C1702. BRUNO MADERNA Cond. La Scala Ensemble; Grace Bumbry, Giuseppe di Stefano, Leyla Gencer, Alberto Rinaldi, Gloria Lane, Anna Novelli, etc.: L'Incoronazione di Poppea - Excerpts (Monteverdi). (Canada) St Laurent Studio T-783, Live Performance, 27 Jan., 1967, Milano, La Scala. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
"In 1955 Grace Bumbry entered Northwestern University, where she studied voice with Lotte Lehman, and transferred with her to the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California. In 1958 she was joint winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions, sharing first place with Martina Arroyo. She won some other prizes, and made her professional debut in a recital in London in 1959. Her first operatic appearance was at the Paris Opéra, as Amneris in Verdi's AIDA. It was one of the most spectacular operatic debuts in history; Bumbry became an instant star and was invited to join the roster of the Basle Opera. She made operatic history in 1961 when she was engaged by Wieland Wagner to sing at the Bayreuth Festival and became the first black singer to perform in that shrine of Wagnerian opera. Furthermore, musical historian Nicolas Slomimsky has pointed out that she was the first African American to make a professional operatic as a goddess, for her debut at Bayreuth was as Venus in TANNHAUSER, 23 July, 1961. Bumbry embarked on a concert tour of the United States and was invited by Jacqueline Kennedy to sing at the White House, on 20 February, 1962. She also followed up her success at Bayreuth with appearances as Venus at the Chicago Lyric Opera and at Lyons, France.
Bumbry's 1963 London debut came in the role of Princess Eboli in Verdi's DON CARLOS, and she gave her first Metropolitan Opera performance in the same role in 1965. During the 1960s Bumbry worked on extending her vocal range. In 1970 at the Vienna Staatsoper, she sang the part of Santuzza, making her debut as a soprano. She sang Richard Strauss' SALOME at Covent Garden the same year, and her first appearance in Puccini's TOSCA at the Metropolitan Opera came in 1971. She has a very warm voice with rich tone quality throughout the mezzo range, although it loses some of its distinctiveness in the very upper part of her soprano register. She is among the few sopranos who have sung both the roles of Aida and Amneris in AIDA and both Venus and Elisabeth in Wagner's TANNHAUSER."
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
“Giuseppe di Stefano possessed an especially beautiful voice. It was impossible not to be moved; he truly had the sound of tears in his voice, without being over sentimental. His wonderful piano – and his stirring voice – moved his audience almost beyond endurance.”
- Birgit Nilsson, LA NILSSON, p.116
"Leyla Gencer was the greatest Turkish opera singer of the 20th century and a singing actor of formidable power and individuality. Although she came from what she herself referred to as a ‘Muslim and oriental’ background, she had the good fortune, as a student in Istanbul, to study with the famous Italian dramatic soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi, so that when she went to Italy in 1953, she was thoroughly grounded in the traditions of Italian opera.
She made her début as Santuzza at the open-air summer festival in Naples in 1953, and remained a particular favourite with the Neapolitans. Her early successes were in verismo roles - Madama Butterfly, Tosca and Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini. By 1957 she had been engaged by La Scala where she created the role of the New Prioress in the world premiere of Poulenc's LES DIALOGUES DES CARMÉLITES, and shortly after sang the title role in LA TRAVIATA at the Vienna Staatsoper, under Herbert von Karajan.
Throughout her career, Gencer had a very wide repertoire, ranging from Monteverdi, Gluck and Mozart to Verdi, Ponchielli and Puccini. During her career she sang virtually every soprano role in Verdi's operas, but it was especially in the revival of bel-canto works by Bellini, Donizetti and Pacini that she made her mark. To some extent, Gencer shot to fame in the immediate aftermath of the end of Maria Callas's Italian career - Gencer followed Callas as Anna Bolena at La Scala, and in the role of Paolina in Donizetti's POLIUTO - the last new part Callas undertook. As Queen Elizabeth I of England, first in Donizetti's ROBERTO DEVEREUX, and then in Rossini's ELISABETTA, REGINA D'INGHILTERRA, Gencer preceded Montserrat Caballé and Beverly Sills, who later recorded the roles.
Gencer's voice was not a natural dramatic soprano - she sang all the coloratura roles, such as Lucia, Elvira (PURITANI), Amina and Gilda. The sound had a strange, smokey quality which could - and quite often did - turn sour and detracted from the pleasure of her singing.
Although Gencer's career was mostly in Italy, she appeared in the United States where she made her début in San Francisco as Lucia in 1957, returning there, as well as to Chicago and Dallas. John Ardoin described her voice in a memorable LUCREZIA BORGIA in 1974, as ‘poignant, compelling’ and mentioned the ‘strange colours and deep pathos of her art’. In England she was heard at Glyndebourne as the Countess in FIGARO, and as Anna Bolena. At Covent Garden she was Donna Anna in Zeffirelli's 1962 production of DON GIOVANNI, then Elisabeth de Valois in DON CARLOS. Gencer's most memorable UK appearances were undoubtedly in the title role of Donizetti's MARIA STUARDA, at the Edinburgh Festival in 1969. The sparks that flew on stage in the confrontation - historically absurd but dramatically thrilling - when Gencer as Mary Stuart ripped off her glove and flung it in the face of Shirley Verrett as Elizabeth I at the words, ‘Vil bastarda’ will surely live in the memory of all who witnessed it.
As a recitalist Gencer also had a wide repertoire of 19th and early 20th-century songs. Some of her later appearances were in recital in Paris at the Athenée in the 1980s, when a young French public, who had never had the opportunity to see her on stage, proved receptive to her high-flown style and hailed her as the greatest living prima donna. Gencer had no career whatsoever as a recording artist, but many of her broadcasts from Italian radio have now been issued on disc and are a fine memorial to her voice and dramatic ability. Especially noteworthy are performances of Verdi's I DUE FOSCARI (under Serafin), Donizetti's BELISARIO (from Venice in 1970) and SIMON BOCCANEGRA, from the 1959 Salzburg Festival, in which she is partnered by Tito Gobbi.”
- Patrick O'Connor, THE GUARDIAN, 12 May, 2008
“Maderna was a musician who couldn't write or conduct a note without wanting to communicate something essential, and essentially human. He is arguably the most underrated figure of the avant-garde; Maderna's music breathes an expressive freedom that makes it, I think, immediately compelling. His commitment to the modernist cause is unassailable. As well as Maderna's own music, there are a handful of recordings you need to hear. There's a white-hot Mahler 9th with the BBC Symphony Orchestra from 1971 - one of the most incandescent interpretations I've ever heard, and a thrilling LE MARTEAU SAN MAÎTRE on YouTube; on CD and download, you can find Maderna's Schönberg, Webern, Malipiero, Stravinsky, and even Mozart as well. The most eloquent revelation of how much Maderna meant to the whole generation of post-war composers is the music they wrote in his memory: Boulez's RITUEL IN MEMORIAM BRUNO MADERNA and Berio's CALMO. But the best tribute to Bruno you can give him is to listen to his own music. Enjoy.”
- Tom Service, THE GUARDIAN, 13 Nov., 2013