OP3232. CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA (3 performances, 1926-43), Met Opera Ensemble, La Scala (1930) & Opera Italiana d’Olanda (7 Nov., 1938), w.Molajoli, Mascagni, etc. Cond. Dusolina Giannini, Giannina Arangi-Lombardi, Lina Bruna-Rasa, Beniamino Gigli, Antonio Melandri, Carlo Tagliabue, Gino Lulli, Afro Poli, Claramae Turner, Ida Mannarini, Rina Gallo-Toscani, Anna Kaskas, Maria Castagna, Maria Meloni; DUSOLINA GIANNINI: Cavalleria Rusticana - Voi lo sapete; Forza - Sono giunta!...Madre, pietosa Vergine; Pace, pace mio Dio!; Zueignung (Strauss); Manella mia; Believe me, if all those endearing young charms - from a 1936 Philharmonic Recital (Intermission Feature). (Canada) 3-Immortal Performances IPCD 1082, accompanied by Elaborate 46pp. Booklet with photos & notes by Henry Fogel & Richard Caniell. Transfers by Richard Caniell. [Rest assured that one will never again hear a CAVALLERIA as committed, thrilling and profoundly moving as is the Bruna-Rasa 1938 Live Performance!]
“Gathering together three great assumptions of the role of Santuzza from the 1930s, this set has huge documentary value. Collectors will surely be familiar with Richard Caniell’s previous work on the composer-directed Holland performance (Guild 2241), but even if that were the single CAVALLERIA here, [this] new release would be worth purchase. The sound is clearer, more vivid; and Lina Bruna Rasa was the composer’s favorite Santuzza, to boot. But there are two other reasons to obtain this set: Dusolina Giannini in one of Caniell’s famous composite performances (and with a few bonus tracks with Giannini thrown in for good measure), plus Giannina Arangi-Lombardi in Molajoli’s Columbia set, recorded in 1930. Thus it is that Immortal Performances’s set contains the three major types of reissue it excels at: composite (akin to the “dream casts”), live, and transfer.
The first CAVALLERIA is the composite performance. The Prelude (Met, Papi, c.1926 from a Brunswick) is given with a real sense of tendresse at its opening, with Gigli’s Serenade from an April 1940 recording as an insert. There is remarkable detail to the Prelude [and] Gigli’s contributions to this particular CAVALLERIA are always strong and focused, yet as his “Intanto, amici, qua!” shows, he can be incredibly sweet-toned. The strong Met Chorus is a real boon to Setti’s nice, flowing tempo for the opening chorus (from a Victor original); it returns under Setti for the Easter Chorus, here a masterpiece of devotion, the journey to its overwhelming climax a masterpiece of timing from the conductor. The interactions between Giannini and Claramae Turner after Santuzza’s entry (Standard Hour, 1943) carry all the power of a performance live in an opera house. Carlo Tagliabue’s “Il cavale scalpita”, from a Cetra original, is full of life. Tagliabue’s high register is impeccably strong.
Giannini’s “Voi lo sapete” returns us to the Standard Hour, a fine performance of great interior emotion that finds Giannini able to shade her voice and phrasing with kaleidoscopic imagination; this of all tracks in this performance rewards repeated listening, while the Giannini/Gigli duet “Tu qui, Santuzza” (Victor, 1932) carries huge power, not least because of Gigli’s pure vocal heft. From Gigli’s wonderful “Intanto, amici, qua!” through to the end is taken from a 1927 Vitagraph original from the Manhattan Opera House; the Met Chorus and Orchestra, listed on the label as the “Vitaphone Symphony”…the power of the combined talents of Gigli, Tagliabue, and Turner comes through, with Gigli’s cries of “Mama” being heart-wrenching. Interestingly, this Vitaphone recording was never released on commercial discs.
This is a nearly complete performance (only the Santuzza-Alfio duet is absent). That does mean there is space for a Giannini bonus, however: a supplemental “Voi lo sapete” with a rather inferior orchestra, yet imbued with great impetus from the singer; a hugely powerful “Son guinta!” with a searing top and a “Pace, pace” full of grace from Verdi’s FORZA. There follows a Milton Cross-announced New York Philharmonic concert from March 1, 1936 at which Giannini was accompanied by Edwin McArthur on piano. Her performance of Strauss’ Zueignung…is glorious. Even the piano is well captured….the way Giannini caresses the phrases is beautiful, sculpting the performance until the final climactic high note seems inevitable. If the song “Believe me, if all those endearing young charms” is sweet, it is clear Giannini believes in it; finally, and with orchestra, comes the slinky Neapolitan folksong “Manella mia” (it may bring Carmen to mind).
The second performance of CAVALLERIA is taken from the Columbia original and was recorded in 1930. Both this and the final offering feature Antonio Melandri as Turiddu. He was active at La Scala from 1926 until 1934; Richard Caniell equates his voice with that of Ramon Vinay, which should give you some sort of reference point. The Columbia is the earlier of the two performances, and Melandri’s voice is in fine fettle. His opening Serenade is strong and virile, as is his Brindisi. Molajoli is a fine steersman through this CAVALLERIA, and he can create the true spirit of the piece as well as accuracy at times (try the strings at “Fior di giaggiolo”); only his Intermezzo veers towards the tepid. A man of the theater through and through, he finds tremendous orchestral detail, often anchoring the orchestral sound from the bass up. The lower orchestral contribution propels the tension in the section from “A voi tutte, saluti”, for example. Giannina Arangi-Lombardi made only four complete operatic recordings (this is one; the others are AIDA, GIOCONDA, and Helen of Troy in MEFISTOFELE). She does seem to have the perfect voice for this repertoire. There is a slight, not unpleasant, edge to her voice which adds significantly to its expressivity. Her “Voi lo sapete” is one of the true highlights of this performance, given over a bed of glowing warmth in the strings.
Finally, we have the live composer-conducted account from Holland. The sound seems cleaner than on the Guild issue, and makes for more comfortable listening, so that the gorgeous opening (this is by far the finest of the three Preludes presented here) can really make its mark. Bells, too, are well caught….Melandri offers another superb Serenade, but the star really is the strings of Mascagni’s orchestra (of the “Opera Italiana d’Olanda”). Melandri’s strong voice has a noticeable burnished tone, almost baritonal at times, and he is at full strength (from “Tu qui, Santuzza” onwards); his final contributions in the opera are splendidly powerful dramatically. Joining Melandri is the superb Lina Bruna-Rasa, Mascagni’s own preferred Santuzza, who gives a vocally searing “Vo la sapete” (listen also to the sensitivity of the orchestra at the close of that aria). Afro Poli’s “A voi salute” is simply superb; Maria Meloni gives a fine account of Lola. The Dutch orchestra here really seems to give it all; just try the famous Intermezzo, and the gritty, perfectly unanimous attacks at the outset of climactic phrases. To have these three performances in once place offers a remarkable opportunity to explore this affecting drama in performances that hold huge historical significance.
As usual, documentation is as generous as the timings of these well-filled discs. A fascinating journey into the performance history of a major operatic masterwork.”
- Colin Clarke, FANFARE, Sept. / Oct., 2017
“Like Dusolina Giannini, Giannina Arangi-Lombardi brings impressive vocal and dramatic credentials to the role of Santuzza. The Turiddu, Antonio Melandri, has a rich and vibrant voice that is rather thickly produced. He certainly understands the role and throws himself into it wholeheartedly, but Melandri’s technique does not seem to allow for much dynamic variety or subtlety. That said, he is what we old-timers like to call “the real thing”, a singer who has both the voice and temperament for verismo opera. The remaining singers are fine, and Lorenzo Molajoli, who conducted several La Scala studio recordings, leads a performance of considerable momentum and, where appropriate, beauty and charm (the string portamentos, a souvenir of another era, are quite arresting).
A recording survives from those 1938 performances [at the Dutch Royal Theater in The Hague, in which] Mascagni led a series of CAVALLERIA performances and it makes for an intriguing comparison….it has far more of a sense of pulse and forward drive, so essential to this verismo melodrama….I’m not sure I have ever heard another artist who equals Rasa’s genius in creating a believable flesh and blood character of out Santuzza. Rasa throws herself into the drama and music with a frightening intensity. Listen, for example, to the way Rasa cries out “l’amai” (“I loved him!”) in her confession to Mamma Lucia, “Voi lo sapete”. It is the shriek of a wounded creature who has lost all hope. In 1938, Rasa was in more secure voice than for the 1940 EMI studio recording. And the mike placement for the live performance provides Rasa’s voice more space, revealing a far more attractive, equalized, and less tremulous quality. If you love CAVALLERIA, you must hear Lina Bruna Rasa’s Santuzza, and for that the 1938 Dutch performance is the [recording] to have. Antonio Melandri reprises his Turiddu, now darker and thicker of voice, and more stentorian too. Once again, there is not a great deal of subtlety to be found here - that is, until the “Addio alla Madre”, hushed, tender, and carefully sculpted, as Turiddu prepares to meet his death. Afro Poli is a particularly lively and involved Alfio, one given to extra-musical interpolations that may or may not be to your taste. Maria Meloni and Rina Gallo-Toscani are excellent as Lola and Lucia. The prompter is often quite the presence as well; again, you will need to decide whether that is a drawback. But all in all, this is a thrilling and propulsive rendition, starring a unique, once-in-a lifetime Santuzza. It belongs in any representative collection of the work.
The sonic restorations by Richard Caniell are all first-rate. He does a brilliant job of matching the sound worlds of the various sources for this Heritage Series CAVALLERIA (they span the years 1926–43) that occupies disc one. The 1930 Columbia studio recording has impressive definition and presence, allowing one to enjoy both the vocalists and the wonderful La Scala Orchestra musicians. Comparing a previous 2003 issue on the Guild label of the 1938 Dutch performance with this new Immortal Performances set reveals noticeably improved focus and equalization….
Once again, my colleague Henry Fogel provides written commentary on the artists that is a model of keen insight, erudition, the ability to communicate with music lovers spanning a wide variety of backgrounds and experience, and an obvious affection both for his subject and the art of writing. Richard Caniell contributes excellent notes on CAVALLERIA, a plot synopsis, and a discussion of the various source recordings. This first-class release offers treasured insights into a grand performance tradition that is perhaps gone forever, but thanks to concerns like Immortal Performances, never to be forgotten. Highly recommended.”
-Ken Meltzer, FANFARE, Sept. / Oct., 2017
“Pietro Mascagni himself was invited to Holland to conduct CAVALLERIA in one of the annual Italian guest seasons. One performance (November 7, 1938) was professionally recorded, although it did not circulate until the late 1960s. The composer brought with him his then-favourite Santuzza, Lina Bruna Rasa and Antonio Melandri. Rehearsal time was evidently limited but Mascagni, a highly experienced (and regularly active) conductor of music, from his beloved Beethoven symphonies to contemporary works, delivers an intensely interventionist, rubato-laden reading of his score, holding back then rushing forward with risky (but nearly always achieved) abandon. Bruna Rasa manages an ideal combination of dangerous mezzo chest-voice when threatened, utter soprano vulnerability in defence and the most resonant handling of the words. Melandri expands on his already potent performance on the Columbia 1930 studio recording. Their duet is both the wildest and the grandest yet caught on disc, the composer/conductor hanging on, seemingly for ever, to its concluding coda/transition. Afro Poli is a charismatic, sinister Alfio, given over to the buffo habit of interpolating spoken 'si's , 'no's and he even growls (after the vengeance duet) to beef up the emotion of the moment. This vital performance has unique gravitas and danger.”
- Mike Ashman, GRAMOPHONE, 2009
“Lina Bruna Rasa was an Italian operatic soprano, particularly noted for her performances in the verismo repertoire and was a favourite of Pietro Mascagni who considered her the ideal Santuzza. Bruna Rasa created the roles of Atte in Mascagni's NERONE, Cecilia Sagredo in Franco Vittadini's LA SAGREDO and saint clare in Licinio refice's 1926 oratorio, TRITTICO FRANCESCANO. she also sang the role of Tsaritsa Militarisa in the Italian première of Rimsky-Korsakov's THE TALE OF TSAR SALTAN.
Lina Bruna Rasa was born at Padua and began her music studies at age 14, studying with Guido Palumbo and Italiano Tabarin in her native Padua, and later in Milan with Manlio Bavagnoli. Her appearance in a 1925 concert at the Teatro La Fenice singing the ‘Suicidio!' from LA GIOCONDA created a sensation. By the end of that year, at the age of 18 she made her operatic début singing the role of Elena in Boito's MEFISTOFELE at the Teatro Politeama in Genoa. She made her début at the Teatro Regio in Turin in the same role on 21 February 1926, and was engaged by Toscanini to sing Elena for the opening of the 1927 season at La Scala where she made her début on 16 November 1927. She went on to sing in many notable performances there including the world premières of Mascagni's NERONE, Franco Vittadini's LA SAGREDO, the Italian première of Rimsky-Korsakov's THE TALE OF TSAR SALTAN and some of the earliest performances Wolf-Ferrari's SLY, Vincenzo Michetti's LA MADDALENA, and Respighi's LA CAMPANA SOMMERSA. In a departure from her usual repertoire, she sang Mathilde for La Scala's celebration of the 100th anniversary of Rossini's WILLIAM TELL.
In the years between 1926 and 1933, Bruna Rasa sang throughout Italy as well as in Montecarlo, Nice, Lausanne and Barcelona where she sang Aida at the city's Gran Teatre del Liceu. Further afield, she travelled to Egypt in 1927 where she sang in AÏDA and OMÒNIZA in Cairo's Teatro Reale. In 1929, she was engaged by the theatrical impresario, Faustino da Rosa, for a series of performances in South America. She made her début at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires on 14 June 1929 as Maddalena de Coigny in ANDREA CHÉNIER with Georges Thill as Chénier. She also sang there in CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA, TOSCA, and LA CAMPANA SOMMERSA in its South American première. In August, da Rosa's singers went on to Uruguay where she sang in ANDREA CHÉNIER (again with Thill) and TOSCA at the Teatro Solis in Montevideo.
Bruna Rasa's earliest assumptions of Santuzza in CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA, the role for which she is best remembered today, were in 1927 in Lausanne and Bari. The opera's composer, Pietro Mascagni, and Bruna Rasa met for the first time in Venice in July 1928 when he conducted a performance of CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA in the Piazza San Marco before a crowd of 35,000 people. Mascagni was struck by her dramatic intensity and her powerful yet beautiful voice. She was to become his favourite Santuzza. He subsequently conducted many of her performances in the role both in Italy and abroad and chose her for the 1940 recording of CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA which marked the 50th anniversary of its première. It is the only full-length studio recording of the work which is conducted by Mascagni himself.
In the early 1930s Bruna Rasa had begun showing signs of the mental illness which was to cause her premature retirement from the stage. This worsened with the death of her mother in 1935. She suffered a severe breakdown which led to her spending increasingly longer periods away from the stage, often in sanatoriums. Gino Bechi who sang with her on the 1940 CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA recording recalled that during the recording sessions she would insistently ask him if he had noticed the white horses in the wings that she believed were waiting to take her away, but would become completely lucid when the music began. The tenor Giovanni Breviario who sang with her in Lecco in 1941 recalled: ‘Her marvelous voice came to life as soon as she began her scenes. This happened only onstage. We were all very affectionate toward her, but when not on the stage, she was passive, apathetic, would not speak and remained doggedly clinging to her handbag'.
On 20 July 1942, she sang in CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA at the outdoor arena in Pesaro. It was to be her final performance in a staged opera.
Lina Bruna Rasa opened the 1927 Scala season as Elena in MEFISTOFELE, under Toscanini. That year she sang in the world premiere there of Wolf Ferrari's SLY. Mascagni chose her for the world premiere of his NERONE at La Scala (1935), for a CAVALLERIA tour in Holland, Belgium and France (1937) and for his studio recording of CAVALLERIA (1940). In 1935, after the death of her mother, she became schizophrenic and in 1937 tried to throw herself into the orchestra pit during a performance. In 1940 she was institutionalized but was released occasionally to perform. She moved Toscanini to tears at a 1947 Milan concert. After an unsuccessful comeback in 1948 she was returned to the institution. Lina Bruna Rasa spent the last 36 years of her life in a mental hospital in Milan, where she died."
- Stefan Zucker