OP1042. LA BOHEME, Live Performance, 16 Feb., 1974, w.Segerstam Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Montserrat Caballé, Franco Corelli, Maralin Niska, Dominic Cossa, etc. (Slovenia) 2-Living Stage 4035166. [This infamous performance gives us Caballé at her most ravishing best, and Corelli outsinging even himself, determined to dominate - which he does gloriously! Fortunately the editor of this splendid recording has tastefully managed the ecstatic applause to reasonable proportion.] Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 3830257451662
“Behind-the-scenes manipulations give this BOHEME broadcast of 16 February, 1974, an unusual aura. Pavarotti was scheduled with Amara as his Mimi. The Modena tenor cancelled. Corelli agreed to sing a rare radio Rodolfo, whereupon management, perhaps intent on making a high-powered splash, pulled Amara from the cast in favor of Montserrat Caballé. In a singular announcement as he opened the broadcast, Cross read a carefully worded statement, noting that Amara was scheduled, but ‘has graciously stepped aside’ in order to give her sister diva ‘the opportunitry of sharing her first Mimi’ with the broadcast public….Miss Caballé’s Mimis were indeed a rare item on the Metropolitan stage. Two seamstresses would be her tally….
During this period, Caballé is at the peak of her vocal form, notwithstanding the circumstances of her assumption of the role, one is grateful to have this lovely memento of her Mimi. The radio is kind to her….the memory one treasures of her seamstress is the exquisite delicacy, vocal and dramatic, of her portrayal. She paints most often in pastels, the vocalism is so pure, its liquid flow so ecstatically ethereal, that one feels its rarified air should be breathed only in a cloister’s walls….Caballé’s Mimi is refinement personified….no matter that this Rodolfo is Otello in a frock coat….At Mimi’s death, the tenor goes beserk, offering the most extroverted portrayal of grief in my memory; he fills the airwaves with a spate of interpolated ‘No’s and man-sized sobs….almost everything Corelli does on this afternoon seems outsized. There is nothing small about him - and for that, we can be grateful.
The combination of Corelli and Caballé undoubtedly provided a blockbuster event. But the tenor’s excesses and the soprano’s refinement, when juxtaposed, are jarring to the listener and ultimately not conducive to performance integrity. Most opera lovers couldn’t care less about the anomaly. Maybe they are right. When comets pass in the operatic firmament, the astral concurrence is too unusual, too invigorating, to worry about their not being in the same orbit.”
- Paul Jackson, START-UP AT THE NEW MET, pp.488-493
"After me, there is only Caballé."
- Zinka Milanov, as quoted in Leonardo A. Ciampa's THE TWILIGHT OF BELCANTO, p.82
"Franco Corelli had been singing for well over a decade when he made his Met debut in 1961 at the age of 40. The first attraction in any Corelli performance is the voice itself. Solid and evenly produced from bottom to top, with no audible seams between registers. The middle and lower parts of the voice are dark and richly colored. The top is stunningly brilliant, and never thins out or turns hard. It is a once-in-a-generation kind of voice if your generation is lucky, and in the four decades since his retirement in 1976 we have had nothing like it for visceral power. Some critics complained because Corelli would hold high notes well beyond their value in the score. But if we listen to singers from the past whose careers overlapped with the great Italian opera composers, and who often worked with them, we can easily conclude that the composers expected it. (A recording of an aria from Francesco Cilea's ADRIANA LECOUVREUR by tenor Fernando de Lucia, with the composer accompanying at the piano, exposes liberties that go far beyond anything Corelli ever did, and Cilea echoes those 'distortions' at the keyboard.)"
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE