OP0277. SAFFO (Pacini), Live Performance, 7 April, 1967, Teatro San Carlo, Napoli, w.Capuana Cond. Teatro San Carlo Ensemble; Leyla Gencer, Franca Mattiucci, Tito del Bianco, Louis Quilico, etc. (Italy) 2-Hunt 541, w..Libretto-Brochure. Very long out-of-print, Final ever-so-slightly used copy!
"This live performance celebrating the centenary of Pacini's death was first issued many years ago on LP by MRF….In FANFARE 20:5, Henry Fogel reviewed the only competitive recording of this opera, a live performance from the Wexford Festival in 1995 on the Marco Polo label. Fogel wrote: ‘Members of the relatively small but fanatically devoted group of admirers of the Turkish soprano Leyla Gencer will be familiar with this opera through its only prior recording, a pirated affair from a 1967 Naples revival. That performance suffers from some cuts, uneven casting, somewhat lumpish and unvaried conducting, and monaural broadcast sound, but it has the undeniable attraction of a true diva in the title role. Gencer was at her best on that night, floating lovely soft high notes and singing with passion and intensity, as was her wont’. Gencer is the principal reason for acquiring this recording. The sound is passable; the booklet contains a brief synopsis. Capuana conducts with a sense of the style required."
- Bob Rose, FANFARE
“Leyla Gencer was at an early stage of her all-too-short career in 1967, having just made grand splashes as two other classical figures: Norma and Alceste. Her voice was a peculiar one, dark and rather hooty, but it is worth coming to terms with for she was a remarkable vocal tragedienne. When she finally reaches her great final scena, which is at once an epithalamium for her sister's marriage and a dirge for her own impending suicide, Gencer is deeply thrilling.”
- David Johnson
"This release of a live Naples performance of Giovanni Pacini's rarely performed masterpiece, SAFFO, is on the old Hunt Productions label, and is long out of print. The performance is incredible, and all the principals - save for the pinched-voiced tenor Tito di Bianco, acquit themselves well, and Leyla Gencer, 'the queen of the pirates', is truly magnificent. Her performance here is topped only, just barely, by one of the Caballé live relays from twenty years later.
The opera is quite undeservedly neglected today. Old recordings from the turn of the 20th century offer a faint echo (e.g., the great Eugenia Burzio, etc.) of the fame this opera once enjoyed."
- Boyd Cathey
“If it weren't for a period in 1840-1845 when he rose to the top of the heap, then Italian composer Giovanni Pacini would be remembered as an also-ran opera composer from the time of Giacchino Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti. Born to an operatic tenor, Pacini was placed on a path that would have led him to the service of sacred music and studied composition in Bologna from the tender age of 12. However, he composed his first opera at age 17 and the second, ANNETTA E LUCINDO, was heard in Milan in October 1813. These early efforts proved the first rivulets of an eventual flood of opera from Pacini's pen; by the time he finally laid it down 54 years later, Pacini had composed more than 80 of them.
Before 1820 Pacini primarily composed comic operas, but began to experiment with opera seria from about 1817 and after 1821 produced only the latter until the end. When his rival and idol Rossini dropped out of the Neapolitan theater in 1822, Pacini replaced him and enjoyed a taste of success with the serious operas ALESSANDRO 'NELL INDIE (1824) and L'ULTIMO GIORNO DI POMPEI (1825). Nonetheless, by 1830, Pacini began to feel the heat of competition from Bellini and Donizetti and after a long string of failures he retired from opera to pursue the sacred composition he'd abandoned in his youth.
From 1839 Pacini went through a period of re-assessment, and in 1840 produced the opera SAFFO in collaboration with librettist Salvatore Cammarano, which proved his greatest and most lasting success and strongly influenced the work of Giuseppe Verdi. In the following years, Pacini enjoyed several more hits, including MEDEA (1843) and MARIA D'INGELTERRE (aka, MARIA TUDOR, 1843). By 1846 Verdi's stocks were rising in the opera world, and by his own admission, Pacini began to fall back on older working methods about the same time. His last hit was IL SALTIMBANCO (1858).
Pacini wrote a valuable autobiography, LE MIE MEMORIE ARTISTICHE (1865), and was renowned as a teacher, holding posts in Lucca and Parma even as he cranked out operas by the dozens. He composed oratorios, masses, cantatas, and other sacred choral works in abundance, and in his old age managed to find the time to turn his attention to instrumental music, as well, most significantly in the symphony ‘Sinfonia Dante’ for piano and orchestra (1863)”
- Uncle Dave Lewis, allmusic.com