OP0057. IL FILOSOFO DI CAMPAGNA (Galuppi), recorded 1956, w.Fasano Cond. I Virtuosi di Roma;
Anna Moffo, Elena Rizzieri, Rolando Panerai, Andreolli & Petri. (Austria) Testament SBT 1195. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 749677119522
“IL FILOSOFO DI CAMPAGNA (The Country Philosopher) is a dramma giocoso per musica in 3 acts by composer Baldassare Galuppi. The opera uses an Italian language libretto by Carlo Goldoni. The work premiered at the Teatro San Samuele in Venice on 26 October, 1754. IL FILOSOFO DI CAMPAGNA, which has been defined a ‘masterly opera’, obtained a great success, with many performances throughout Europe.”
“Rolando Panerai, an Italian baritone who sang more than 150 roles at leading international opera houses, made many classic recordings and appeared frequently with the celebrated soprano Maria Callas in her prime, was widely admired throughout a 65-year operatic career for his full-bodied sound and the elegance of his singing. Steeped in the Italian vocal heritage, he sang with supple phrasing and evenness throughout his entire vocal range. If not the most charismatic presence onstage, he readily conveyed authority and dramatic depth and brought a light comedic touch to the title roles of Puccini’s GIANNI SCHICCHI and Rossini’s THE BARBER OF SEVILLE, among many other characters. Though his repertory was extensive, Mr. Panerai focused closely on Italian opera. Earlier in his career, he sang several German roles in Italian translation, like Amfortas in Wagner’s PARSIFAL.
Outlining the requisite qualities of a true ‘Verdi baritone’ in an interview earlier this year with Classical Singer magazine, Mr. Panerai essentially described his own voice: ‘a dark brownish tint like bronze’ coupled with ‘the quality of the metal, which reminds us of the power and strength’. In a 1996 interview with Bruce Duffie for WNIB, a former classical music radio station in Chicago, Mr. Panerai cautioned younger singers about being ‘dragged into’ the characters they portray. ‘I am used to acting with a certain detachment or coldness’, he said. By acting that way ‘you can act better’, he asserted, and more effectively convey ‘what the composer has to say’.
Famous from his recordings and busy in Europe, Mr. Panerai had a lower profile on American opera stages. Mr. Panerai singing Figaro in a production of THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO at the San Francisco Opera in 1958. Famous from his recordings and busy in Europe, Mr. Panerai had a lower profile on American opera stages.
His performances sounded anything but detached. On a 1955 live recording of Donizetti’s LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, a production at the Berlin State Opera conducted by Herbert von Karajan starring Callas, Mr. Panerai holds his own in every gripping moment of the confrontation between his character, Enrico, the head of a Scottish estate in severe decline, and Callas’ Lucia, Enrico’s tormented sister, whom he is trying to force into an advantageous marriage to save the family from ruin. Callas sounds frantic and dazed by her brother’s bullying. Yet below the surface bluster of Mr. Panerai’s Enrico, you hear the panic of a prideful young man who needs his fragile sister to rescue him. Mr. Panerai sang often with Callas during the 1950s, the most important decade of her career, and made several treasured opera recordings with her, including versions of Bellini’s I PURITANI, Verdi’s IL TROVATORE and Puccini’s LA BOHÈME. He called Callas ‘the greatest singer I ever listened to or worked with’ in the 1996 interview.
In 1972, 16 years after the BOHÈME with Callas, Mr. Panerai recorded the role of Marcello, this time with Mirella Freni as Mimì, Luciano Pavarotti as Rodolfo and Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic. It is the BOHÈME of choice for many Puccini-lovers.
He sang one of his signature roles, Ford in FALSTAFF, on three acclaimed recordings: with Karajan conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra of London in 1956; with Leonard Bernstein leading the Vienna Philharmonic in 1966; and again with Karajan, in 1980, also leading the Vienna Philharmonic. The critic Peter G. Davis, reviewing the last version for THE NEW YORK TIMES, wrote that Mr. Panerai’s ‘dark, vibrant, firm, slightly dry tone has changed remarkably little with age, nor has his characteristic nobility of expression, incisive diction and elegant feeling for Verdian phrases deserted him’.
Rolando Panerai was born the youngest of three brothers on Oct. 17, 1924, in Campi Bisenzio, near Florence. His father, Oreste, ran a shoe factory. His mother was Ada (Paoli) Panerai. Rolando was drawn to music early. He studied at the academy in Florence, continued his training in Milan and made his stage debut in 1946 as Enrico in “Lucia di Lammermoor” at the theater in his hometown.
He never appeared at the Metropolitan Opera, though he was offered some engagements early in his career. But by then he had a family and wanted to stay closer to home. He continued to sing, as well as coach and, in later years, direct operas, through his 70s. In 2011, at 87, he sang the title role of GIANNI SCHICCHI in Genoa. Mr. Panerai attributed his longevity to sensible work habits, giving up smoking in his 20s and eating a Mediterranean diet. He advised younger singers to focus on their artistry and not obsess about a career. ‘It is best to sing well and not become bigheaded’, he said in 1996. ‘The rest comes all by itself’.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 30 Oct., 2019
“Anna Moffo, an American soprano who was beloved for her rosy voice, dramatic vulnerability and exceptional beauty, was drawn early on into television and film, playing host of her own variety show on Italian television for many years. She might not have fulfilled her promise, but for a good dozen years Ms. Moffo enjoyed enormous success and won a devoted following at a time when her competition for roles like Verdi's Violetta, Puccini's Mimi and Donizetti's Lucia included Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi and Joan Sutherland. Though Ms. Moffo's voice was not large, it was warm and rich, with soft pastel colorings and a velvety lower range. Agile coloratura technique allowed her to sing high soprano bel canto repertory impressively, especially LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR. She was a thoroughly trained musician, having studied the piano and viola when she was a voice major on scholarship at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
Her RCA recording of LA TRAVIATA, with Richard Tucker and Robert Merrill, is still prized for the subtlety and pathos she brings to her portrayal of Violetta. Still, her career could be seen as a cautionary tale about doing too much too soon. In 1954 she entered and won the Philadelphia Orchestra Young Artists Auditions. Awarded a Fulbright fellowship, she went to Rome to study voice, master the Italian language and train for opera.
Ms. Moffo made her stage opera debut in 1955 as Norina in Donizetti's DON PASQUALE in Spoleto. Her big breakthrough came the next year, when she starred in a television production of Puccini's MADAMA BUTTERFLY, directed by Mario Lanfranchi, a producer for RCA Victor and RAI. She and Mr. Lanfranchi married in 1957. Sensing her star potential, he pushed her too hard. Recalling this period in a 1977 interview, Ms. Moffo lamented that she sang an average of 12 new roles a year for the first four years of her career, all star parts. ‘I was working too hard and traveling too much’, she said. ‘I got mixed up in TV, films, things like that. Psychologically, I was miserable, always away, always alone’.
Her Met debut in 1959 was as Violetta in LA TRAVIATA. The reviews, though encouraging, were cautious. Ms. Moffo soon became a favorite at the Met, and remained so well into the 1960s. She appeared some 200 times with the Company, including her portrayal of Liù in the legendary production of Puccini's TURANDOT in 1961 that starred Birgit Nilsson and Franco Corelli. By the late 1960s, her voice was often unreliable. In his book THE AMERICAN OPERA SINGER, the critic Peter G. Davis writes of a now infamous 1969 Saturday afternoon broadcast performance of LUCIA at the Met. Rudolf Bing, the general manager, was so dismayed by her singing that he considered stopping the performance before Lucia's daunting ‘mad scene’ was broadcast to millions. That same year, Ms. Moffo caused a scandal in Italy when she appeared to be nude in a scene in the film UNA STORIA D'AMORE. In later years she insisted that she had not been totally unclothed.
In 1972 she and Mr. Lanfranchi divorced. Two years later she married Robert W. Sarnoff, the chairman of RCA, who was enthralled with his glamorous wife. Under Mr. Sarnoff, RCA built a promotional campaign around her, including an ill-advised recording of Massenet's THAÏS, with Ms. Moffo in the title role. The reviews, predictably, were very poor. For a brief time, though, Ms. Moffo was a lovely singer and appealing artist who broke out of the traditional career mode to reach the larger public. ‘You may not like what I do’, she said in a 1972 interview, ‘but you can't say I'm dull’."
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 11 March, 2006