OP0008. AGNESE DI HOHENSTAUFEN (Spontini), Live Performance, 29 April, 1970, w.Muti Cond. RAI Ensemble, Roma; Montserrat Caballé, Antonietta Stella, Bruno Prevedi, Sesto Bruscantini, Giangiacomo Guelfi, etc. (Italy) 2-Rodolphe RPV 32671, incl. full libretto. Very Long out-of-print, final copy! - 3322220326713
“Many years of labor went into Spontini's final stage work. It was first performed in 1829 and given in a much-revised edition in 1837. With its huge orchestra, vast cast, and the subordination of set arias to massive and extended ensembles, it broke with all conventions. It was ahead of its time and clearly influenced many later composers, including Meyerbeer and Wagner. Unfortunately, it did not please its early audiences. Following those initial outings, it languished unheard until its 1954 Florence revival, drastically abridged. Although strongly criticized at the time, mainly on dramatic grounds, the production finally revealed the unique quality of the work and its vital importance in the development of 19th Century neoclassical romantic opera. Ignoring the overblown nature of the libretto, there is much of musical worth, and a fine collection of star soloists does justice to the melodic, intense and sometimes frenetic vocal writing.
….a version of this seminal score should be in the collection of anyone interested in 19th Century romantic opera and fine singing.”
- Vivian A Liff, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./ Dec., 2004
“Montserrat Caballé's career, which began with a legendary lucky break, would eventually make her one of Spain's greatest sopranos -- equaled in status and reputation only by her fellow Barcelonian, Victoria de los Angeles.
Her full birth name is Maria de Montserrat Viviana Concepción Caballé i Folch. She is named after the famous Catalan monastery of Montserrat. It is said that her parents feared that they would lose her and vowed that if she were born alive and well they would christen her with the monastery's name.
She learned singing at her convent school; at the age of eight, she entered the Conservatorio del Liceo in Barcelona. Her most important teachers were Eugenia Kenny, Conchita Badea, and Napoleone Annovazzi. When she graduated in 1954, she won the Liceo's Gold Medal. Caballé then made her professional début in Madrid in the oratorio EL PESEBRE (The Manger) by the great Catalan cellist Pau (Pablo) Casals. She then went to Italy, where she received a few minor roles at various houses. In 1956, she joined the Basel Opera; she was working her way through the smaller roles when one of the principal singers took ill and she took over the role of Mimì in Puccini's LA BOHÉME. Her unqualified success in that part led to promotion to starring roles, including Pamina, Tosca, Aïda, Marta in Eugene d'Albert's TIEFLAND, and the Richard Strauss roles of Arabella, Chrysothemis (ELEKTRA), and Salome.
She steadily gained a European reputation, singing in Bremen, Milan, Vienna, Barcelona, and Lisbon, taking such diverse roles as Violetta, Tatiana, Dvorák's Armida and Rusalka, and Marie in Berg's WOZZECK. She débuted at La Scala in 1960 as a Flower Maiden in PARSIFAL. She sang in México City in 1964 as Massenet's Manon.
On 20 April, 1965, on extremely short notice, she substituted for the indisposed Marilyn Horne in a concert performance in Donizetti's LUCREZIA BORGIA, achieving a thunderous success and ‘overnight’ super-stardom. She became one of the leading figures in the revival of interest in the bel canto operas of Bellini and Donizetti, many of which were staged especially for her. Caballé's performances as Elizabeth I (ROBERTO DEVEREAUX) and that monarch's rival Mary Queen of Scots (MARIA STUARDA) are legendary. In 1971, she sang a memorable concert performance of MARIA STUARDA in which her fellow Barcelonian José Carreras made his London début, and after that she helped advance his career. She made her Metropolitan Opera début in 1965 as Marguerite in FAUST.
Caballé's career has centered around Verdi's important dramatic roles, but has also embraced the Marschallin (ROSENKAVALIER), the Countess (NOZZE), and Queen Isabella (in the premiere of Leonardo Balada's CRISTOBÁL COLÓN in Barcelona in 1989).
Caballé has had unusual crossover success. In addition to singing on two tracks on an album by New Age composer Vangelis, she is famous for collaborating with the late Freddie Mercury of the rock group Queen, who wrote ‘Exercises in Free Love’ for her. She appeared on his hit album ‘Barcelona’. That album and its primary single rose high on the pop charts.
In 1964, she married Spanish tenor Bernabé Marti. They have two children, Bernabé Marti, Jr. and Montserrat Marti, who is herself a succesful soprano. In 1997, Caballé co-founded an important annual vocal competition in the Principality of Andorra, the Concurs Internacional de Cant Montserrat Caballé. She conducts master classes in conjunction with that competition.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
“Bruno Prevedi was an Italian tenor, particularly associated with the Italian repertory. Prevedi studied in Mantua with Alberto Sorenisa, and in Milan with Vladimiro Badiali. He made his début as a baritone in 1958, as Tonio, but quickly retrained himself as a tenor, and made a second début in 1959, as Turiddu, again at the Teatro Nuovo in Milan.
He sang widely in Italy, and made his début at La Scala in 1962, in Pizzetti's DEBORA E JAELE. He also appeared in Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, London and Buenos Aires. He sang the role of Pollione in NORMA in the Gran Teatro del Liceo in Barcelona during the winter season 1962-1963, then made his Metropolitan Opera début on 6 March, 1965 as Cavaradossi in TOSCA. During the following five seasons his roles included Alfredo, Manrico, Riccardo, Alvaro, Don Carlo, and Radamès.
Bruno Prevedi possessed an attractive spinto tenor voice with superb roundness at the top. He can be heard on a number of recordings for Decca, notably in complete performances of Verdi's NABUCCO, opposite Tito Gobbi and Elena Suliotis, in MACBETH, opposite Giuseppe Taddei and Birgit Nilsson, and MEDEA, opposite Gwyneth Jones, as well as a recital of tenor arias.”
- Zillah Dorset Akron
“Seeming from time to time a serious contender for consideration with the great prima donnas of her time - Callas, Tebaldi, and Milanov - Antonietta Stella never quite pulled together all the elements of her lavish gift. An immensely attractive woman with large, deep-set eyes and a figure that would have found favor in Hollywood, she presented an appealing stage presence but was not always able to control her impulsive histrionic inclinations. Although her vocal endowment led her to an early début, her lovely spinto-weight soprano was not sufficiently technically secure and not supported consistently enough to endure.
By her mid-teens, Stella had determined she would become a professional singer and began her vocal training. After studies in her native Perugia, and later in Rome, she won first prize in the 1949 Bologna Concorso. In 1950, she made a pre-professional appearance on-stage at Spoleto's Sperimentale and followed that in 1951 with her official début at the Rome Opera singing Leonora in LA FORZA DEL DESTINO. A recording of SIMON BOCCANEGRA shortly thereafter revealed both a promising voice and some ungainly phrasing. Nonetheless, she was entrusted with the rôle of Lavinia in the world premiere of Guido Guerrini's ENEA, mounted by the Rome Opera in 1953. Italy welcomed the young soprano, despite her lack of experience. Engagements took her to many of the country's most prominent theaters, foremost among them La Scala, where she sang Desdemona in 1954 just a year after she had won good reviews in Florence for her performance in Verdi's AROLDO. Several of the lighter Wagner rôles also came her way with such parts as Elsa and Elisabeth and (less suitably) Sieglinde and Senta. The world beyond welcomed her as well: she was introduced as Aïda at Covent Garden in 1955 and at the Teatro Colón in 1956. Stella became a popular presence in several German houses and won appreciative reviews in Spain and Brazil. Stella made her Metropolitan Opera début on 13 November 13, essaying Aïda. Although she was in good voice, reviews held numerous caveats about her artistry and questions about her willingness to look past the approval of the gallery toward a deeper exploration of text and music. During four seasons, Stella sang more than 50 performances of eight different rôles, including Tosca, Butterfly (a memorable interpretation), Violetta, Elisabeth de Valois, Amelia in UN BALLO IN MASCHERA and the IL TROVATORE Leonora. Several ill-advised cancellations put an effective stop to Stella's American career. First, she exited a series of performances for Lirica Italiana in Japan. In 1957, she canceled her début with the San Francisco Opera. After the soprano presented the Metropolitan Opera with a doctor's certificate in 1960 asking for release (granted) for the company's spring tour and then showed up on the stage of La Scala during the period in question, Rudolf Bing filed breach of contract charges with the American Guild of Musical Artists. The action resulted in her suspension. Stella continued to appear in Europe, but decline was evident before she had reached the age of 40.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com