OP0039. CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA, w.Leonie Rysanek, Placido Domingo, Astrid Varnay, Benito di Bella & Ruth Falcon;
PAGLIACCI, w.Placido Domingo, Teresa Stratas, Benito di Bella, Norbert Orth, Wolfgang Brendel, etc. - (both w.Nello Santi Cond. Bayerischen Staatsoper Ensemble) - Live Performance, 25 Dec., 1978. (Germany) 2-Orfeo C 845 1221, w.Elaborate Libretto-Brochure. Final Sealed Copy! - 4011790845227
“ORFEO's live recording documents opening night at the Munich National Theatre on Christmas Day 1978, with Mascagni's CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA and Leoncavallo's PAGLIACCI, which once again allows listeners to share in the excitement of the occasion. Leonie Rysanek and Placido Domingo truly shine on this recording.”
- BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2012
“On the basis of this live recording, the evening clearly belonged to Domingo....As Turiddu his tone is consistently golden...Canio's big solos are beautifully sung... Rysanek is a brooding, dark-toned Santuzza….[Brendel] has precisely the warm tone, soaring top and effortless flow of legato that Silvio requires. Stratas' voice startles the ear with its pungency and immediacy in her role's initial phrases."
- GRAMOPHONE, January 2013
“An exciting CAVALLERIA. This is surely Domingo's more convincing part of the two. Varnay's veteran Lucia is riveting...In PAGLIACCI, Stratas, predictably, is sensational - she IS the drama. Domingo is never less than solidly there vocally but tends to over-sentimentalise.”
- INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW, November 2012
"The dramatic soprano Astrid Varnay was born into an operatic family: her mother was a coloratura soprano and her father a spinto tenor. The year in which she was born they founded the Opera Comique Theatre in Kristiania, Sweden, although they were both born in Hungary, and they managed it until 1921.The family then moved to Argentina and later to New York, where her father died in 1924. Her mother subsequently remarried another tenor, and the young Astrid, after studying to be a pianist, decided at the age of eighteen to become a singer. She worked intensively, first with her mother and then with the Metropolitan Opera conductor and coach Hermann Weigert, whom she later married. She made her sensational stage début at the Metropolitan in 1941, substituting at short notice for Lotte Lehmann as Sieglinde in DIE WALKÜRE with no rehearsal. After this triumph, six days later she replaced Helen Traubel in the same opera as Brünnhilde, and her operatic career was effectively launched. She made her Covent Garden début in 1948 and, at the suggestion of Kirsten Flagstad, her Bayreuth Festival début in 1951. She sang every year at Bayreuth for the next seventeen years and at the Met until 1956, when she left following a disagreement with Rudolf Bing. She henceforth concentrated her career on Germany where she was revered, living in Munich. She moved from the dramatic soprano repertoire into that for mezzo-soprano in 1969, and during the 1980s into character parts. She made her last appearance in Munich in 1995, almost fifty-five years after her Metropolitan début. Her brilliant career is well documented in both commercial and unofficial sound recordings."
- David Patmore
“Nello Santi, a conductor who was one of the most authoritative interpreters of Italian opera, especially the works of Giuseppe Verdi, and a podium favorite of singers and orchestra players, upheld a traditionalist approach that called for close adherence to the score and a gentle but firm insistence that singers avoid exaggerated flights of coloratura and prolonged showstopping high notes. At his best, he achieved great clarity from his musicians, conducting scores with insight and a deep understanding of voices. Orchestras under his direction rarely drowned out singers, even those with lighter voices.
Mr. Santi was a favorite of audiences at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where he led close to 400 performances from 1962 to 2000, overwhelmingly of operas by Puccini and Verdi. Musicians and singers referred to him affectionately as ‘Papa Santi’ and complained that New York critics underrated him. Reviews of Mr. Santi improved markedly in his later appearances at the Met, as appreciation grew for his loyalty to the old ways. ‘Only recently’, Mr. Crutchfield wrote in 1988, ‘now that capable, secure and idiomatic conducting of the standard Italian repertory is no longer to be taken for granted, have some observers begun to be curious about what goes into it’.
Mr. Santi did not limit himself to Italian composers. He once claimed that Richard Wagner was one of ‘the cults of my life’. But he reserved his greatest affection for Verdi. He could recall the most minute details of Verdi operas, citing phrases and chords that the composer often repeated with slight variations in his many works. As a traditionalist, Mr. Santi identified with Arturo Toscanini’s style of conducting Italian operas, especially his approach to bel canto. Like Toscanini, he tried to strike a balance with singers, allowing them to shape phrases without taking excessive liberties. Thus, a duet from LA TRAVIATA conducted by Toscanini could last a minute less than the same duet in a performance led by later conductors who gave the soprano and tenor freer rein. Mr. Santi embraced the older, more restrained and less popular approach. He frequently bemoaned what he considered Italy’s diminished role in the opera world, citing a decline in music schools, especially in the provinces, and a sharp reduction in the broadcast of classical music and opera. Because Italian conductors no longer served long apprenticeships covering every aspect of opera performances, he asserted, they had become too focused on the orchestra. ‘Conductors today do not love song and they do not understand theater’, he said. Singers responded enthusiastically to Mr. Santi’s direction. Plácido Domingo, who recorded often with Mr. Santi and made frequent stage appearances under his direction, repeatedly praised him in interviews. Musicians hailed his virtuosity. ‘Nello Santi could sing any Italian opera vocal role from memory while conducting’, Les Dreyer, a retired violinist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, wrote in a letter to THE TIMES in 2008. ‘And he would astound the orchestra at rehearsals by singing any instrumental passage, from memory, with a robust tenor voice’.
In Mr. Santi’s later years, critics were finally won over by his commitment to the Italian operatic tradition. Reviewing a performance of RIGOLETTO at the Met in 1984, Mr. Crutchfield hailed Mr. Santi’s feeling for the pulse and pacing of the opera, writing: ‘His is one of the last of that older generation of Italians who seem instinctively able to make an opera like this work. Grazie, maestro’.”
- Jonathan Kandell, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 6 Feb, 2020