V1438. ANNA MOFFO, w.di Stefano, Labò, Valletti, Bergonzi, Tucker, etc.; Leibowitz, Prêtre, Previtali & Leinsdorf Cond.: Manon, Manon Lescaut, La Traviata, Madama Butterfly, Lucia & La Boheme, - Excerpts. (England) 2-Testament Stereo SBT2 1420, recorded 1957-65. Final copy! - 749677142025
"This re-release brings together a mélange of performances starring the late Anna Moffo recorded between 1958 and 1966, when her voice was at its loveliest. Moffo's soprano was a good-sized, creamy lyric with terrific agility and an upper extension including a high E-flat. It was expressive enough to cover many emotions, but while she was a conscientious vocal actress, she came short of plumbing any great depths. She was absolutely beautiful and both her Violetta and Lucia benefited from her stunning stage presence; indeed, they were probably her best roles. Her Violetta lacked only some gravitas for the outbursts in the second and third acts. Similarly her Butterfly, as recorded complete (from which the lengthy Love Duet is presented here), benefits from having a light-voiced (and ravishing) Cesare Valletti as her Pinkerton and Erich Leinsdorf leading a small-scaled reading. I don't believe she ever sang Puccini's Manon Lescaut on stage; it would have been too large for her, and I think Butterfly was a role she only sang in the studio as well.
But this is a very fine collection, with two hours and 25 minutes of music to enjoy, and it is a good testament (no pun intended) to Moffo's charm and art. Her French Manon is just the right combination of insinuating and innocent, and she pulls out the on-the-nose high notes for the Cours de la Reine scene; she's also very moving and convincing in her seduction of Des Grieux in the Church. Giuseppe di Stefano is her partner in these excerpts, recorded late in his career (1964), and while his ardency and passion are most welcome, the voice whitens and strains at the top at forte, and his pianissimo singing is a crooning falsetto. But if you love him you overlook such things. In the Puccini Manon, Moffo is best early on: she exudes charm in Act 1, she gets the sadness of "In quelle trine morbide", and she's wonderful in the love duet. By Act 3 the music is heavier (though it's nice to hear such clean, clear high Cs) and she sounds a bit pressed from there on--but overall, it's a nice portrayal. Here the Des Grieux is the underrated and under-recorded Flaviano Labo, sounding virile and singing with absolute security, a slight yelp on the high B-flat at the close of the duet notwithstanding. Baritone Robert Kerns is a good Lescaut. René Liebowitz is better at leading the French Manon than the Italian--the latter is too soft-edged.
The Alfredo/Violetta duet from Traviata's last act is warmly sung by both Moffo and an unusually sensitive Richard Tucker, and the aforementioned Cesare Valletti partners Moffo beautifully in the Butterfly Love Duet under Leinsdorf. It's good to hear Carlo Bergonzi in the Lucia duet, and a nice surprise comes near its close when Moffo takes a high E-flat and Bergonzi a high C (it's written the other way around, but let's not push our luck). The program closes with Tucker joining Moffo, again quite insightfully, in the closing moments from the first act of Bohème, in which he (happily) lets her take the high C alone and does the correct, harmonic thing. The sonics vary, with the Bohème sounding as if recorded in a tile bathroom. In short, Moffo fans need not be convinced; others will be won over by her naturalness and the sheer beauty of her tone."
-Robert Levine, Classics Today.com, October, 2008
"Soprano Anna Moffo was born in Pennsylvania in 1932 of Italian parents. After a period at the Curtis Institute, she went back to her ancestral homeland to study in Perugia and Rome. She made her début in 1955 at Spoleto, as Norina in DON PASQUALE, but her big break came when she starred as Cio-Cio-San in MADAMA BUTTERFLY in a production broadcast on RAI. She became an overnight celebrity, with performances at Salzburg, Vienna, La Scala, and Naples, performing with Callas, di Stefano and Panerai, and making recordings with Karajan. She made her Met début in 1959 as Violetta, one of her signature roles."
- Ned Ludd