OP1723. TOSCA, Live Performance, 20 June, 1958, Bruxelles, w.Gavazzeni Cond. La Scala Ensemble; Renata Tebaldi, Giuseppe di Stefano, Ettore Bastianini, etc. (E.U.) 2–Myto 00144. - 8014399501446
“It's gratifying that the 1958 Brussels TOSCA presents Tebaldi in superb voice and dramatic form. Even if this Brussels TOSCA featured a pedestrian Scarpia the performance would be worth purchasing for the contributions of di Stefano and, especially, Tebaldi. But the Scarpia is the wonderful Italian baritone, Ettore Bastianini. And since Bastianini (unlike di Stefano and Tebaldi) never participated in a commercial recording of TOSCA, this release is of even greater value. This is not to suggest that Bastianini's Scarpia is anything special from an interpretive point of view. He cannot, for example, begin to touch Gobbi's varied and subtle approach. To a great degree, Bastianini is content to allow the majesty of his voice portray Scarpia's menace and power. But since Ettore Bastianini's remarkably vibrant and dark-hued voice was one of the glories of the post-war era, his Scarpia emerges as a commanding presence. Both the ‘Te Deum’ and Act II confrontation with Tosca ignite more than their share of fireworks. Conductor Gianandrea Gavazzeni admirably maintains the flow and tension of the performance. The broadcast sound has considerable presence and clarity (including a constantly audible prompter).”
- K. M., classicalcdreview
“In addition to the timbre itself, Tebaldi had an innate feel for how this music should go, for the ebb and flow of every phrase. She also was a mistress of dynamic range. Yes, she could (and did) float glorious pianissimi and she could open up with a full throated fortissimo that remained full-bodied. But where she differed from so many is in all the dynamics in between the two extremes. This allowed her to characterize the music with dynamic variety, rather than Callas-like specificity of inflection. Of course Callas’ Tosca remains an extraordinary musical-dramatic experience, but one should not fall into the trap of believing received wisdom that Tebaldi was not an effective actress. Tebaldi sang with genuine dramatic involvement and with a sincerity that always moved an audience. In my experience, no soprano (not even Callas) could break your heart the way Tebaldi di at ‘Dio mi perdona. Egli vede ch’io piange’ (‘God will forgive me. He’ll see that I am crying’). This is Tosca’s response to Scarpia’s hypocritical ‘In chiesa - after Tosca’s outburst in the first act....Tebaldi begins her response with a heartbreaking pianissimo, and a crescendo starting on ‘vede’ that explodes on ‘piango’.” It will tear your gut out.
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.
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
“Giuseppe di Stefano possessed an especially beautiful voice. It was impossible not to be moved; he truly had the sound of tears in his voice, without being over sentimental. His wonderful piano – and his stirring voice – moved his audience almost beyond endurance.”
- Birgit Nilsson, LA NILSSON, p.116
“…there is much amazingly gorgeous, heartfelt singing [from di Stefano] and a joy in performing….It can be pure unadulterated joy for a sometimes jaded reviewer to listen to...."
- Michael Mark, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./Dec., 2009
“While Ettore Bastianini's career was quite short, it was also distinguished. He was regarded as having one of the finest Verdi and verismo voices of his day, though his vocal gifts were not always matched by an equal musicianship.
Bastianini studied privately with Gaetano Vanni, and sang in the local choir. His professional solo debut was in a concert in Siena early in 1945, and his operatic debut was at the Ravenna opera as Colline in Puccini's LA BOHEME later that year. He sang at the smaller houses throughout Italy and even went abroad to Cairo with a touring company, still singing the bass repertoire, including Mephistopheles in Gounod's FAUST. His La Scala debut was in 1948 as Tirésias in Stravinsky's OEDIPUS REX. During these years, he began to wonder if he was truly a bass, and in 1951, he made his debut as a baritone early in 1951 at the Bologna Opera as Germont in LA TRAVIATA. However, the performance was not especially successful, and he resumed intense studies over the next few months, giving special attention to developing his upper register. When he returned to the stage that summer, he had achieved just that goal, and his high notes were now considered his vocal glory. In 1953 Bastianini performed opposite Maria Callas for the first of many times, as Enrico Asthon in LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR at the Teatro Comunale Florence. That same year he sang the role of Carlo Gérard in Giordano's ANDREA CHÉNIER for the first time at the Teatro Regio di Torino. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Germont on 5 December, 1953, opposite Licia Albanese as Violetta and Richard Tucker as Alfredo. The following January he sang Enrico to Lily Pons' Lucia and Jan Peerce's Edgardo at the Met. On 10 May, 1954, he made his debut as a baritone at La Scala, in the title role of Tchaikovsky's EUGENE ONEGIN with Renata Tebaldi as Tatyana.
In the Fall of 1954, Bastianini joined the roster of the Metropolitan Opera where he sang regularly through May 1957. His roles at the Met during this time included Amonasro, Carlo Gérard, Count di Luna, Enrico, Germont, Marcello in LA BOHEME, Rodrigo in Don Carlo, and the title role in RIGOLETTO. He later returned to the Met in the Spring of 1960 to portray several roles including Don Carlo in LA FORZA DEL DESTINO. He returned to the Met again in January 1965 where he spent most of that year singing in several of his prior roles with the company, as well as performing Scarpia in TOSCA. His 87th and final performance at the Met was as Rodrigo on 11 December, 1965. It was also coincidentally the last performance of his career.
In 1956, he made his Chicago debut as Riccardo in Bellini's I PURITANI. In 1962, he made his Covent Garden debut as Renato in UN BALLO IN MASCHERA. Early in 1963, he left the stage for a few months, letting it be understood that he was resting, but in fact, he was undergoing treatment for throat cancer. His return performances and subsequent performances were poorly received, often with booing from the audience, as he was often hoarse, off-pitch, and under-powered. While he was deeply dismayed at this, he still did not speak of his illness; for all except family and close friends, it came as a complete surprise until after the announcement of his death. His last performance was in 1965 at the Metropolitan Opera.”
- Anne Feeney, allmusic.com