OP2223. IL TROVATORE, Live Performance, 1 Oct., 1961, Berlin, w.de Fabritiis Cond. Rome Opera Ensemble; Franco Corelli, Mirella Parutto, Fedora Barbieri, Ettore Bastianini, Agostino Ferrin, etc. [A uniquely splendid and exciting TROVATORE, in resplendent sound!] (E.U.) 2-Walhall 0338. Final Sealed Copy! - 4035122653380
"On the 1961 live set conducted by Oliviero de Fabritiis of the Rome Opera in Berlin, the Leonora, Mirella Parutto, had no flash international recording contract and may be a name familiar only to Italians and anoraks. She's a gem, a beautiful, cleanly produced voice with a real sense of scale, big and small (perhaps Enrico Caruso's remark about a successful performance of IL TROVATORE simply needing the four greatest singers in the world should read: 'All you need is the greatest Leonora in the world'). De Fabritiis has three other advantages: Franco Corelli and Barbieri in one of their best recorded performances, and a baritone (Ettore Bastianini) who agrees with his conductor about the (thankfully not too many) places in which they're going to take time or slow up. Corelli is a dream Manrico - he has the squillo, he can have the subtlety, the voice sounds big but still young, and he's very sexy and noble without getting overneurotic in the 'bad news' messenger-promoted crises that plague the character in Acts 2 and 3. A famous holder of high notes in TOSCA (try his 'Vittorias' from Livorno, 1959 - every night is a bullfight!). Corelli, like Bergonzi, shows here how to play to the gallery without damaging taste buds."
- Kenneth Meltzer, Classical CD Review
"Corelli begins in magnificent voice, holding a B-flat in Manrico's entrance for what seems an eternity. As with Bjorling, Corelli joins his Leonora for a high D-flat at the conclusion of the Act I trio. The audience loves both of these thrilling liberties with Verdi's score, as well as the interpolated high notes in 'Di quella pira', here taken down a half-step to B. But in the end it is the discipline and sensitivity aligned with these magnificent vocal gifts that make this Corelli Manrico so outstanding. But for the greater part of the Berlin/Rome TROVATORE, Corelli seeks and attains the synthesis of bel canto elegance and romantic passion that is at the heart of this great opera. I find this performance the best of the Corelli Manricos I've heard, including a 1961 Met broadcast led by Fausto Cleva, a 1962 Salzburg performance under von Karajan (both with Leontyne Price) and the 1965 EMI studio recording with Gabriella Tucci, Thomas Schippers conducting. Corelli was at his best when performing not in a studio, but rather, before appreciative audiences. In the heat of the moment, he seemed less inhibited, and inclined to give more of himself.
Most impressive are Corelli's scenes with Azucena, performed by the great Fedora Barbieri. At this stage of Barbieri's career, the high notes did not come easily. In fact she completely ducks the B-flat toward the conclusion of her Act II narrative 'Condotta ell'era in ceppi'. But there is so much that is right about Barbieri's Azucena - the wonderful diction, the rich tone, the dramatic intensity that chillingly portray the character's precarious mental state - that any shortcomings pale within the greater context. And Barbieri's great performance seems to inspire Corelli to one of his most probing and sensitive interpretations. I recommend this TROVATORE to those who believe that Franco Corelli was incapable of insight and subtlety. I'll cite but one example of the superb interplay between these two wonderful artists. After Azucena has described the burning of her own child, Manrico cries, 'I am not your son! And who am I?' Azucena insists that Manrico is her son and reminds him, 'Haven't I always been a tender mother to you?' Verdi directs that Azucena sing this phrase 'con passione', which Barbieri does, with a pleading in her voice that tugs at the heart. It certainly tugs at the heart of Corelli's Manrico, who replies, 'Can I deny it?' in a breathtaking hushed and tender voice. Time and again, Barbieri and Corelli give us such unforgettable moments. The performance begins well, with an excellent account of Ferrando's narrative by Agostino Ferrin - dramatically involved and attentive to the composer's dictates. Ettore Bastianini's well-documented di Luna has always inspired ambivalence on my part. I find the baritone's vibrant, dark, and handsome vocal quality virtually ideal for the role. Oliviero de Fabritiis leads a propulsive and well-shaped account of the score."
- Stefan Zucker, OPERA FANATIC
“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 debut was in a concert in Siena early in 1945, and his operatic debut was at the Ravenna opera as Colline in Puccini's LA BOHEME 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 debut 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 debut 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 role of Carlo Gérard in Giordano's ANDREA CHÉNIER for the first time at the Teatro Regio di Torino. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut 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 debut as a baritone at La Scala, in the title role 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 roles at the Met during this time included Amonasro, Carlo Gérard, Count di Luna, Enrico, Germont, Marcello in LA BOHEME, Rodrigo in Don Carlo, and the title role in RIGOLETTO. He later returned to the Met in the Spring of 1960 to portray several roles 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 roles 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 debut as Riccardo in Bellini's I PURITANI. In 1962, he made his Covent Garden debut 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
"Fedora Barbieri, a dramatic mezzo-soprano celebrated for Verdi interpretations that were extensively preserved on records and film, was gifted with a large, opulent voice. Miss Barbieri was of the same generation as Cesare Siepi, Giuseppe di Stefano, Boris Christoff and Jussi Bjorling. A favorite with European audiences from the 1940s on, she later won acclaim in New York, particularly for her appearances as Azucena in IL TROVATORE, AMNERIS in AIDA, ADALGISA in BELLINI'S NORMA, and in the Verdi REQUIEM.
Her 1950 New York debut itself entered opera history, coming on the night Rudolf Bing first faced his audience as the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera. He opened an era with a boldly ambitious revival of DON CARLO in which Miss Barbieri sang the role of Princess Eboli.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service had turned Bing's entire inaugural season into a cliffhanger days before the curtain rose on it. Acting under the 1950 Internal Security Act, it confined shiploads of arriving aliens on Ellis Island on the grounds that they could be threats to the United States; Miss Barbieri, Christoff and Zinka Milanov were among them.
Miss Barbieri's offense was attending school in Fascist wartime Italy, a circumstance that she stated in her visa application. She and the other soloists were freed just in time for the show to go on.
Miss Barbieri, Mr. Bjorling (in the title role) and Mr. Siepi, making his debut as Philip II, appeared in what Olin Downes of THE NEW YORK TIMES described as an occasion that revealed afresh 'the melodic opulence and dramatic power of Verdi's genius'. Miss Barbieri, he said, was a 'superb mezzo from Italy, with a kindling dramatic temperament'.
Fedora Barbieri made her professional debut in 1940 as Fidalma in Cimarosa's MATRIMONIO SEGRETO. She sang her first Azucena the next night and repeated Fidalma the night after that, a feat that quickly established her reputation in Europe as a masterly interpreter of the Italian repertory at its most demanding.
She sang in Rome, made her debut at La Scala in 1943, sang in South America and went to London with La Scala in 1950. She made an immediate impression at Covent Garden, singing Mistress Quickly in FALSTAFF, and giving one of her stirring performances in the REQUIEM.
She remained a regular at La Scala and sang at the Metropolitan primarily in the 1950s and 60s. Of her many Verdi roles, she favored Eboli in her earlier years, but later leaned toward the lower registers of Azucena and Amneris. She finally found Mistress Quickly best attuned to her voice. Her repertory included 109 roles."
- Wolfgang Saxon, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 7 March, 2003