OP2598. RIGOLETTO, Live Performance, 17 June, 1952 (with commentary in Spanish), México City, w.Mugnai Cond. Palacio de Bellas Artes Ensemble; Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Piero Campolonghi, Teresa Garcia, etc. (Canada) 2-Immortal Performances 1021. Transfers, with performance mishaps corrected, by Richard Caniell. - 713757865623
“. . . Callas’ remarkable Gilda is this México City performance from the beginning of her career, which imparts a special value to this release. For serious Callas collectors, this will be self-recommending, especially when they learn that the sound is significantly superior to all prior versions of this often-released performance. Even Myto’s, which was the best CD version, is easily surpassed by Richard Caniell’s efforts for his Immortal Performances label. Pitching is spot-on throughout (something not at all the case in most earlier versions), and the sound here is cleaner, warmer, and more natural than anything that has come before.
As to the performance itself, Callas is magnificent. . . .The completeness of her rendering of the character is remarkable for so early in her career. She phrases, inflects, and colors the voice with a specificity that virtually no other artist has ever matched.
Di Stefano presents us with one of the most glorious tenor sounds in history, heard here in its best condition. But the utter lack of discipline, left free to roam in a live performance led by a weak conductor, is appalling. . . . .and he holds notes forever even if they should happen to be notably flat (the end of ‘La donna è mobile’ for instance). The audience loves it - Caniell wisely eliminates the encore of that aria, in which even the flatted note is duplicated.
Early on we hear di Stefano rushing ahead of [Mugnai], and there are minor ensemble lapses throughout. There is one that is so major that Caniell, wisely I believe, couldn’t bring himself to leave it in the final product. The scene with Sparafucile, Maddalena, and Gilda (after the famed quartet) was a wreck in the original. As Caniell notes, one can get past that in the experience of a single performance in the opera house, but one cannot live with it on repeated hearing in recorded form. So he replaced it with the same music from the EMI [version]. He did the same with Callas’ opening of ‘Tutte le feste’, in which she forgot the words in México and actually began with the second verse. Caniell explains openly what he did in his superb notes. I have no reservations about his decision at all, and he has pulled it off brilliantly, getting the EMI sound to match the México recording extremely well. He includes the Inn Scene material from the original as a bonus track, if anyone wishes to hear the mess.
Caniell’s notes about this performance, and about his approach to restoration, are a model of what kind of material should accompany historic reissues, but rarely does.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE, Nov./Dec., 2012
“Callas is in such secure voice throughout this RIGOLETTO that the radiant E-flat added to the finale comes as no surprise but seems a natural consequence of the drama….Callas takes us beyond singing, beyond theatre to a plane of realism all too rarely encountered in opera.”
- John Ardoin, THE CALLAS LEGACY, pp.51-52
“Giuseppe di Stefano possessed an especially beautiful voice. It was impossible not to be moved; he truly had the sound of tears in his voice, without being over sentimental. His wonderful piano – and his stirring voice – moved his audience almost beyond endurance.”
- Birgit Nilsson, LA NILSSON, p.116
“…there is much amazingly gorgeous, heartfelt singing [from di Stefano] and a joy in performing….It can be pure unadulterated joy for a sometimes jaded reviewer to listen to...."
- Michael Mark, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./Dec., 2009
“Mature achievement wins applause; youthful promise for some reason moistens the eyes . . . (the early recordings) of the 22 or 23 year old di Stefano might, indeed, make the angels weep. He shows quite probably the most beautiful lyric tenor voice since Gigli . . .”
– J. B. Steane