DVD0715. Incontro con FRANCO CORELLI, incl. Songs by Bach-Gounod & Grieg; Arias & Duets (w.Tebaldi, Bastianini, Capnist & Amparán) from La Gioconda, Tosca, Pagliacci, Carmen, Rigoletto, Aïda, Il Trovatore, Forza & Otello. (Italy) Hardy 4053. - 8018783040535
“Over and over again one finds oneself simply astonished at the evenness of tone, the richness and the ring of the sound, and the vocal and stage presence of the singer. The contents of this disc exemplify the thrill that great opera singing can provide. Even the grainy quality of some of the video material (the Forza in particular) and the somewhat cramped monaural sound (never less than listenable) cannot dampen the enormous impact of this great tenor.
This is an oddly produced video, with some head-scratching moments, but ultimately a thrilling experience nonetheless. The one serious flaw is that the first half dozen arias and songs are reproduced here a half tone sharp. The timbre of the voice is, of course, affected by this. The OTELLO ‘Esultate’ confirms what many of us knew – that Corelli would have made a great Otello had he chosen to undertake the role, though it too is sharp.
The final hour or so consists of excerpts from filmed complete operas, correctly pitched, and what we hear is great singing. Despite the reservations, it is hard to imagine anyone who loves opera not wanting this DVD. Corelli was a controversial singer with some critics and conductors in his day, but not with most of the public. Those who took exception to the liberties that he took seemed to me to forget that the first element of a successful opera singer is the voice itself, and Corelli’s was very special. He had the ring, the squillo, of a Del Monaco but combined it with a richness and warmth of color that rarely appeared in voices of such power. The liberties he did take - holding notes, stretching phrases, floating lengthy pianissimos - were hardly without precedent, and were often employed by singers who knew and worked with the composers of the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries. The recording of an aria from ADRIANA LECOUVREUR made by Fernando de Lucia displays that kind of interpretive freedom; what makes it interesting is that composer Francesco Cilea is accompanying him at the piano, indulging in the same liberties!
One can complain that he does not sing the B-flat in the ‘Flower Song’ softly, as written. But one must also note the sensitive shading he does employ through most of that aria. Similarly his use of varying dynamics in the FORZA aria and duets shows a sensitive musician with imagination and tasteful instincts. The GIOCONDA aria is sung with Corelli standing in Venice overlooking the water, a singularly appropriate setting. The two arias from TOSCA are thrilling, with some lovely shading in the second.
The majority of scenes here come from films of the operas, either stage performances or RAI studio-made films. Almost everything is lip-synched, and not always well. Belén Amparán, the American-Mexican mezzo who sings Carmen very well here, makes a decidedly lackluster effort to match her lips to the sound. But in the end, the opportunity to see and hear one of the most thrilling tenors of the second half of the 20th century makes this almost essential for vocal collectors.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
"Vocal size and rugged style mark [Corelli] as an open-air tenor….The vibrancy of his timbre is unequalled among tenors, and often it holds a commendable warmth as well…."
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, p.374
“Corelli was more often than not merely a tall man with a loud voice, buying audience favor with such childish coin as long-held top notes and, for variety, longer-held top notes. Given his physical advantages and the power of sound he commands, Corelli could make himself a painter - hero of the first rank, but this would take an alteration of attitude for which there is no reasonable hope.”
- Irving Kolodin