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Subject: Re: LUISA MILLER recordings
From: albert innaurato <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:albert innaurato <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 22 Jul 2017 16:42:18 -0500
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The Cetra recording is so heavily cut it feels like an extended highlights
record. Luckily, it does include a complete act three. The great baritone
Scipio Colombo is Miller. Lucy Kelston, one of a number of Americans who
tried to make careers in Italy in the 50's, is Luisa. She's a little hard
pressed by the florid writing but makes a brave sound in her scena and is
full of feeling in act three. It's a very good voice, a little rough in
timbre, and without that "magic" in the sound that works so well on record
but she is full of heart in the last act. Lauri-Volpi is in typical post
WW2 form, apt to go flat with a sound that has a "whirring" quality but he
actually has a certain authority vocally in the role that gets him through,
and he has plenty of emotional force in act three. Mario Rossi was an
outstanding conductor. I have to assume the cuts were to accommodate RAI
(this was a broadcast) who didn't allow enough time for a fuller account of
the work. But he imparts tremendous intensity to act three. That act is as
eloquently done here as anywhere. I am present on this recording using the
name Miti-Trucato-Pace. As usual in my life, my part is cut to nothing.
Warner's sound is very good and my issue includes an (Italian only)
libretto.

No one ever seems to think of the conductors on these recordings when
discussed here. The Moffo recording has a great cast in superlative form
but Cleva is a bandmaster, fast and unimaginative. It can be much better
than this and something is really lost with his coarseness (he also ruins
the Tebaldi commercial La Wally. He is utterly and entirely without insight
and nuance. Pinchas Steinberg does MUCH better. The opera has so much
imagination in its construction, such late romantic atmosphere and Catalani
takes many risks most of which pay off. Steinberg really understands all
that, even though his cast is less idiomatic -- and although that is late
Tebaldi and Del Monaco with Cleva -- they still bring a lot to the roles).
I thought there was the same problem with the La Rondine discussions.

It's a wonderfully made opera, full of color and wit, and even a bit daring
for an Italian opera of the period. Puccini made a point of using the
popular dance music of his own time (the opera is supposed to take place in
the 1870s). The quickstep, fox trot, rag and the slow sometimes syncopated
waltz are all quite wonderfully part of the color and charm of the opera.
In the first act, Puccini works with playful bi-tonality (two keys at
once), pentatonic procedures, harmonic side slips that keep one a little
off balance. I only know of two conductors who get it or at least put this
into practice, del Cupolo on the 1953 Columbia recording (with Eva de Luca
and Prandelli) and the fabulous Vittorio Belleza, who was born in 1888 and
knew Puccini.

I don't know how old del Cupolo was, but it sounds like he danced those
dances in his youth -- the rhythms have a wonderful flair and lilt. The
sheer fun (and the sexy insinuations) of moving that way is in his
treatment of that music. It makes a huge difference. Similarly, he has a
good time pointing Puccini's harmonic adventures, and I love the "old
fashioned" way he has of getting the bass in first, a split second before
the rest of the orchestra, setting up sometimes surprising harmonic shifts
in a way that enriches the music endlessly. Since this is how the opera was
composed, the gain in naturalness and spontaneity is considerable.

As for Belleza he provides a lexicon of procedures Puccini would have
expected -- his use of portamento and rubato alone are lessons in getting
this music to sound eloquent and full of emotion. This is especially
effective in the final duet. That is quite magical on the Hardy video
(Carteri), but frequently falls flat and seems obvious.

I much prefer Maag in Luisa Miller, sensitive, deft and well pointed. The
live performance mentioned with Gilda Cruz-Romo and the great Manuguerra is
wonderful in part because of how Maag supports both the opera and these
singers within the framework of this particular opera. He is similar on the
Caballe commercial recording but I've never been entirely won over by those
singers there -- I think it may be the way things were starting to be
recorded at the time.

The idiot horror who likes to attack L. Price, Moffo and Elinor Ross also
put down Mara Zampieri although he never heard her. I heard her often in
Europe. She was one of the last great Italian singers as far as I'm
concerned. She had an enormous voice, very distinctive in color, which in a
big house had an intense, exciting and expressive sound. She sang for live
audiences, not for the microphone and she needed the stimulus of the live
event. She had a tremendous temperament and an emotional readiness which
the tiny souled squeakers so loved here (Goo-Goo?) absolutely don't have.
In a sense, she was like Cruz-Romo who had so much to offer compared to
those who were hysterically (and often ignorantly) acclaimed. She had a
riper timbre than Zampieri but was similarly emotionally connected,
although Zampieri was a more thoughtful interpreter.

She can be heard on a live Luisa from Reggio Emilia in 1976. I think that
is a very moving performance. The conductor, Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi is very
sophisticated and sensitive and really breathes with the singers. The
baritone is Zancanaro, rather a stupid man, but here full of passion and
feeling. The tenor is Cecchele, a fine singer, and another one undercut by
Domingo. Parts of this are on YouTube and I think they deserve a listen.

As for one who misread Moffo comments that were informed. It wasn't that
she lacked ALL technique, it was rather that the skills she had acquired
(as opposed to that enormous gift) were not up to the pressures she put on
her voice. She sang continuously once she was famous, jet lagged, sick,
depressed, anxious and sometimes despite indications that trouble was
coming. She would have needed the strength of a tank and the technique of a
scientist (and a stubborn streak that prompted her to say no more often).
Those she did not have. But when rested and in form (and sometimes after a
tune up with Llopart) she was wonderful -- as in that Luisa!

AI

On Sat, Jul 22, 2017 at 11:53 AM, Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> The Moffo/Bergonzi/MacNeil recording is indeed marvelous and I agree with
> Paul, to t his date, it has not been surpassed.  Luisa has been lucky on
> recordings.  The Caballe/Pavarotti/Milnes recording and the
> Ricciarelli/Domingo/Bruson recordings are indeed wonderful.  There is also
> the old Cetra with Lucy Kelson, an aging Giacomo Lauri-Volpi and Scipio
> Colombo that is usually forgotten but its an interesting relic.  It was
> recorded ca 1951.  Lauri-Volpi was of course Rosa Ponselle's Rodolfo at the
> Meet in 1929.  There is a Met Broadcast which might be or not available in
> some form from Dec. 11, 1971 with a beautifully sung Luisa by Adriana
> Maliponte, a great and sadly neglected soprano, John Alexander (Domingo had
> been the prima), MacNeil and Bonaldo Giaiotti under James Levine.  Its a
> superb perforomance.  The last Met production recorded with Aprile Millo,
> Domingo, Vladimir Chernov also under Levine is on Sony and it has its
> points.  I consider the last act a portent of things to come and just about
> as good as anything Verdi wrote.  The preghiera for Luisa and both duets,
> with Miller and Rodolfo, are top drawer Verdi.
>
> Donald
>
> On Sat, Jul 22, 2017 at 5:14 AM, tom ponti <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> > One of the true disappointments of my operatic experience was the year
> the
> > Met orchestra was on strike for the first month or two, so they had to
> > cancel Luisa Miller with Caballe and Bergonzi. When I first saw Luisa
> > Miller the year before with Caballe and Tucker, I knew nothing about that
> > opera but fell in love with it the first night I saw it. Luisa is a role
> I
> > doubt Moffo would ever have performed live. I love the RCA recording
> > primarily as I am partial to Bergonzi, however, the Caballe-Pavarotti
> > recording is outstanding as well. I doubt that any soprano ever sang the
> > role of Luisa better than Caballe.  Scotto is very good on the Met DVD,
> but
> > I prefer Caballe's voice to Renata's. Domingo and the rest of the cast on
> > that DVD are excellent as well.
> >
> >
> > ________________________________
> > From: Discussion of opera and related issues <[log in to unmask]
> >
> > on behalf of G. Paul Padillo <[log in to unmask]>
> > Sent: Saturday, July 22, 2017 7:08 AM
> > To: [log in to unmask]
> > Subject: Re: [OPERA-L] LUISA MILLER recordings
> >
> > William Fiorelli asked:
> >
> > "I would appreciate input regarding recordings of LUISA MILLER ?  Which
> > one is your
> > favorite?   Thanks.BILL"
> >
> > Hands down, the first recording that springs to mind is the first one I
> > heard . . . but not
> > merely because it served as introduction to "Luisa," but because over the
> > years none has, in
> > my estimation, surpassed it.  It's the classic RCA Victor recording with
> > Anna Moffo, Carlo
> > Bergonzi, Shirley Verrett, Cornell MacNeil, Giorgio Tozzi and Ezio
> > Flagello under Fausto
> > Cleva.  Every singer is close to perfection in his or her role, with Ms.
> > Moffo giving a
> > completely touching, often heart melting performance that identifies with
> > the title role,
> > while at the top of her game vocally.  Mr. Bergonzi gives an exemplary
> > lesson in early Verdi
> > tenor singing, creating a character that springs to life.
> >
> > While "Luisa" is often dismissed . . . or forgotten altogether when
> talked
> > about among
> > Verdi's masterpieces, this recording shows us the composer thriving as
> > master in the post
> > bel canto form that would soon develop into his own recognizable style.
> >
> > While some may prefer the recording with Caballe and Pavarotti, if I had
> > to pick up a back
> > up, mine would be the one with Ricciarelli and Domingo, who (for my
> money)
> > sound more
> > believable in their roles, even though Maazel does not provide the most
> > authentic of Verdian
> > stamp to the proceedings.
> >
> > I'll be interested to read what other recordings listers may suggest, and
> > why.
> >
> > p.
> >
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