OP0202. IRIS (Mascagni), Live Performance, 12 Sept., 1956, Torino, w.Angelo Questa Cond. RAI Ensemble; Magda Olivero, Giulio Neri, Salvatore Puma, Saturno Meletti, etc. ). (Italy) 2-Cetra 2023, w.2 elaborate libretto-brochures. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 8003927154230
"Olivero, in wonderful voice, adopts a fresh, youthful tone, and delicate form of expression. The performance is notable for its sensitivity and restraint, making the euphoria of Iris’ death scene all the more powerful. As Osaka, the young man who pursues Iris, tenor Salvatore Puma sings robustly, securely, and with some style in a role first performed by one of the most poetic of tenors, Fernando de Lucia. Saturno Meletti and Giulio Neri bring secure, powerful voices and dramatic involvement to the roles of the brothel owner Kyoto, and Iris’ blind father, Il Cieco. Soprano Amalia Oliva is lovely in the role of Dhia, the heroine of a puppet show staged to entice Iris. And Mario Carlin, a fine comprimario tenor, sings beautifully in the brief role of a ragpicker who comes upon the mortally injured Iris. Conductor Angelo Questo draws fine performances from the RAI-Torino Orchestra and Chorus, the latter accorded an ovation for the glorious ‘Hymn to the Sun’ episodes that open and close the work."
- Ken Meltzer, FANFARE, March / April, 2019
“Magda Olivero, an Italian soprano who for decades whipped audiences around the world into a frenzy of adulation that was operatic even by operatic standards began her career in Italy in the 1930s and had largely retired by 1941. Coaxed back to the stage 10 years later [by Francesco Cilča, composer of ADRIANA LECOUVREUR], she enjoyed renewed stardom in Europe and the United States. Her long second act — she made her Metropolitan Opera debut at 65 and continued to sing elsewhere for decades — was driven in no small part by the ardor of her fans. For decades, bootleg recordings of Miss Olivero’s voice, tenderly husbanded, passed from hand to covert hand among her legions of acolytes. At live performances, she took the stage to screams of ecstasy and left it to thundering ovations.
Writing in THE TIMES in 1969, Peter G. Davis reviewed Miss Olivero in her most famous role, the title part in Francesco Cilča’s ADRIANA LECOUVREUR, with the Connecticut Opera Association in Hartford. ‘Her voice is not a beautiful one by conventional standards’, he said. ‘The tight vibrato, hollow chest tone and occasionally piercing upper register are qualities that one must adjust to’. In spite of these limitations, or perhaps because of them, Miss Olivero distilled her voice and stage manner into a potent combination that many listeners found bewitching. She was often called the last of the verismo sopranos, hewing to the end of her life to an operatic tradition — grandiose, stylized, hyper-realistic and nothing if not melodramatic — that had its heyday at the turn of the 20th century in works by Leoncavallo, Mascagni and Puccini. ‘She reigns supreme, singing with an abandon and fervor that will leave you exhausted’, American Record Guide noted, approvingly, in 1997, reviewing a two-disc set of arias Miss Olivero recorded in the 1960s and ’70s. Her signature roles included the title parts in Puccini’s TOSCA, Umberto Giordano’s FEDORA and Luigi Cherubini’s MEDEA, as well as Liů in Puccini’s TURANDOT.
Where many opera stars of Miss Olivero’s day gave little heed to acting, she inhabited her characters with impassioned fervor, possessed of an onstage carriage and an array of grand gestures that could make her arias seem declaimed as much as sung. Though the instrument with which nature endowed her was not Olympian, her arduous training gave her such immense technical facility — crystalline diction, superb breath control, exquisite mastery of tone and dynamics — that she could imbue her work with a level of interpretive nuance that can elude even great singers. On Miss Olivero’s lips, as her admirers often observed, song sounded almost as natural as speech. The net effect, at once titanic and intimate, was the experience of opera in amber, for Miss Olivero was almost certainly the last avatar of the grand histrionics, and genuinely grand singing, that typified a shimmering era in which opera was pitched to the last balcony. Her impeccable technique also let her perform well into old age: She last sang in public at 99 — nearly half a century past the customary retirement age in her line of work.
Miss Olivero made her United States debut with the Dallas Civic Opera in 1967, as Medea. Sometime later, hearing her sing Tosca in Dallas, the mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne helped bring her to the Met. She made her Met debut in 1975 as Tosca, singing the role a total of three times there. She reprised the part with a Met touring company in 1979.”
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 8 Sept., 2014