OP1958. GIANNI SCHICCHI, Live Performance, 8 Feb., 1958, w.Mitropoulos Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Fernando Corena, Laurel Hurley, Belén Amparan, Charles Anthony, Nicola Moscona, Thelma Votipka & Ezio Flagello. (E.U.) Myto 00225. - 0801439902251
“Basso buffo Fernando Corena, heralded as the true successor to comic bass Salvatore Baccaloni, began his career singing non-comic roles just as did the imposing Baccaloni. A gift for buffoonery, however, cleared the way for his concentration on comic roles and there it was that he achieved his reputation. Encouraged by Italian conductor Vittorio Gui, Corena traveled to Milan to study with Enrico Romani. After an unofficial début there, he returned to Switzerland for the duration of WWII, performing on radio broadcasts and appearing in opera at Zürich's Stadttheater. Corena's official début took place in Trieste in 1947, when he sang Varlaam in BORIS GODUNOV. Soon, he had offers from many parts of Italy and began singing such varied dramatic roles as Sparafucile (bass), Escamillo (bass baritone), and Scarpia (baritone). In 1949, he took part in the premiere of Petrassi's IL CORDOVANO at La Scala. Although he did not fully surrender the serious bass/bass baritone repertory, he steadily moved into the buffo roles and found his career moving ever more swiftly upward.
Corena's Metropolitan Opera début took place as Leporello on 6 February, 1954, and he established himself almost immediately as a favorite singer in that house. For a quarter century, he all but owned the great comic roles, creating impossible-to-forget portraits as Dulcamara, the Sacristan (TOSCA), Don Pasquale, both Bartolos, Falstaff, Melitone, Don Alfonso, Benoit, Gianni Schicchi, Sulpice, Mustafa, and Geronte. By the time he closed his Metropolitan career in 1978, he had sung 92 performances of the Sacristan alone.
Aside from his close relationship to New York, Corena enjoyed considerable success elsewhere; Chicago heard him in a variety of roles, comic and serious, beginning in 1956 when Leporello played off the Don Giovanni of Nicola Rossi-Lemeni. The Edinburgh Festival welcomed Corena's Falstaff in 1956 and Covent Garden heard him for the first time in 1960, when he sang Rossini's Bartolo. In addition to Berlin, Vienna, Amsterdam, Verona, and Buenos Aires, Corena appeared at Salzburg as Osmin in Giorgio Strehler's production of ENTFÜHRUNG in 1965. A frequent visitor to the recording studio, Corena left numerous recordings documenting his best-known roles; many were recorded on multiple occasions (Bartolo, Leporello, Sacristan, for examples). Although Corena's physical presence was necessary for fullest appreciation, he still managed to infuse his singing with abundant personality. There has been no one comparable since his retirement.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
"Ezio Flagello, a bass with a rich voice and wide range who sang 528 performances at the Metropolitan Opera as part of an international career, a son of Italian immigrants in New York City, sang at major opera houses like La Scala in Milan, the Vienna State Opera, the San Francisco Opera and the Houston Grand Opera. But it was the Met that he made perhaps his most distinguished mark. His wide-ranging career there included basso cantante roles like Rodolfo in LA SONNAMBULA, Wagnerian characters like Pogner in DIE MEISTERSINGER, comic roles in Mozart and Rossini operas and major Verdi roles like King Philip in DON CARLO.
He made his professional debut in 1955 at the Empire State Festival in Ellenville, N.Y., singing Dulcamara in L’ELISIR D’AMORE. His career took off after he won first place in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air in 1957. He made his Met debut in November 1957 as the jailer in TOSCA. Shortly after, he sang Leporello in DON GIOVANNI, filling in for Fernando Corena, who was ill. His other performances at the Met included Geronte in MANON LESCAUT, Dulcamara in L’ELISIR D’AMORE, Sparafucile in RIGOLETTO, Ramfis in AIDA, Sarastro in DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE and the title roles in GIANNI SCHICCHI and FALSTAFF. He originated the role of Enobarbus in Barber’s ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, which received its premiere on opening night of the new Metropolitan Opera House in September 1966. Mr. Flagello’s final appearance at the Met was as Dr. Bartolo (a role he sang many times there) in IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA in December 1984. In a NEW YORK TIMES review of Mr. Flagello’s performance as Falstaff at the Met in December 1964, Harold C. Schonberg wrote, ‘a singer with a sturdy voice and a good deal of intelligence, Mr. Flagello found himself thoroughly at ease with the demands of the role. That included the dramatic demands’, Mr. Schonberg said. ‘He did not merely walk through the role using stock Falstaffian gestures. Rather, he used gesture, expression and motion to build toward a real characterization’.
Mr. Flagello was born in New York City on Jan. 28, 1931, [and] received a bachelor’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with the bass-baritone Friedrich Schorr and the baritone John Brownlee. In 1955, Mr. Flagello won a Fulbright Scholarship and studied with Luigi Ricci at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome.
He may have reached his largest audience in a brief screen appearance in THE GODFATHER Part II (1974). He played a vaudeville impressario in a flashback sequence, set in 1917, in Little Italy.”
- Vivien Schweitzer, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 24 March, 2009
“Conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos stood apart from the European traditions that dominated first-rank American orchestras for much of the twentieth century. After attending the Athens Conservatory, where he studied piano and composition, his opera BÉATRICE was presented there. The French composer Saint-Saëns was in the audience, and was so impressed that he arranged a scholarship that enabled the 24-year-old to study composition with the Belgian composer Paul Gilson and piano with Busoni in Berlin. Busoni persuaded him to abandon composition and concentrate on becoming a conductor.
From 1921 to 1925, Mitropoulos assisted Erich Kleiber at the Berlin State Opera and on Kleiber's recommendation, was appointed conductor of the Hellenic Conservatory Symphony Orchestra in Athens. In 1927, he became conductor of the Greek State Symphony Orchestra and in 1930 was engaged to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, where he instituted the practice of conducting from the piano.
In 1937 Mitropoulos succeeded Eugene Ormandy as musical director of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. He became a U.S. citizen in 1946, and remained in America until 1959. After 12 years in Minneapolis, he was invited to share the conductorship of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra with Stokowski, becoming its conductor when Stokowski resigned in 1950. Mitropoulos resigned the post after sharing the podium with Leonard Bernstein, his co-principal conductor, in the Orchestra's 1958 tour of Latin America. From 1954, he was a dynamic force as Bruno Walter's successor at the Metropolitan Opera, where he introduced many new operas, including ones by Richard Strauss and Samuel Barber.
Mitropoulos never conducted his own works, but considered his best composition to be a Concerto Grosso written in 1929. His lived simply and took little part in social activities. His conducting style was passionate, highly-charged and demonstrative; he had a phenomenal memory and rarely used a baton. He programmed much modern music and particularly admired Schönberg and the Second Viennese School, such as Webern and Berg, as well as twentieth century American and British composers. His recording of Mahler's First Symphony made with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra in 1941 was the first ever made in the U.S. of that work, and Mitropoulos was awarded the American Mahler Medal of Honor in 1950 for his work in promoting the composer's music. He died while rehearsing Mahler's Third Symphony with Toscanini's famous La Scala Orchestra.”
- Roy Brewer, allmusic.com