramatically inevitable suicide.  Again, the effect
was shattering.
That class was around the time of the first Pavarotti classes at Juilliard,
which were a circus. I remember regretting that the cameras (even just
audio) hadn't caught Gobbi's session instead. I've watched many of the
various videos of Gobbi teaching, but none capture quite the concentration
and inspiration of that single Juilliard encounter.
After all my rambling on about Gobbi, I don't mean to slight Taddei.  I
finally saw him in those Met Falstaffs and understood here was another great
man of the theater, with a voice far better preserved than Gobbi's had been
more than a decade earlier.  They were three years apart in age and had both
begun their careers in the mid-1930s. We were fortunate to have two such
giants, among many, for so long.

--  Art

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