OP0499. LUISA MILLER, Live Performance, 23 Jan., 1974, w.Erede Cond. Vienna Staatsoper Ensemble; Giuseppe Taddei, Bonaldo Giaiotti, Franco Bonisolli, Lilian Sukis, Christa Ludwig, etc. Outstanding sound quality! (Austria) 2-Orfeo C 424 784, w.Elaborate Libretto-Brochure. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 4011790784229
“Things look up with the real quality voices here of a trio of singers: Bonisolli, Ludwig and Giaiotti. The bass has a big, black, incisive sound and frankly I have never heard anything sung by Bonisolli which I do not like. He as a great tenor, huge of voice with ringing top notes but also capable of considerable delicacy despite the robustness of his basic sound. He interpolates an easy, beautiful top D-flat at the end of his big aria - stunning. Ludwig’s vibrato is rather more pronounced here than is usual but the expressive and tonal variety she displays is most winning; she makes a real character out of Federica, who can come across as bland. I was unfamiliar with Lithuanian-Canadian soprano Lilian Sukis but she is part of a distinguished cast here under a conductor who knew his Verdi inside-out. She has a light, slightly shrill sound - pleasant and flexible but of no great distinction, somewhat lacking in heft and tonal variety.
The sound is excellent, live stereo - apart from the opening Sinfonia, and becomes so full and clear it could be digital, providing an open, atmospheric, well-balanced acoustic redolent of live theatre. I want this [primarily] for Bonisolli and Ludwig.”
- Ralph Moore, MusicWebInternational
"Bonaldo Giaiotti became a fixture at the Metropolitan Opera where he sang more than 400 performances from 1960 to 1989, mainly in Italian operas. He also performed in other major houses, including the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House in London, the Teatro Real in Madrid and the Zurich Opera. He was a special favorite at the Arena di Verona, where he appeared for more than 30 seasons.
Oddly, Mr. Giaiotti did not make his debut at La Scala until 1986, probably because of all the time he spent in New York earlier in his career. But he did make a notable Italian debut in 1973, when he appeared in Verdi's I VESPRI SICILIANI to open the Teatro Regio in Turin in a production directed by Maria Callas.
Mr. Giaiotti performed stalwart duty at the Met at a time when both the Met and its Lincoln Center neighbor, New York City Opera, served up a cornucopia of great basses, among them Cesare Siepi, Jerome Hines, Nicolai Ghiaurov and Samuel Ramey. While Mr. Giaiotti may have been outshone by the big names of his generation, keen opera observers knew his value. In 1974 the critic Peter G. Davis, writing in THE NEW YORK TIMES, called him 'outstanding' in his two arias on an RCA recording of Halevy's LA JUIVE, numbers that 'almost every golden age bass of any consequence recorded. I can't think of many other contemporary singers in his range who possess such columnar solidity over two full octaves', Mr. Davis wrote. 'Giaiotti inflects the words with real majesty'.
No matter the assignment, Robert Lombardo, a former manager, said by email Mr. Giaiotti stood out for his 'consistency and class', both stylistically and vocally.
Mr. Giaiotti was a basso cantante, according to the classification of vocal connoisseurs. That is, his voice was lighter and more agile than a basso profondo. Critics described his voice as resonant, firm, sonorous and rock-solid.
Rudolf Bing, the Met's imperial general manager, was returning from a vacation in the Dolomite mountains in Italy when he stopped off in Milan to discover new voices, as he regularly did. He heard Mr. Giaiotti and hired him for the 1960-61 season, slotting him to make his debut as Zaccaria in Verdi's NABUCCO on the season's opening night - the first time the Met had put on that opera. Mr. Giaiotti went on to sing 29 roles in 28 operas at the house.
Mr. Giaiotti sang into his 80s, giving one of his last performances, at the Casa Verdi, a singers' retirement home in Milan, in 2015. It was a rendition of 'Ol Man River'."
- Daniel J. Wakin, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 19 June, 2018
"Franco Bonisolli had the most thrilling tenor voice in the theatre despite his often over singing in IL TROVATORE. I heard him as Manrico twice in Salzburg, under Karajan, and what a 'Di quella pira'! His L'AFRICAINE at Covent Garden showed a more subtle side to his singing. How sad that he had the misfortune to die on the same day as Corelli."
- Leslie Austin, New Zealand
“Christa Ludwig, who poured a lustrous voice into dramatically taut performances of opera roles - especially those of Mozart, Strauss and Wagner - and intimately rendered art songs as one of the premier mezzo-sopranos of the second half of the 20th century, commanded a broad range of the great mezzo-soprano parts, including Dorabella in Mozart’s COSÌ FAN TUTTE, Cherubino in his LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, Octavian in Strauss’ DER ROSENKAVALIER, Bizet’s Carmen and numerous Wagner roles. Often, critics were reduced to calling her the greatest mezzo-soprano of her time. But like many mezzos, Ms. Ludwig strove to lay claim to higher-voiced - and higher-profile - soprano roles. So she took on, most successfully in that category, characters including the Marschallin in DER ROSENKAVALIER, the Dyer’s Wife in DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN and Leonore in Beethoven’s FIDELIO. She was an equal master of the intimate song - especially the works of Brahms, Mahler and Schubert. Her artistry put her in the pantheon of postwar lieder singers that included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Elly Ameling and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.
Ms. Ludwig made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Cherubino (a trouser role, a type she said was not her favorite) in 1959, took on Octavian and Amneris in Verdi’s AIDA at the house that year as well and sang regularly at the Met until the end of her career. But onstage, Ms. Ludwig brought a striking combination of acting ability, charisma and vocal beauty. Her voice had range and power, a security through all the registers and a broad array of colors.
‘Her unmistakable, deep-purple timbre envelops the listener in a velvet cloak’, Roger Pines wrote in OPERA NEWS in 2018, reviewing her collected recordings. ‘She excelled equally in intimate, legato-oriented lieder and the largest-scale operatic repertoire, where her sound expanded with glorious brilliance’. Critics often took note of her wit and comic deftness, and a personality that could fill a hall even when she sang softly. ‘Her presence on the Met stage was a synthesis of the dramatic arts all by itself - her voice, her wonderfully natural diction and her shadings of facial expression and gesture all conspiring to express with great emotional breadth the singular message of this singular music’, THE NEW YORK TIMES critic Bernard Holland wrote of a ‘Winterreise’ performance in 1983. Ms. Ludwig sang that searing Schubert song cycle some 72 times, even though it was composed for a male voice.
She met the bass-baritone Walter Berry at the Vienna opera in 1957 when they were cast in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO. They married three months later and had a son, Wolfgang. The couple frequently appeared together in operas and joint recitals. In interviews, Ms. Ludwig said they felt occasional rivalry and were at odds in preparing for performances. The couple divorced in 1970, though they continued to perform together. (Mr. Berry died in 2000.) Soon after her divorce, Ms. Ludwig met the actor and stage director Paul-Emile Deiber while he was preparing a production of Massenet’s WERTHER at the Met, and they married in 1972. He died in 2011.
In the realm of song, critics took note of her sensitivity, smooth lines, intimacy, control and mastery of the text. ‘She is perhaps the reigning feminine expert at making us feel good about lonely teardrops and thwarted bliss’, THE TIMES critic Donal Henahan wrote in 1979.”
- Daniel J. Wakin, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 25 April, 2021