DVD0715. Incontro con FRANCO CORELLI, incl. Songs by Bach-Gounod & Grieg; Arias & Duets (w.Tebaldi, Bastianini, Capnist & Amparán) from La Gioconda, Tosca, Pagliacci, Carmen, Rigoletto, Aïda, Il Trovatore, Forza & Otello. (Italy) Hardy 4053. Final Copy! - 8018783040535
“Over and over again one finds oneself simply astonished at the evenness of tone, the richness and the ring of the sound, and the vocal and stage presence of the singer. The contents of this disc exemplify the thrill that great opera singing can provide. Even the grainy quality of some of the video material (the Forza in particular) and the somewhat cramped monaural sound (never less than listenable) cannot dampen the enormous impact of this great tenor.
This is an oddly produced video, with some head-scratching moments, but ultimately a thrilling experience nonetheless. The one serious flaw is that the first half dozen arias and songs are reproduced here a half tone sharp. The timbre of the voice is, of course, affected by this. The OTELLO ‘Esultate’ confirms what many of us knew – that Corelli would have made a great Otello had he chosen to undertake the role, though it too is sharp.
The final hour or so consists of excerpts from filmed complete operas, correctly pitched, and what we hear is great singing. Despite the reservations, it is hard to imagine anyone who loves opera not wanting this DVD. Corelli was a controversial singer with some critics and conductors in his day, but not with most of the public. Those who took exception to the liberties that he took seemed to me to forget that the first element of a successful opera singer is the voice itself, and Corelli’s was very special. He had the ring, the squillo, of a Del Monaco but combined it with a richness and warmth of color that rarely appeared in voices of such power. The liberties he did take - holding notes, stretching phrases, floating lengthy pianissimos - were hardly without precedent, and were often employed by singers who knew and worked with the composers of the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries. The recording of an aria from ADRIANA LECOUVREUR made by Fernando de Lucia displays that kind of interpretive freedom; what makes it interesting is that composer Francesco Cilea is accompanying him at the piano, indulging in the same liberties!
One can complain that he does not sing the B-flat in the ‘Flower Song’ softly, as written. But one must also note the sensitive shading he does employ through most of that aria. Similarly his use of varying dynamics in the FORZA aria and duets shows a sensitive musician with imagination and tasteful instincts. The GIOCONDA aria is sung with Corelli standing in Venice overlooking the water, a singularly appropriate setting. The two arias from TOSCA are thrilling, with some lovely shading in the second.
The majority of scenes here come from films of the operas, either stage performances or RAI studio-made films. Almost everything is lip-synched, and not always well. Belén Amparán, the American-Mexican mezzo who sings Carmen very well here, makes a decidedly lackluster effort to match her lips to the sound. But in the end, the opportunity to see and hear one of the most thrilling tenors of the second half of the 20th century makes this almost essential for vocal collectors.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
"Franco Corelli had been singing for well over a decade when he made his Met debut in 1961 at the age of 40. The first attraction in any Corelli performance is the voice itself. Solid and evenly produced from bottom to top, with no audible seams between registers. The middle and lower parts of the voice are dark and richly colored. The top is stunningly brilliant, and never thins out or turns hard. It is a once-in-a-generation kind of voice if your generation is lucky, and in the four decades since his retirement in 1976 we have had nothing like it for visceral power. Some critics complained because Corelli would hold high notes well beyond their value in the score. But if we listen to singers from the past whose careers overlapped with the great Italian opera composers, and who often worked with them, we can easily conclude that the composers expected it. (A recording of an aria from Francesco Cilea's ADRIANA LECOUVREUR by tenor Fernando de Lucia, with the composer accompanying at the piano, exposes liberties that go far beyond anything Corelli ever did, and Cilea echoes those 'distortions' at the keyboard.)"
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE