OP0626. LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST, Live Performance, 15 June, 1954, Firenze, w.Mitropoulos Cond. Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Ensemble; Eleanor Steber, Mario del Monaco, Gian Giacomo Guelfi, etc. (Croatia) 2-Myto 975.169, w.Libretto-Brochure. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 608974501693
"The performance is stupendous, Dmitri Mitropoulos achieving wonders with the orchestra - when it is played like this, one believes FANCIULLA is Puccini's masterpiece - and a trio of principals that could hardly be bettered. Eleanor Steber is Minnie to the life....Mario del Monaco is sensational as Ramirrez....and Gian Giacomo Guelfi makes a fervent Rance. This really has to be heard."
- Patrick O'Connor, GRAMOPHONE, June, 2009
"Mitropoulos had a dream cast. Steber was a sensational Minnie, and from all reports, her triumph was visual as well as vocal. Her involvement was total, and her singing struck to the heart. Del Monaco was at his best, too....The sound is excellent for its vintage. A GIRL to cherish."
- Lee Milazzo, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, March/April, 1998
"This live performance from Florence is really terrific. Mitropoulos is really the star of the show, opening cuts and bringing a grandeur and majesty to this score. His tempi are slowish but he obviously has no interest in rushing this ravishing score. Steber would not seem to be the logical choice for Minnie. Hers was a lyric voice but by 1954 she was enlarging her repertoire to include Elsa and Donna Anna, and Minnie. She was in superb voice on the 15th of June, 1954 and she is simply stunning. Much of the role doesn't have to be shouted nor screamed and she sings a lot of it very intimately but the big phrases and the big notes are there in spades. She is my favorite Minnie with Kirsten a close second. Del Monaco's ringing sound is wonderful to hear, and he sings very well, is a sympathetic Johnson and also does some lovely soft singing. Gian Giacomo Guelfi is a wonderful, a full voiced Rance. This performance has the wonderful Giorgio Tozzi as Larkins. The orchestra of the Teatro Communale plays extraordinarly well for Mitropoulos. For my money, this is a gem of a performance."
"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)c.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 singingc.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
"Giangiacomo Guelfi [not to be confused with Carlo Guelfi, a younger baritone] studied at the Centro Lirico in Florence, as well as with legendary Italian baritone Titta Ruffo, and made his opera début in the title role of Verdi's RIGOLETTO in 1950, an exceptionally young age for such a work. He won the Spoleto Experimental Theater Prize and made his La Scala début in 1952 as The Visitor in Castro's PROSERPINA Y EL EXTRANJERO. He made his London début two years later at Drury Lane as Gérard in Giordano's ANDREA CHÉNIER. Though he drew considerable acclaim in a 1957 performance of Verdi's I DUE FOSCARI in Venice, and he was considered a rising star during the late '50s and early '60s, it was not until his 1964 performance of Verdi's MACBETH at La Scala that he was acknowledged as a full-fledged star. He made his Metropolitan début in 1970 as Scarpia. He was particularly admired during his prime for his powerful voice, but like many possessors of such voices, occasionally indulged in bellowing and, toward the end of his career, relied excessively on extra-musical vocal effects."
- Anne Feeney, allmusic.com