OP1884. WERTHER (in Italian), Live Performance, 20 Jan., 1959, Trieste, w.Cillario Cond. Teatro Verdi Ensemble; Ferruccio Tagliavini, Leyla Gencer, Mario Boriello, Giuliana Tavolaccini, etc. (E.U.) 2-Walhall 0259. - 4035122652598
“Nearly any time opera lovers discuss inherently beautiful voices, Tagliavini's name is sure to come up. His smooth lyric tenor had a luxurious timbre, reminiscent of Tito Schipa's, and was also warm and extremely expressive. In another resemblance to Schipa, he had a particular gift for vocally caressing a phrase without making it sound like a studied effect, and could sing piano and pianissimo without crooning. He excelled in the lighter, lyric repertoire, and for many was the definitive Nemorino, Nadir (Les Pêcheurs de Perles), Ernesto (Don Pasquale), and Fritz (L’AMICO FRITZ) of his generation, or for some, even the century. He and composer Pietro Mascagni became close friends, and Mascagni claimed that Tagliavini was instrumental in making L’AMICO FRITZ a success. During his early years, he focused on this lyric repertoire, but as his career advanced, he added heavier roles, such as Loris Ipanov in Giordano's FEDORA, Riccardo in Verdi's BALLO, and Cavaradossi in Puccini's TOSCA. These roles were not as well-suited to his voice, and after taking these on, he showed definite signs of vocal wear.
After World War II, he gathered a wide following among American GIs still based in Italy. His La Scala début was in 1942, also as Rodolfo, as was his United States début in Chicago in 1946, and his Met début in 1957. In addition to his stage performances and recordings, he also appeared in many popular films, mostly of the light and sentimental type. He retired from the stage in 1965, but gave annual performances at Carnegie Hall through 1981. He was married to soprano Pia Tassinari, whom he met in 1940, (they later divorced), and during their marriage they frequently appeared together, as their repertoire was very often complementary. Their recording of L’AMICO FRITZ, conducted by the composer is a classic.”
- Anne Feeney, allmusic.com
"When you sing, you have to feel what you are saying.... I actually cried on stage. Once in a while a note would issue forth that was not orthodox. That's why the American critics don't like me. But I don't care. They want music with water and soap."
- Leyla Gencer
“Leyla Gencer was the greatest Turkish opera singer of the 20th century and a singing actor of formidable power and individuality. Although she came from what she herself referred to as a ‘Muslim and oriental’ background, she had the good fortune, as a student in Istanbul, to study with the famous Italian dramatic soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi, so that when she went to Italy in 1953, she was thoroughly grounded in the traditions of Italian opera. Gencer was a very beautiful woman, with large dark eyes, a wide, generous mouth and a natural command of the stage. She made her début as Santuzza in CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA at the open-air summer festival in Naples in 1953, and remained a particular favourite with the Neapolitans. Throughout her career, Gencer had a very wide repertoire, ranging from Monteverdi, Gluck and Mozart to Verdi, Ponchielli and Puccini. During her career she sang virtually every soprano rôle in Verdi's operas, but it was especially in the revival of bel-canto works by Bellini, Donizetti and Pacini that she made her mark. To some extent, Gencer shot to fame in the immediate aftermath of the end of Maria Callas' Italian career - Gencer followed Callas as Anna Bolena at La Scala, and in the rôle of Paolina in Donizetti's POLIUTO - the last new part Callas undertook. As Queen Elizabeth I of England, first in Donizetti's ROBERTO DEVEREUX, and then in Rossini's ELISABETTA, REGINA D'INGHILTERRA, Gencer preceded Montserrat Caballé and Beverly Sills, who later recorded the rôles. Although Gencer's career was mostly in Italy, she appeared in the United States, where she made her début in San Francisco as Lucia in 1957, returning there, as well as to Chicago and Dallas. John Ardoin described her voice in a memorable LUCREZIA BORGIA in 1974, as ‘poignant, compelling’ and mentioned the ‘strange colours and deep pathos of her art’. In England she was heard at Glyndebourne as the Countess in FIGARO, and as Anna Bolena. At Covent Garden she was Donna Anna in Zeffirelli's 1962 production of DON GIOVANNI, then Elisabeth de Valois in DON CARLOS. Gencer's most memorable UK appearances were undoubtedly in the title rôle of Donizetti's Maria Stuarda, at the Edinburgh Festival in 1969. The sparks that flew on stage in the confrontation - historically absurd but dramatically thrilling - when Gencer as Mary Stuart ripped off her glove and flung it in the face of Shirley Verrett as Elizabeth I at the words, ‘Vil bastarda’ will surely live in the memory of all who witnessed it. Gencer had no career whatsoever as a recording artist, but many of her broadcasts from Italian radio have now been issued on disc and are a fine memorial to her voice and dramatic ability.”
- Patrick O'Connor, The Guardian, 12 May, 2008