OP0192. LA FORZA DEL DESTINO, Live Performance, 14 June, 1953, Firenze, w.Mitropoulos Cond. Maggio Musicale Fiorentino; Renata Tebaldi, Mario Del Monaco, Aldo Protti, Fedora Barbieri, Cesare Siepi, etc. (Germany) 3-Archipel 0126. Long out-of-print, final copies! - 4035122401264
"I heard Tebaldi many times, as a standee at the old Metropolitan Opera House from the mid-1950s through the early 1960s, and I never stopped marveling at the sheer beauty of the voice, her ability to project a pianissimo throughout the auditorium so that even though the note was extraordinarily soft, it sounded as if she were standing right next to you. The plushness of tone was probably the most unique feature of her singing, and along with that an innate sense of the appropriate shape of the phrase she was singing. She was not a subtle actress, never inflecting every phrase with subtexts of meaning the way Callas could, but nor was she a disengaged singer just pouring out lovely sounds. Her acting, both physical and vocal, was sincere and convincing, and at times very powerful. Her Butterfly broke your heart every time, through the moving way she shaped the ebb and flow of the music. There was no way you could see her as a 15 year old geisha, but by the wedding scene of the first act you were a complete believer.
Above all, there was that voice. It was immediately recognizable, distinctive, unlike any other. If you tuned in to a radio broadcast without hearing an announcement, two notes would be enough to identify the richly colored, luxurious sonority of the Tebaldi sound, a sound that caressed the ear and at the same time enveloped you. For many of us it was the sound that defined what an Italian soprano should be."
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
"It was always a given that del Monaco possessed a remarkably powerful, steady voice with unsurpassed brilliance and power. He was, however, often criticized for singing with little finesse, for using his power unrelentingly. That was never true (his many live broadcast recordings give even stronger evidence of his ability to sing with light and shade) - I found myself thrilling to the sheer sound of the voice and to the commitment and passion with which he sang. What will surprise many is the variety of dynamics and color that the tenor did bring to his singing. It is easy for critics to comment on the method of a singer and to forget the most important element - the sound of the voice....His diction was a model of clarity and crispness, his intonation was almost always centered, and his rhythmic pulse was extremely strong. In many cases one listens to this kind of singing and longs for the days gone by when there were singers like this....old-timers...reminisce over one of the great operatic tenor voices to be heard in the 1950s and 60s, and younger listeners discover what a great 'tenore di forza' sounds like. We have nothing like him today."
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
"Mario del Monaco was one of the most widely recorded singers of the 1950's and 60's and divided his busy operatic career between Europe and America during those years. Sir Rudolf Bing, then manager of the Metropolitan Opera, heard Mr. del Monaco's debut as Radames in Verdi's AIDA at the San Francisco Opera in 1950 and asked the tenor to stop in New York for a guest appearance at the Met in Puccini's MANON LESCAUT on his way back to Europe. Mr. del Monaco's singing made a distinct impression and won him a long and prosperous relationship with the Met beginning the next year. At the New York company from 1951 to 1959, he sang 102 times, in 16 roles. He appeared on the Met's tour 38 times. His last performance at the Met was as Canio in Leoncavallo's PAGLIACCI in 1959. But he returned three years later to Carnegie Hall in a concert of arias and duets with Gabriella Tucci.
Indeed, when Mr. del Monaco was loved, it was for the brilliant, stentorian quality of his voice rather than for his subtlety of phrase or ability to act. And in a profession often peopled by overweight tenors, Mr. Del Monaco offered a classic profile and dark good looks that made him an attractive presence on stage.
Mario del Monaco was born in Florence in 1915 and grew up in nearby Pesaro where his father was employed in city government. His parents were both musically inclined and encouraged his singing. Although he had some lessons, he was largely self-taught. Mr. del Monaco made his professional debut in Puccini's MADAMA BUTTERFLY in Milan in 1941. He spent the war years in the Italian Army. After the war, Mr. del Monaco's career blossomed and spread to Milan's La Scala and London's Covent Garden as well as opera houses in Rome, Naples, Barcelona, Lisbon and Stockholm. In 1946, he sang in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, moved northward to Mexico City and then on to San Francisco for his American debut. Mr. del Monaco's relationship with the Metropolitan Opera ended in 1959, reportedly by mutual consent, but he was recording until the end of the 1960's. In 1973, he joined a gathering of prominent tenors in Naples to honor Caruso's centenary and pres reports spoke of his 'personal glamour and still thrilling dynamism'.
Mr. del Monaco retired to his villa near Venice later in 1973 and turned to teaching. Mr. del Monaco and his wife, Rina Fedora, a former singer, had two sons. One of them, Giancarlo, is now a stage director in Europe's opera world."
- Bernard Holland, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 19 Oct., 1982
"Fedora Barbieri, a dramatic mezzo-soprano celebrated for Verdi interpretations that were extensively preserved on records and film, was gifted with a large, opulent voice. Miss Barbieri was of the same generation as Cesare Siepi, Giuseppe di Stefano, Boris Christoff and Jussi Bjorling. A favorite with European audiences from the 1940s on, she later won acclaim in New York, particularly for her appearances as Azucena in IL TROVATORE, AMNERIS in AIDA, ADALGISA in BELLINI'S NORMA, and in the Verdi REQUIEM.
Her 1950 New York debut itself entered opera history, coming on the night Rudolf Bing first faced his audience as the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera. He opened an era with a boldly ambitious revival of DON CARLO in which Miss Barbieri sang the role of Princess Eboli.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service had turned Bing's entire inaugural season into a cliffhanger days before the curtain rose on it. Acting under the 1950 Internal Security Act, it confined shiploads of arriving aliens on Ellis Island on the grounds that they could be threats to the United States; Miss Barbieri, Christoff and Zinka Milanov were among them.
Miss Barbieri's offense was attending school in Fascist wartime Italy, a circumstance that she stated in her visa application. She and the other soloists were freed just in time for the show to go on.
Miss Barbieri, Mr. Bjorling (in the title role) and Mr. Siepi, making his debut as Philip II, appeared in what Olin Downes of THE NEW YORK TIMES described as an occasion that revealed afresh 'the melodic opulence and dramatic power of Verdi's genius'. Miss Barbieri, he said, was a 'superb mezzo from Italy, with a kindling dramatic temperament'.
Fedora Barbieri made her professional debut in 1940 as Fidalma in Cimarosa's MATRIMONIO SEGRETO. She sang her first Azucena the next night and repeated Fidalma the night after that, a feat that quickly established her reputation in Europe as a masterly interpreter of the Italian repertory at its most demanding.
She sang in Rome, made her debut at La Scala in 1943, sang in South America and went to London with La Scala in 1950. She made an immediate impression at Covent Garden, singing Mistress Quickly in FALSTAFF, and giving one of her stirring performances in the REQUIEM.
She remained a regular at La Scala and sang at the Metropolitan primarily in the 1950s and 60s. Of her many Verdi roles, she favored Eboli in her earlier years, but later leaned toward the lower registers of Azucena and Amneris. She finally found Mistress Quickly best attuned to her voice. Her repertory included 109 roles."
- Wolfgang Saxon, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 7 March, 2003
“Mr. Siepi was a classic Italian basso cantante, or ‘singing bass’, with a warm, slightly dark voice that was ideally suited to Mozart. Yet his voice was so robust that he could easily summon the power for King Philip II in DON CARLO, Gurnemanz in PARSIFAL and the title role in BORIS GODUNOV. In his prime, the tall, handsome Mr. Siepi, a natural onstage, was a favorite at the Metropolitan Opera, where he gave nearly 500 performances, singing 17 roles during a 23-year association. Bing wrote in his 1972 memoir, 5,000 NIGHTS AT THE OPERA, [that Siepi] ‘made an overpowering debut and a well-deserved great career at the Metropolitan’. After his first Don Giovanni at the Met in 1952, Mr. Siepi became the Giovanni of choice in houses around the world, bringing a sly blend of vocal refinement and animal magnetism to his portrayal. Critics and audiences embraced him for a wide range of roles. Assessing an impressive Gurnemanz in a 1970 PARSIFAL at the Met, the critic Herbert Weinstock wrote in the British magazine OPERA that Mr. Siepi ‘really sang the role rather than growling it and acted with touching conviction’, articulating Wagner’s words ‘as if born to them’. He also excelled in broadly comic roles, like Don Basilio in Rossini’s BARBIERE.
At 18, urged on by friends, he entered a voice competition in Florence and won first prize. A manager in the audience quickly engaged him to sing the role of the hired assassin Sparafucile in Verdi’s RIGOLETTO for a production in Schio, near Vicenza. With the outbreak of war he moved to neutral Switzerland, returning to Italy when hostilities ended. He appeared in Verdi’s NABUCCO at La Scala in Milan in the first postwar production at the reconstructed theater, which had been damaged by bombs.
After his breakthrough Met debut, Mr. Siepi was in demand internationally. He scored triumphs at the Salzburg Festival during the 1950s and made several live recordings there, including a 1954 DON GIOVANNI conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler, with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Erna Berger among the cast.
In his day Mr. Siepi was considered a natural successor to Ezio Pinza. Like Pinza, who had starred in SOUTH PACIFIC, Mr. Siepi appeared in a stage musical, BRAVO GIOVANNI. The critic Howard Taubman, writing in THE NEW YORK TIMES, praised Mr. Siepi for bringing ‘the richest and best cultivated vocal instrument to Broadway’ since Pinza. The show, however, unlike Pinza’s SOUTH PACIFIC, was a flop. Still, Taubman gave the famous bass credit for trying. ‘Happily’, he concluded, ‘Mr. Siepi is at ease in his new surroundings and his voice glorifies them’.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 8 July, 2010