OP0007. AGNESE DI HOHENSTAUFEN (Spontini), Live Performance, 6 May, 1954, w.Gui Cond. Teatro Comunale Ensemble, Firenze; Lucille Udovich, Franco Corelli, Francesco Albanese, Enzo Mascherini, Giangiacomo Guelfi, Anselmo Colzani, Dorothy Dow, etc. (Italy) 2-Myto 042.H084. Long out-of-print, final copies! - 8014399500845
"Many years of labor went into Spontini's final stage work. It was first performed in 1829 and given in a much-revised edition in 1837. With its huge orchestra, vast cast, and the subordination of set arias to massive and extended ensembles, it broke with all conventions. It was ahead of its time and clearly influenced many later composers, including Meyerbeer and Wagner. Unfortunately, it did not please its early audiences. Following those initial outings, it languished unheard until its 1954 Florence revival, drastically abridged. Although strongly criticized at the time, mainly on dramatic grounds, the production finally revealed the unique quality of the work and its vital importance in the development of 19th Century neoclassical romantic opera. Ignoring the overblown nature of the libretto, there is much of musical worth, and a fine collection of star soloists does justice to the melodic, intense and sometimes frenetic vocal writing.
There is one other recording on CD taken from a Muti-conducted RAI broadcast of 1970, with Montserrat Caballé. Guelfi reprised his role but in slightly less refulgent voice. The sound may be stereophonic and richer, and conducting laurels remain even; but Gui has, CaballĂ© excepted, somewhat finer soloists. Not least of these is the young Franco Corelli, heard here already experimenting with the variety of nuance and dynamic that was to become one of his most admired characteristics.
...a version of this seminal score should be in the collection of anyone interested in 19th Century romantic opera and fine singing."
- Vivian A Liff, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./ Dec., 2004
"Udovich was born in Denver, Colorado, and grew up in California. She appeared in a series of concerts around Milan, and then moved to Rome, where she remained for the rest of her life. Beniamino Gigli invited her to perform with him in one of his last concert tours in Italy. Udovich made her opera debut in Spontini's AGNESE DI HOHENSTAUFEN [above] in 1954 at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino with Franco Corelli and Giangiacomo Guelfi, conducted by Vittorio Gui. She inaugurated a second festival with ANTIGONE by the baroque composer Tommaso Traetta. She made other appearances with the Santa Cecilia Orchestra in Bartok's BLUEBEARD'S CASTLE, in Verdi's REQUIEM, and Rossini's PETITE MESSE SOLENNELLE; and with the RAI Orchestra in PETER GRIMES and Britten's WAR REQUIEM, and Schonberg's GURRE-LIEDER. Udovich performed in the Rome Opera, Comunale of Florence, Fenice of Venice, and the San Carlo of Naples. At the Glyndebourne Festival Opera she sang Elettra in Mozart's IDOMENEO. She was invited to Torre del Lago for the 100th anniversary of Puccini. She is best remembered for a TURANDOT with Franco Corelli telecast by RAI in 1958. Her career was halted because of back problems she had encountered. She died in Rome, aged 69."
- Z. D. Akron
"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