OP0043. CARMEN (in Italian), w. Sabajno Cond. La Scala Ensemble; Gabriella Besanzoni, Piero Pauli, Maria Carbone, Ernesto Besanzoni, etc. (Italy) 2-Myto 946.118, recorded 1931 - and a truly fabulous Italianate performance! Very long out-of-print, final ever-so-slightly used copy. - 8014399001182
"This 1931 recording of a paradigmatic French opera is sung in Italian, as was the use in Italian theaters by those years. In addition, the interpretation is verist and melodramatic. Piero Pauli sings Don Jose as if he were singing CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA. The baritone Ernesto Besanzoni sings awfully (this seems to be his only recording; it was not enough to be Gabriella's brother to succeed). [But] the positive greatly counterbalance all the negative: First, the sound is very good for the time. Second (more important): Maria Carbone's Micaëla is probably one of the finest recordings of this irregular soprano.
Third (most important): The singular interpretation of contralto Gabriella Besanzoni in this extremely rare full recording of what was probably her most important role. Who was the greatest Carmen on records may be a matter of discussion and personal preferences, but Besanzoni's exceptional dark-voiced Carmen will be unforgettable for all those who go through the experience of hearing her. To summarize: This recording is a ‘must’ for all those who want to have a full spectrum of how CARMEN may be sung. Stay attached to the great Gabriella Besanzoni and forget about all the negative aspects. Get a copy of this recording as soon as possible!”
- Gustavo Demarco, Buenos Aires
“Gabriella Besanzoni was very successful at La Scala, as Orfeo and Amneris, and in 1932 as Carmen and Mignon. In the 1910s and ‘20s Besanzoni was a star of the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and other South American opera houses. Her rôles included Dalila, Carmen, Amneris, Lola, La Cieca, Preziosilla, Marina, Leonora in LA FAVORITA, Mignon, Adalgisa, Isabella in L’ITALIANA IN ALGERI, not to forget the first performances of Zandonai’s FRANCESCA DA RIMINI and Marinuzzi’s JACQUERIE. She returned to sing at the Colón until 1935. She also appeared at the Met opposite Caruso in the season 1919/20. Guest appearances followed at the opera houses of Chicago, Havana and Berlin. Carmen was the rôle that brought her fame and it was this part she chose for her farewell performance at the Terme di Caracalle in Rome (1939). After her retirement she dedicated herself to teaching.
She recorded seven outstanding sides of 78s in the years 1920/21, then in 1932 she recorded CARMEN with her brother Ernesto Besanzoni as Escamillo. Gabriella Besanzoni is one of the most eminent mezzo-sopranos to be heard on records. Hers is a full-toned and smoothly produced voice. In my opinion, there is but one Italian mezzo being her equal, namely Ebe Stignani. She has a rich low register, a secure middle and a brilliant top register. What I particularly like is not only the beauty of her voice but also its velvety quality. She is one of very few Italian mezzo-sopranos who are able to sing with flexibility, and she can be very charming. Listen to her Carmen! In her interpretation, Carmen is an Italianate 'femme fatale' but still it is a subtle portrait. There is a lot of delicacy and grace in her singing which is so essential for this character.”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
"Born in Barcelona, Pauli's stage career was from 1929 to 1946; his performance in the November 1929 HMV recording of TOSCA in the role of Cavaradossi attracted the attention of La Scala and on 1 January, 1930, he made his début in that role on the stage. Actually, the promotional material in the catalog of 'La Voce del Padrone' says it perfectly: 'There was every justification for this hard-working tenor to have such a brilliant career. He combined his extraordinary vocal qualities with a vivid, passionate and highly personal interpretation. In the greatest opera houses of Italy and abroad he scored one success after another'."
- La Voce del Padrone
“In 1904 Sabajno was engaged by Fred Gaisberg as The Gramophone Company’s Italian house conductor (an appointment which was in effect the equivalent of the ‘Artists and Repertoire’ manager of later years) with responsibility for all aspects of production, such as the selection of repertoire and the engagement of artists, in addition to actually conducting in the studio: in France the conductor Piero Coppola held a similar position. Sabajno devoted himself to the nascent recording industry and seems subsequently to have conducted little if at all in the concert hall or opera house. He did however compose a little, writing songs especially for the gramophone.
For The Gramophone Company Sabajno conducted numerous complete recordings of operas, starting with Verdi’s ERNANI in 1904 and Leoncavallo’s PAGLIACCI in 1907 (although the latter may in fact have been conducted by its composer) and concluding with Verdi’s OTELLO in 1932. He recorded RIGOLETTO twice, in 1917 and 1927, and also left notable accounts of Donizetti’s DON PASQUALE with Tito Schipa, and of Verdi’s AÏDA with Toscanini’s favourite tenor Aureliano Pertile. He was also credited with conducting the complete recording of IL TROVATORE with Pertile, (although much of this was actually conducted by Gino Nastrucci). In addition to these and many other complete opera recordings Sabajno accompanied the leading singers of the day, such as Beniamino Gigli, in numerous operatic arias, and conducted several short operatic and orchestral works. The latter included several overtures and orchestral excerpts from Wagner’s operas, including the Liebestod from TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, as well as the prelude to Catalani’s opera EDMEA, Chabrier’s ‘España’, Mascagni’s ‘Danza esotica’, the overture to Massenet’s LE ROI DE LAHORE, the Nocturne and Wedding March from Mendelssohn’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, and the overture to Mozart’s DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE.
Evidently not an easy man to get on with, Sabajno had a reputation for a fiery temper; but Gaisberg, who knew him well, described him as ‘…gifted with sharp intelligence, and when one worked with him one understood that every single gesture had a reason’. Certainly several of his recordings, most of which were made with the Orchestra of La Scala, Milan at a time when Toscanini was musical director there, have stood the test of time. Gaisberg considered Sabajno’s account of AÏDA to be the pinnacle of his recording work, and it continues to feature in the catalogue.”
- David Patmore, Naxos' A–Z of Conductors