OP0275. MADAMA BUTTERFLY, recorded 1951, w.Erede Cond. Academia di Santa Cecilia Ensemble; Renata Tebaldi, Giuseppe Campora, Giovanni Inghilleri, Nell Rankin, etc. (Canada) 2-Naxos 8.110254/55. Transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn. Final Sealed Copy! - 636943125427
“Recorded in July 1951, the same month in which LA BOHEME was also made, the venue used was that of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. The hall in question was long and narrow, but with a high ceiling plus a balcony which contained seats. The control room was conveniently situated on the same ground floor level as the hall. It proved perfectly suited to the needs of mono recording at that time.
Renata Tebaldi studied at the Boito Conservatorio in Parma, before making her début as Elena in MEFISTOFELE at Rovigo in 1944. She sang for Toscanini at the opening concert at the Teatro alla Scala in 1946. Later that season she was engaged as Eva in MEISTERSINGER and Mimi in LA BOHEME. Her first appearance outside Italy was in Lisbon in 1949 and the following year Tebaldi made her London début as Desdemona in OTELLO when the La Scala Company appeared at Covent Garden. Her international introduction came through her first American engagement as Aďda in San Francisco in 1950, soon followed by three seasons in Rio de Janeiro. The Italian soprano first sang at the Metropolitan in New York in 1955, a house where she would sing for seventeen further seasons before retiring from the stage in 1973, and the concert hall three years later. Tebaldi appeared regularly at the Vienna State Opera and also sang in Chicago and Japan. As the most significant Italian lirico spinto soprano during her career, she also recorded prolifically. At the time of this recording Tebaldi had not sung the role of Butterfly on the stage but in no way is this evident from her wholehearted interpretation. The creamy richness of her tone and the exquisiteness of her effortlessly floated pianissimi are indeed most captivating. She 'rides' the final scene most impressively, the music for which is the most demanding Puccini wrote for the soprano voice other than that for Turandot.
Giuseppe Campora studied in Genoa and Milan before his début in 1949 as Rodolfo in LA BOHEME. His first La Scala appearance was as Boris in Rocca's L'URAGANO, followed by Rodolfo, Maurizio in ADRIANA LECOUVREUR and Orombello in BEATRICE DI TENDA. The Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires secured his services in 1952 and Campora made regular appearances at the Metropolitanin New York between 1955 and 1965. He sang all the principal tenor roles widely throughout Italy. In his later career he diversified into operetta. Campora's Pinkerton is sweetly sung and unaffected in manner with his easy, ringing upper register, a decided ’plus’.
The baritone Giovanni Inghilleri was virtually in the twilight of his career when he recorded the role of the Consul Sharpless, but his portrayal of the role is both kindly and caring. During the inter-war years he had enjoyed a considerable career in both America and Europe, also recording the role of Amonasro in AĎDA in 1928. Inghilleri also sang in the 1951 recording of LA BOHEME with Tebaldi, referred to above.
The role of Butterfly's faithful servant Suzuki was entrusted to the American mezzo-soprano Nell Rankin from Montgomery, Alabama. She had studied in nearby Birmingham and later New York before joining the Zürich Opera in 1949. She later sang at La Scala and at the Vienna State Opera. Her Metropolitan début was in 1951 where she appeared regularly for the next twenty years. Her repertoire included Ortrud in LOHENGRIN, Gutrune in the RING and Ulrica in UN BALLO IN MASCHERA. Her London début was as Carmen, a role she repeated two years later in San Francisco. She also sang Cassandra in LES TROYENS at La Scala in 1960. Rankin impressed more with her fullness of tone and generous phrasing than vitality of character. Her few recordings included the first ever of Vaughan Williams' FIVE TUDOR PORTRAITS.
The Bonze is sung by Fernando Corena, a Swiss bass, born of a Turkish father and Italian mother in Geneva. After making his début in 1947 as Varlaamin BORIS GODUNOV, his first Metropolitan Opera engagement was in 1954 where he would sing until 1978. Corena was a fine linguist and a witty comedian in buffo roles. His fellow buffo of an earlier generation, Melchiorre Luise sings the role of Prince Yamadori. Originally a baritone, he soon changed to a bass, singing at La Scala from 1938 to 1943 and from 1951 until the early 1960s. Luise also appeared in Rome and Florence in addition to the Metropolitan Opera (1947-50) and Covent Garden.”
- Malcolm Walker, NAXOS
"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