OP2131. THE SAINT OF BLEECKER STREET, recorded 1955, w.Gabrielle Ruggiero, David Poleri, Gloria Lane, etc.; THE UNICORN, THE GORGAN AND THE MANTICORE, recorded 1957, w.Jean Heisey, Nancy Hall, Charles Anderson, Howard Kahl, etc. (both Menotti; both w.Schippers Cond.). (E.U.) 2-Naxos 8.111360/61. Transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn. - 747313336029
“The dynamic cast of THE SAINT OF BLEECKER STREET, under wunderkind (and Menotti protégé and paramour) Thomas Schippers, clearly gave thrilling performances: that fact jumps from the recording that RCA has now reissued. But there was some backlash from the Italian– American community, as Menotti took on and ‘showed in public’ some aspects of social and familial structures in Little Italy that many might have preferred to leave unexamined. SAINT, with its gang violence, shunning, fervent religiosity and implicit core of incestuous feeling, is not easy sledding — nor should it be. Unlike THE CONSUL, the piece resists updating (it makes no sense in a post-Vatican II setting) but has won occasional skillful and gritty revivals, especially at New York City Opera, where it was long a feature. Menotti cared nothing (at least at this point) for Darmstadt-dictated modernism; his musical vocabulary is tonal and tuneful and cannot be said to aim ‘high’. Listening at home, one hears very clearly the traces of Mussorgsky, Puccini, Mascagni, Richard Strauss, Respighi, Bartók and Stravinsky, among others. But as a piece of veristic grand guignol, SAINT can be surprisingly effective in the theater.
This RCA Victor recording…available…on the Naxos label, is not exactly an ‘original cast album’; the recorded Annina, Gabrielle Ruggiero, was the alternate to Virginia Copeland in the Broadway run. Understudies, appearing in ensemble parts, included a staggering lineup of future luminaries — Elizabeth Carron, Richard Cassilly, Mignon Dunn and Chester Ludgin. Other ensemble members presumably heard here include Donald Grobe, Dorothy Krebill, John Reardon, Francesca Roberto and Broadway's Reid Shelton. In those days, Broadway knew how to sing. Ruggiero left little trace otherwise on the opera profession, but her Annina is memorable — sometimes angular and intense, sometimes more sweet-voiced. Famously hot-tempered onstage and off, tenor David Poleri (1927–67) had his innings at City Opera and on television, as well as in Italy. He's not likely to be surpassed as the bitter Michele: the sound is just right, bright and pinging, and his diction is phenomenally clear. Gloria Lane makes a vivid Desideria, the local Santuzza figure, with a dark, focused Zwischenfach sound and audible passion. Catherine Akos makes Annina's friend Assunta sympathetic and appealingly soft-grained. Experienced singer/actors rather than suavely lyrical vocalists, David Aiken (Salvatore), Maria Marlo (Maria Corona) and City Opera regular Leon Lishner (Don Marco, the priest) all make solid contributions. Schippers keeps the tension simmering.”
- David Shengold, OPERA NEWS, Dec., 2011
“It is said that the SAINT was Menotti’s favorite of all his operas. Certainly it reflects his personal life, his inmost feelings….Menotti was a success. His first operas were well received….This recording was originally made by RCA Victor…with the original cast in the opera’s run on Broadway. Schippers was an advocate of Menotti’s music and a sincere interpreter as well. The dramatic tension is stunning….There is much beauty in [Gabrielle] Ruggiero’s singing, a rich, fruity voice and a heartfelt portrayal. Poleri’s unique voice borders on the ugly, but the ferocity, the power of his singing is overwhelming….[Gloria] Lane’s sumptuous Desideria and [Leon] Lishner’s solemn priest are the best singing.”
- Charles H. Parsons, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Sept./Oct., 2011
“Hailed as ‘the best new opera since Gershwin's PORGY AND BESS', Gian Carlo Menotti's THE SAINT OF BLEECKER STREET won the Pulitzer Prize for Music and the New York Drama Critics Circle award for Best Musical. Its underlying themes of immigrant life and religious fervour remain topical today. THE UNICORN, THE GORGON AND THE MANTICORE is part masque, part ballet and part chamber music. It presents three stages in the life of an eccentric poet, symbolised by the allegorical animals of the title.”
- Zillah Dorset Akron