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Subject: Gobbi's Wozzeck: (was Re: Fwd: Opera in the "wrong language"
From: "G. Paul Padillo" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:G. Paul Padillo
Date:Fri, 3 Nov 2017 11:21:40 -0400

text/plain (57 lines)

Among my very favorite “wrong language” recordings is the January 2, 1955 Rome 
“Wozzeck” with Tito Gobbi, and Dorothy Dow as “Maria.”  According to sources, no Italian 
soprano at the time was at all interested (or possibly available) in taking on the role of 
Marie.  This incredible pair are supported by no less than Hugues Cueond as the Captain, 
Mirto Picchi’s Drum Major and Italo Tajo as the Doctor, all making as strong a case as exists 
for opera in the vernacular.  

Gobbi had over a decade’s worth of Wozzeck’s in him by the time of this performance and 
he finely crafted created a wholly interesting and unique take on this greatest of antiheroes.  
In the performance you can hear Gobbi foregoing, resisting every urge to overplay the 
pathetic qualities and bring something I’ve rarely experienced in a lifetime of Wozzecks, a 
kind of vulnerable sweetness.  In doing so, he makes Wozzeck’s slow, unraveling of mind 
and spirit nearly unbearable to witness.  It is the ultimate in beautiful tragedy.  

Dow’s Maria was, for me, equally revelatory; brighter of tone than many exponents of this 
challenging role, and similar in its beauty to Sena Jurinac’s performance two decades later 
(which I would come to know before Dow’s).   She’s simply marvelous. 

Nino Sanzogno with the RAI Orchestra tackle their assignment with aplomb, the conductor 
paying great attention to detail and while better performances occur now that the work has 
become something of a staple, he gets certain moments out of his musicians as well as 
anyone today, e.g., that “swirly” sound from the strings with the celeste, creating an oasis-
like dream in this nightmare of a tale.  

The Italian premiere of Wozzeck took place in 1942 at La Scala and began as a fiasco, the 
house booing and hissing, and screaming “Vergogna!  Vergogna!”  According to Gobbi 
himself (and why should we not believe him?) a fight broke out in the audience, and over 
everything all he could hear were shrieks of “Whhaaaaa! . . . Ooooohh!  . . . Wheeeeee!”  
and people shouting at the cast,“Why are you here?!”  He stated how at the end of the 
second act there was complete silence “no reaction.”   At the opera’s conclusion, the house 
went wild, cheering, applauding in near delirium, demanding no fewer than 10 curtain calls 
and people wouldn’t leave the house until after midnight.  Can anyone imagine any work 
prompting this kind of reaction in an audience today.  I can’t.  

For any fan of Berg’s opera who hasn’t yet heard this recording, I cannot urge you enough 
to get your hands on a copy and spend some time with it.  The sound isn’t quite as crisp or 
clean here as it is on the recording (but still quite fine),  but you can hear it free:

(Side note:  Have there really been only 3 or 4 posts in the past few days or has there been 
some kind of glitch with the/my system?)


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