OP2118. I DUE FOSCARI, Live Performance, 31 Dec., 1957, w.Serafin Cond. Teatro la Fenice Ensemble, Venezia;
Leyla Gencer, Mirto Picchi, Giangiacomo Guelfi, etc.; Leyla Gencer: Excerpts from Lucia di Lammermoor.
(E.U.) 2-Myto 00123. - 8014399501231
"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
“Mirto Picchi was an Italian dramatic tenor, particularly associated with the Italian repertory, and with contemporary works. Picchi studied in Milan with Giulia Tess and Giuseppe Armani, and made his début there as Radamès in AÏDA, in 1946. One of the leading tenors of the post-war period, he had a fine voice and was an accomplished singing-actor. He retired from the stage in 1974 (Don Basilio in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, at La Scala).”
“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