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 Björling, 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 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 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