V1688. GEMMA BELLINCIONI: Complete Recordings, incl. Arias from Cavalleria, Fedora, Mefistofele, La Traviata, Tosca, Carmen, Mignon, La Boheme, Faust & Otello recorded 1903-05; BICE MILILOTTI: Songs by Tosti, Denza & Mascagni; Arias & Duets (w.Francesco Marconi) from Roméo, LAmico Fritz, Martha, Lucrezia Borgia,Il Guarany & The Geisha (Jones), recorded 1904 & 1907. (Germany) Truesound Transfers 3039. Transfers by Christian Zwarg.
Matilda Cesira was Bellincioni's real name. She was born in Monza, Italy, in 1864. Both her parents were singers, and after receiving training from them, she made her operatic début in Naples in 1880. She went on to sing extensively in Europe and South America during the next two decades, although she would appear only once in London (at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1895). Despite her fame, she never performed at the United States of America's foremost operatic venue, the Metropolitan Opera.
Italy's leading composer, Giuseppe Verdi, admired Bellincioni's acting ability. Verdi heard her in 1886 when she performed Violetta in his opera LA TRAVIATA at La Scala, Milan. Evidently, however, he was not so impressed by her vocal technique because he did not cast her to sing Desdemona at the première of OTELLO the following year. Bellincioni's intense histrionic manner and arresting stage presence were to prove ideally suited to an ardent new style of Italian opera known as verismo, which became popular during the 1890s. She sang this type of music with great passion, although her actual voice was neither ripe in tone nor particularly large.
On 17 May 1890, she created the rôle of Santuzza in Mascagni's landmark verismo work CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA when it premièred in Rome. (Her husband, the Sicilian tenor Roberto Stagno, sang opposite her in the rôle of Turiddu at that same performance: they had married in Argentina in 1886.) She was also the first soprano to perform the title rôle in another key verismo opera, Giordano's FEDORA, on 17 November 1898. (Her tenor partner on this occasion was a promising young singer named Enrico Caruso.) Eight years later, she starred in the Italian première of Richard Strauss' SALOME. She retired from the stage in 1911 to teach singing, but re-emerged in 1916 to play the lead female part in a silent-film version of CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA that was directed by Ugo Falena. Bellincioni's voice can still be heard on a few recordings issued by the Gramophone & Typewriter Company and Pathé in the early 1900's. She was past her best when she made them, but they are considered to be of major historical interest because her career was so significant.
- Ned Ludd
[Truesound] transfers have been an absolute revelation to me
.Amazingly, Christian Zwarg has managed to unlock the sound of these recordings in such a way as to present [voices] such as I have never heard before. Here the sound has a sheen and glow which is quite beautiful. It is as if an old masterpiece painting has been cleaned and restored, allowing rays of brilliant light to emerge
- Davyd Booth, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2012