OP1610. LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST - Excerpts, Live Performance, 20 March, 1957, w.Bellezza Cond. Rome Opera Ensemble; Magda Olivero, Gian Giacomo Guelfi, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, etc. (Italy) GAO 180. [In an echo-ridden acoustic. Just about the most provincial audience ever heard as it applauds Lauri-Volpi after every forte he produces! In all, a duly exciting performance!] Very long out-of-print, Rare Final Copy. - 8007068180004
“Olivero is a miracle - demonstrating a huge emotional range through the use of dynamic shading and remarkable tonal coloration. She is one of those singers who simply grabs you through the force of her vocal personality and brings you into the heart of the music. The appropriate word is ‘thrilling’.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
“Often referred to as ‘the last verismo soprano’, Magda Olivero was an artist whose total immersion in her roles combined with astounding vocal longevity to earn her legendary status among lovers of expressive singing. Young Magda studied piano, harmony, counterpoint and then voice, auditioning at Turin’s EIAR radio for conductor Ugo Tansini, whose appraisal has become part of the Olivero legend: ‘She possesses neither voice, musicality nor personality!... She should look for another profession’. A second audition produced the same response, but also aroused the interest of voice teacher Luigi Gerussi, who offered to train her. After a period of arduous vocal study, Olivero made her major-role stage début in Turin as Lauretta in GIANNI SCHICCHI in 1933, the same year bowing at La Scala as Anna in NABUCCO. Her easy high notes and impeccable coloratura led to roles such as Gilda, Manon and Sophie, and she was encouraged by Tullio Serafin to specialize in bel canto repertoire. But Olivero’s heart was in verismo, and she had the opportunity to work closely with a number of composers, including Giordano, Alfano, Mascagni and Cilèa, sometimes creating roles for them, always gaining their admiration. (Thirty-one of the forty-four composers whose operas Olivero sang during her career were still alive when she began to study.) In 1938, Olivero sang Liù in the world-premiere recording of TURANDOT, one of her few commercial recordings, and in 1939 she sang her first Adriana Lecouvreur, the role with which she became most identified. Olivero married industrialist Aldo Busch in 1941, abandoning her career for a decade, singing only occasional concerts to aid charities during the war.
Francesco Cilèa, who considered Olivero the greatest interpreter of his Adriana, finally persuaded the soprano to return to the stage. Writing to her, Cilèa insisted it was Olivero’s duty ‘toward her public and her art’. The elderly composer was dying and wanted to hear Olivero as Adriana one last time. When she worked on the role with him, Cilèa declared Olivero had ‘gone beyond the notes’ to what he felt when he created Adriana. Two weeks after returning to the stage as Mimì, on 20 January, 1951, Olivero sang Adriana; sadly, Cilèa had died months earlier, but he was the catalyst for an astounding second Olivero career phase, lasting four more decades.
Although Olivero kept singing Manon and Violetta, this second career focused mainly on verismo heroines — Suor Angelica, Butterfly, Fedora, Manon Lescaut, Margherita (MEFISTOFELE), Iris, Minnie, Giorgetta (IL TABARRO) and Tosca. She also continued to participate in premieres of new works, by Renzo Rossellini, Ottorino Gentilucci, Flavio Testi and Gian Francesco Malipiero. Olivero won acclaim in Menotti’s MEDIUM and Poulenc’s DIALOGUES DES CARMÉLITES (Mother Marie) and LA VOIX HUMAINE, and as a hair-raising Kostelnicka in JENUFA at La Scala.
Her career expanded beyond Italy, and a U.S. début took place in Dallas in 1967, where, she was persuaded, after some hesitation, to sing Cherubini’s Medea. Her reticence, based on the success of Maria Callas in the role in that city, proved unfounded; the performances were a sensation. New York area performances began in 1969, in Hartford Connecticut, with her legendary Adriana. The enterprising Maestro Alfredo Silipigni then brought Olivero to his New Jersey State Opera; local opera lovers journeyed to Newark for unforgettable Olivero evenings of TOSCA, FEDORA and MEFISTOFELE. In the meanwhile, a Philharmonic Hall début in 1971 featured the soprano in a recital coupled with LA VOIX HUMAINE in the same evening.
But it was not until 1975, at the instigation of her great admirer Marilyn Horne, that the Met finally invited Magda Olivero for three performances as Tosca. She made her début soon after her sixty-fifth birthday. Although the audience was wildly demonstrative, this was no mere nostalgia event. After a few minutes to warm up and conquer nerves, Olivero’s voice was astonishingly fresh, shedding decades by Act II. At the second performance, this listener was treated to the most touching, spectacularly sung ‘Vissi d’arte’ of his experience. During Act III, Olivero’s ascent to a spectacular, lengthy high C and plunge down two octaves into chest voice on the line ‘Io quella lama’ earned her a spontaneous ovation. This old-school audience response was inspired by the artist’s old-school stage deportment; it was an evening that, in the best sense, turned back the clock whenever she was onstage. Olivero’s total belief in the reality of the drama prevented her performances from ever being reduced to shtick. And her prodigious technique and breath control spoke of a bygone era, but one in which she was unique among veristas, none of whom matched her vocal capabilities.
Olivero continued to sing, albeit with less frequency, until 1983, when the death of her husband caused her to retire with no fanfare or farewells. However, in 1993, at eighty-three, Olivero recorded excerpts from her beloved ADRIANA LECOUVREUR, making a final artistic statement on the role, still able to offer passages of ethereal beauty and expression. Her art is extensively documented in live-performance audio recordings and a handful of video documents — every one a lesson.”
Ira Siff, OPERA NEWS, 8 Sept., 2014
"Lauri-Volpi first appeared at the Metropolitan Opera on 26 January, 1923, as the Duke, opening a decade-long relationship with that house singing, among other rôles, the first American performance of Rodolfo in Verdi's LUISA MILLER. He sang in the 16 November, 1926, American première of TURANDOT, Calaf being a perfect match for his firm legato and brilliant top notes. The tenor's début had brought a positive verdict from veteran critic W.J. Henderson who deemed his voice of ‘excellent quality’, but questionable health held more comprehensive evaluation at bay. Subsequent seasons brought a greater appreciation of his gifts, although he never won the level of acclaim that greeted him in his native country. At the end of the 1932-1933 season, he was not re-engaged due to a salary dispute because of the Great Depression.
Seasons at Paris and at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires brought generally positive reviews. Among honors in Italy were his assignment of the title rôle in Boito's NERONE to open the Teatro dell'Opera in Rome in 1928 and his engagement for the rôle of Arnold in La Scala's centenary mounting of GUILLAUME TELL. From the mid-1930s on, Lauri-Volpi's performances took place primarily in Italy and Spain. Although he retired at 67, he occasionally appeared at public occasions to sing an aria or two, most notably at Barcelona when, at age 80, he sang ‘Nessun dorma’ from TURANDOT.
Lauri-Volpi was remembered by the public and colleagues alike as an uneven, but often electrifying singer.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
"For the mercurial Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, a case could be made that his voice – or, at least, his high notes – had no equal in his day. It was not a singularly beautiful voice, especially, although his mezza voce singing could be ravishing. Although his acting could be fiery, Lauri-Volpi was not an exacting musician, and could often be counted on to alter the time values of high notes….his high notes were phenomenal. As anyone who sang with him will underscore, the high C was nothing for him."
- Rosa Ponselle, A SINGER’S LIFE, pp.92-93
"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