OP2784. LORELEY (Catalani), Live Performance, 1968, La Scala, w.Gavazzeni Cond. La Scala Ensemble; Elena Suliotis, Gianfranco Cecchele, Piero Cappuccilli, Rita Talarico, Agostino Ferrin, etc. (Italy) 2-Living Stage 347.19. Long out-of-print, final copies! - 3830025714692
“Greek soprano Elena Suliotis (1943-2004) was a singer whose career burnt brighter and faster than most. Hailed as the likely successor to Maria Callas, it seemed as though she might fulfil that promise during a brief period in the mid-1960’s when she was in demand in all the major opera houses around the world. She turned the career-killing role of Abigaille in NABUCCO into her calling-card and further cemented her reputation by taking on such demanding roles as Verdi’s Lady Macbeth and Bellini’s Norma. But success came at a price: within less than ten years of her professional début, Suliotis’ voice was in ruins.
An electrifying performer and uninhibited artist, Suliotis brought an animal intensity to many of her performances that has rarely if ever been surpassed. She was a true creature of the stage and used her imposing presence to supplement her peculiarly individual voice, which was certainly Callas-like in its intensity of expression and its erotic frisson, but which was never as controlled in terms of real artistry. ‘We were so desperate for a replacement for Callas’, noted voal expert Ira Siff, and we were turned on by that ‘daredevil’ thing that only Callas and Suliotis could do. You really were swept away with the excitement of it to the point where you could overlook some shortcomings’.
Suliotis sang everything with thrilling and reckless abandon. Her choice of roles, too, was fearless, and she took on many of the most demanding roles in opera while still in her twenties. As a result, her voice started to deteriorate rapidly and within a few years her performances became increasingly erratic: she could be in excellent form one night and in near-disastrous form just a few nights later.
Even though Suliotis recorded only six of her roles complete, live recordings exist of almost all of her roles and it is these astonishing, electrifying performances that continue to earn her an ever-growing following. Yet, as one writer pointed out, Suliotis’ recorded output remains at once powerful and saddening: powerful in that each character comes alive like no other version on disc; shocking and saddening when we hear a voice pushed to the very limits of its capabilities and realise the brevity of a career that should’ve lasted considerably longer.
‘She just gave a 110 percent – but at what price?’ noted Ira Siff. ‘You have to ask yourself, if she hadn’t been who she was, would she have been the Elena Suliotis we remember? If she had been careful or conserved, I think not. Nobody would have cared about her’. In an age which saw ‘too many mundane and orthodox singers’, notes Alan Blyth, ‘Suliotis was a splendidly uninhibited artist’.”
- Alan Blyth
“Gianfranco Cecchele ws born in 1938 in Padua, Italy. Even as a child he showed a precocious interest in opera and operatic singing. His interest was steadfast, and by 1963, when he was 25 years old, he decided to take some voice lessons. His teachers were impressed with his vocal potential, and in the same year he won a singing contest organized by the Teatro Nuovo in Milan. His début followed quickly, and in the following year he débuted at the Teatro Bellini in Catania, in a relatively obscure work, a one-act pastoral poem by Giuseppe Mulè entitled LA ZOLFARA. Possessed of a heroic voice, however, he quickly (within the same year, actually) moved on to La Scala to sing no less than the leading role in Wagner's RIENZI! Next—and this is all in 1964—on to Rome and AÏDA. Clearly, this young tenor with a stentorian voice was making a quick and powerful impression on audiences and critics alike. In rapid succession he accumulated a repertoire that included, in addition to Rienzi and Radamès, Don Carlo, Turridu, Don Alvaro and Calaf. In the following year he appeared at the Paris Opéra, with Maria Callas, in NORMA. It is hard to imagine a more rapid rise in a very demanding repertoire, and that of course was a double-edged sword. He was, after all, only in his 20's! He reputation spread throughout Europe and he gave 241 performances between 1964 and 1969. Of course, the inevitable happened, and toward the end of the period, around '67 and '68, he seriously strained his voice, causing vocal inflammation. Too many big roles too quickly. He had to quit singing entirely at that point, at least for a while, to undergo a long and painful recuperation from swollen and seriously strained vocal musculature. After a few years, however, he was re-establishing himself, and adding some less demanding roles to his repertoire and singing less often, having learned the lesson that many tenors do. Had he displayed that wisdom earlier on, there would likely not have been an interruption in his career. Also, the fact that he sang very largely in Italy made him an opera singer who, while enormously popular there, was not much known in America. This is also the case with two other fine Italian tenors, Mario Filippeschi and Salvatore Fisichella.”
- Edmund St Austell
“Though Piero Cappuccilli never achieved international stardom, he was enormously admired within the field of opera for his rich and abundant voice, fine vocal technique and exceptional breath control. In the great Italian tradition he fused words and music into elegant phrases. He focused on Italian repertory, particularly the operas of Verdi, singing 17 major rôles. Some critics found his full-voiced singing blunt and burly. And in striving for expressive restraint, he could sometimes come across as stiff. But at his best, with his handsome physique and vocal authority, he made a powerful impact onstage.
In 1960, just three years into his professional career, he was tapped by the producer Walter Legge to sing the rôle of Enrico in a recording of LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, starring Maria Callas and conducted by Tullio Serafin. That EMI work remains a classic. In the mid-1970's, Claudio Abbado chose him for the title rôles in Verdi's SIMON BOCCANEGRA and MACBETH at La Scala. These productions led to studio recordings that remain prized by opera buffs.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 21 July, 2005