OP2218. MAZEPPA (in Italian) (Tschaikowsky), Live Performance, Firenze, 6 June, 1954, w.Perlea Cond. Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Ensemble; Ettore Bastianini, Boris Christoff, Magda Olivero, Marianna Radev, David Poleri, etc. (E.U.) 2-Myto 00286. Specially priced. - 0801439902862
"[Olivero] was possibly the finest verismo singer of her generation, and one must go back to Eugenia Burzio to find such a compelling artist in this field."
- Vivian A. Liff, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, July/Aug., 2005
“The essence of verismo, soprano Magda Olivero won an enthusiastic following during her exceedingly long career. Colleagues who found much to criticize in other artists reserved special approval for Olivero, whose art and integrity they valued. Purged of all strength and emotion after each of her stage appearances, the soprano retired in 1941 only to return to opera in 1951 at the request of Francesco Cilea, who regarded her as his ideal interpreter.
Olivero made her first stage appearance as Lauretta in GIANNI SCHICCHI at the city's Teatro Victorio Emanuele. A 1934 La Scala début as Anna in NABUCCO was followed by an engagement with a company touring the Italian peninsula. In 1937, she returned to Turin, this time to the Teatro Carignano, and was acclaimed in Monteverdi's IL COMBATTIMENTO DI TRANCREDI E CLORINDA. Word traveled quickly about the gifted young soprano, and that same year she recorded Liu to Gina Cigna's Turandot.
Marriage and retirement in 1941 kept her largely away from the public, but when she returned to the stage a decade later, she resumed a performing career that carried her into old age. In addition to such verismo rôles as Adriana, Tosca, Fedora, and even Minnie in LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST, she also devoted herself to contemporary works. She appeared in London as Mimi in 1952 during an Italian season at the Stoll Theatre. Her Adriana at the 1953 Edinburgh Festival brought more warm reviews. When she made her American début as Cherubini's Medea at Dallas in 1967, audiences who had known her only as a name were transfixed by her singing and acting. A Metropolitan Opera début came as Tosca in April 1975, after which Olivero sang the rôle nine more times in the house and on tour. When in her early eighties, she recorded major scenes from ADRIANA LECOUVREUR; her always slender, rather reedy voice was reduced in size, but still guided by all the conviction, crystalline diction, and unfaltering legato that were her hallmarks.”
- Erik Eriksson, Rovi
“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 début was in a concert in Siena early in 1945, and his operatic début was at the Ravenna opera as Colline in Puccini's LA BOHÈME 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 début 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 début 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 rôle of Carlo Gérard in Giordano's ANDREA CHÉNIER for the first time at the Teatro Regio di Torino. He made his Metropolitan Opera début 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 début as a baritone at La Scala, in the title rôle 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 rôles at the Met during this time included Amonasro, Carlo Gérard, Count di Luna, Enrico, Germont, Marcello in LA BOHÈME, Rodrigo in Don Carlo, and the title rôle in RIGOLETTO. He later returned to the Met in the Spring of 1960 to portray several rôles 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 rôles 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 début as Riccardo in Bellini's I PURITANI. In 1962, he made his Covent Garden début 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
"...there is the beauty of the voice itself, black and majestic, but capable of melting to the warmest of velvet; a voice that can damn and bless within the same breath. Add to all this a magnificent sense of presence and in Boris Christoff we have a true mastersinger of our time."
- Michael Letchford, Liner Notes to HMV LP set