L'Heure Espagnole  (Ravel)   (Fournet;  Berganza, Kraus, Bruscantini)    (Living Stage 1115)
Item# OP0525
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L'Heure Espagnole  (Ravel)   (Fournet;  Berganza, Kraus, Bruscantini)    (Living Stage 1115)
OP0525. L'HEURE ESPAGNOLE (Ravel), Live Performance, 11 Nov., 1965, w.Jean Fournet Cond. Chicago Lyric Opera Ensemble; Teresa Berganza, Alfredo Kraus, Sesto Bruscantini, etc.; TERESA BERGANZA: Arias from La Cenerentola & L'Italiana in Algeri - from RAI broadcasts, 1957 & 1958. (Slovenia) Living Stage 1115. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 3830257411154


“A dramatic figure with flashing dark eyes, Ms. Berganza was acclaimed as a coloratura mezzo and contralto, with a vocal register that was warm at its lower range and supple at its higher end. Her vast repertoire as a recitalist included German lieder, French and Italian art songs and, most notably, Spanish music — zarzuelas, arias and Gypsy ballads — which she consistently championed.

In addition to exuding charisma and sensuality, Ms. Berganza embraced a disciplined, analytical approach to her roles. ‘For the most part, she sings exactly what is written in perfect pitch and accurate rhythm’, Harold C. Schonberg of THE NEW YORK TIMES wrote in a review of Ms. Berganza’s performance in Rossini’s LA CENERENTOLA at the San Francisco Opera in 1969. He lauded her as ‘one of the most gifted of coloratura singers’.

Ms. Berganza viewed her growth as a diva as a deliberate progression from Rossini to Mozart and finally to Bizet. ‘Rossini for his technique, agility, and Mozart for his style, his soul’, she wrote in her autobiography, UN MONDE HABITÉ PAR LE CHANT (A World Inhabited by Song), written with Olivier Bellamy and published in 2013. Only after feeling confident about works by those composers did she attempt Carmen — with great success. The conductor Herbert von Karajan declared her ‘the Carmen of the century’.

Ms. Berganza made her operatic debut as Dorabella in Mozart’s COSÌ FAN TUTTE in 1957 at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in France. In 1958, she made her first appearance at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala as Isolier in Rossini’s LE COMTE ORY. The next year she debuted at Covent Garden in London as Rosina in Rossini’s IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, which would become one of her signature roles. Critics delighted in her rich, fluid contralto voice, which easily handled the complex embellishments demanded of Rossini heroines.

In 1967, Ms. Berganza made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Cherubino in Mozart’s LE NOZZE DI FIGARO. It would become yet another popular role for her.

For years, Ms. Berganza declined offers to perform the lead in CARMEN, saying that she found the complexity of the character too intimidating. She finally agreed to take it on in 1977, at the King’s Theater in Edinburgh. She spent weeks in southern Spain interviewing women living in the caves outside Granada to, as she put it, ‘better understand Gypsy life’. Rejecting the more traditional portrayal of Carmen as a prostitute, she chose to play her instead as a rebellious Gypsy. ‘She speaks with her heart, her body, her guts’, Ms. Berganza wrote in her autobiography.

Reviewing a Carnegie Hall recital in November 1982. the TIMES critic Donal Henahan wrote, ‘The Berganza voice, always a wonder of suppleness and dark polish, has now become, if anything, more excitingly robust and dramatic. Ms. Berganza’, he added, ‘had also become a superior actor. He praised her intense reading of Joseph Haydn’s ARIANNA AUF NAXOS, a cantata that demands frequent sudden changes in emotional expression, which she followed with a witty rendering of Modest Mussorgsky’s ‘Nursery’ cycle, in which she alternately portrayed the child and the nurse.

In the days leading up to a stage performance, Ms. Berganza would go to extremes to protect her voice. When her children were still young, she wore a scarf over her mouth to remind them she wasn’t supposed to speak. Instead, she wrote notes to answer their questions or give them instructions. At night, fearful of tobacco smoke, she avoided restaurants.

Fittingly, Ms. Berganza’s last opera performance, at age 57, was in CARMEN at the Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville, not far from the former tobacco factory that was the setting for the Carmen story. Plácido Domingo conducted and José Carreras played the role of Don José, the jilted lover who kills Carmen, in that 1992 production.

Ms. Berganza would continue to give recitals into her 70s. She insisted she had no regrets about not having been born a soprano, which would have given her the opportunity for many more leading stage roles. She preferred being a mezzo, she said, just as she favored the more mellow sound of a cello over a violin. ‘If I could not sing’, she wrote in her autobiography, ‘I would want to be a cellist’.”

- Jonathan Kandell, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 13 May, 2022

“Alfredo Kraus, a lyric tenor who was revered for the refinement of his phrasing and the artistry he brought to bel canto roles, never received the kind of popular acclaim accorded Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo, but had a tremendous following among opera connoisseurs. In particular he was admired for his bright, trim timbre, his distinctive phrasing and an assured, self-possessed acting style. Mr. Kraus avoided empty display, preferring to use a composers' demand for virtuosity as an emotional element, intrinsic to the character he was creating.

Mr. Kraus' career was also an object lesson in how a singer might preserve his voice, despite the temptations to sing too often and too loud or to take on unsuitable roles. He learned those roles, and he said that he gave single performances of them early in his career. But he decided that his voice would last longer and remain fresher if he confined himself to the lyric roles of the bel canto repertory. Indeed, he was able to produce his high D, at full power and with a lovely ring, well into his 60s.

‘It's a matter of knowing what kind of voice you have from the very beginning and learning to use that voice onstage, with the right technique’ he told THE NEW YORK TIMES in 1988. ‘It is not so easy, because we are using an instrument that is immaterial. We can't touch it, it's only air. We don't even hear it properly, because we hear a combination of inside and outside sound. You cannot go by what you hear, you must learn to be very sensitive to how it feels, and you can only speak of it in a very figurative language’.

Mr. Kraus also enjoyed running the business side of his career. He did not employ a personal manager during his most active years, preferring to make his own decisions, which were often based on instinct. He would not, for example, work with conductors who he felt tried to sublimate performers' personalities, no matter how auspicious the engagement. He limited his schedule to about 60 appearances a year, and although these usually included performances at the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, the Vienna State Opera, La Scala and the Teatro Colon, in Buenos Aires, he also made a point of appearing in small Spanish and Italian opera houses normally outside the limelight.

He owned and personally supervised a small Spanish record label, Carillon Records. Carillon was the first Spanish company to release a complete opera set, a recording of PEARLFISHERS, with Mr. Kraus in the cast.

In 1955 Mr. Kraus won the silver medal in a vocal competition in Geneva. He had appeared onstage in zarzuela performances in Madrid, in 1954, but he always gave the date of his formal operatic debut as 1956, when he sang the Duke in a Cairo performance of RIGOLETTO. The Cairo engagement also included Mr. Kraus's only performance as Cavaradossi.

The same year as his Cairo debut, Mr. Kraus was engaged by the Teatro La Fenice for performances of LA TRAVIATA with Renata Scotto. In 1958 he sang with Maria Callas in the Lisbon performances of LA TRAVIATA, which quickly became legendary among collectors of pirated recordings of live opera performances.

Mr. Kraus' first appearance in the United States was as Nemorino at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1962, and in 1966 he made his Met debut as the Duke. Other roles he has sung at the Met include Don Ottavio in DON GIOVANNI, Ernesto in DON PASQUALE and the title role in FAUST, as well as Werther, Alfredo, the Duke and Nemorino. Aside from his fine sense of the musical nuance and phrasing, his portrayal of the mentally unstable, morbid, masochistic, and manipulative character of Werther has been acclaimed as one of the most effective and insightful readings ever.”

- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 11 Sept., 1999

"During a career that lasted 45 years, the Italian bass-baritone Sesto Bruscantini acquired an enormous repertory that was notable for the range, musical and dramatic, of the roles that he sang, as well as for their number.

At first a bass, specialising in the comic roles of Mozart, Rossini and Donizetti, he moved up the scale to baritone and even, for some years in the middle of his career, took on the high Verdi baritone roles. His voice was not huge, but so well projected that no strain showed, however florid or heavy the vocal line. But it was his skill in characterisation that enabled Bruscantini to sing so many roles in such different styles. He had a tremendous success at Glyndebourne in the 1950s, and at the Chicago Lyric during the 1960s, and sang at La Scala, Milan, the Rome Opera and many other Italian cities throughout his career.

He had already won a singing competition at Florence, and in 1945 studied for a year in Rome with Luigi Ricci. To pay for his studies he wrote comments in verse on topical news for a weekly paper. After making his professional d�but in 1946 at Civitanova as Colline in LA BOH�ME, he spent a year at the Rome Opera School, singing small roles such as the Notary in GIANNI SCHICCHI, and the First Nazarene in SALOME. He also sang in many concerts and began a fruitful relationship with Italian Radio as Sulpice in Donizetti's LA FILLE DU REGIMENT.

Bruscantini first sang at La Scala in 1949, as Don Geronimo in Cimarosa's IL MATRIMONIO SEGRETO, a role that would remain in his repertory for many years. In 1950 he sang Selim in Rossini's IL TURCO IN ITALIA in Rome, with a stellar cast including Maria Callas, Cesare Valletti and Mariano Stabile. The following year he returned to La Scala for Dr Dulcamara in Donizetti's L'ELISIR D'AMORE, another role he would still be singing some 40 years later. He also sang Masetto in DON GIOVANNI. Nineteen fifty-one was the 50th anniversary of Verdi's death, and Bruscantini sang Baron Kelbar in UN GIORNO DI REGNO for Radio Italiana.

At Glyndebourne that summer of 1951 he made his d�but as Don Alfonso in COSI FAN TUTTE. Singing Fiordiligi was the Yugoslav soprano Sena Jurinac. The following year he moved to Guglielmo in COSI FAN TUTTE and also scored a huge success as Dandini in Rossini's LA CENERENTOLA, both of which were quite definitely baritone roles. After leaving Glyndebourne he went straight to Salzburg, where he sang the title role of Donizetti's DON PASQUALE. Later that year he sang his first Mozart Figaro in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO for Netherlands Opera. Early in 1953 he returned to La Scala for Leporello in DON GIOVANNI and Tadeo in Rossini's L'ITALIANA IN ALGERI.

Back at Glyndebourne that summer he repeated his wonderfully comic and elegant Dandini, and returned to Don Alfonso. In June he and Sena Jurinac were married in Lewes, appearing in COSI FAN TUTTE the same evening. They also sang together in the prologue to Strauss' ARIADNE AUF NAXOS, with Jurinac as the Composer and Bruscantini as the Music Master, an unusual excursion into German opera � he sang Papageno in THE MAGIC FLUTE, but only in Italian. His marriage to Jurinac was at first a great success, but later they grew apart and the marriage was dissolved, with great difficulty on Bruscantini's side.

In the summer of 1954 he sang Rossini's Figaro in IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA at Glyndebourne, and with the company in Edinburgh took on Raimbaud in Rossini's LE COMTE ORY. Meanwhile he was appearing in Genoa, Venice, Naples, Rome, Bologna and Lisbon. At Glyndebourne in 1955 he sang both Mozart's and Rossini's Figaro, demonstrating his ability to bring a character to vibrant life. He felt that the mainspring of Rossini's Figaro was money and that of Mozart's was love; a third Figaro, in Paisiello's IL BARBIERE, which was also in his repertory, was the only one motivated, like the Beaumarchais original, by revolutionary politics. Bruscantini gained another baritone role in Malatesta in DON PASQUALE at Genoa in 1958, but early the following year reverted to Pasquale at La Scala.

In 1959 he appeared at the Royal Festival Hall in London with the Virtuosi di Roma in three 18th-century comic operas, as Uberto in Pergolesi's LA SERVA PADRONA, as Don Bucefalo in Fioravanti's LE CANTATRICI VILLANE and in the title role of IL MAESTRO DI CAPPELLA by Cimarosa, a one-man show that peopled the stage with imaginary characters and always brought the house down.

Nineteen-sixty was a milestone in Bruscantini's career. In February and March he sang the four baritone villains in LES CONTES D'HOFFMANN and Marcello in LA BOH�ME at the San Carlo, Naples. Then at Glyndebourne in the summer he took on his first Verdi baritone role, Ford in FALSTAFF. He repeated Ford at Edinburgh and in Turin, then in November he made his US d�but in Chicago as Rossini's Figaro.

In 1962 he sang his first Posa in Verdi's DON CARLOS at Trieste. Other high baritone roles followed, and in 1965 another new Verdi role, Renato in UN BALLO IN MASCHERA, at Florence. This was followed by Giorgio Germont in LA TRAVIATA at Genoa in 1966. The elder Germont was perhaps Bruscantini's finest baritone characterisation. He sang it in Madrid, Chicago, Palermo and Parma, during the 1960s, and at Marseilles in 1971, with Renata Scotto as Violetta. The depth of feeling he brought to the role was unique in my experience, and he evoked enormous sympathy for a personage who is often taken to be unsympathetic.

Bruscantini made a very belated Covent Garden debut in 1971 as Rossini's Figaro. He returned to London in 1974 as Malatesta in DON PASQUALE, which was very well received. In 1976 his fine rendering of Simon Boccanegra in the original, 1857 version of Verdi's opera was broadcast by the BBC on New Year's Day, and the following month he sang his first Falstaff with Scottish Opera in Glasgow. Though he made the fat knight a lonely, rather sad old man, he lit the performance with many sly touches of humour.

In 1977 Bruscantini made the first of three visits to the Wexford Festival, during which he directed the operas as well as singing in them. A triple bill of IL MAESTRO DI CAPPELLA, LA SERVA PADRONA and RICCI'S LA SERVA E L'USSERO was followed in 1979 by CRISPINO E LA COMARE by the Ricci brothers, and in 1981 by Verdi's UN GIORNO DI REGNO, in which Bruscantini sang Baron Kelbar, exactly 30 years after singing the role for Radio Italiana. In 1980 the 60-year-old Bruscantini made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, as Taddeo in L'ITALIANA, followed by Dr Dulcamara in L'ELISIR D'AMORE.

He continued to sing throughout the 1980s, appearing at Salzburg three years running as Don Alfonso in COS� FAN TUTTE. At Houston he took on Dr Bartolo in IL BARBIERE. He returned to Glyndebourne in 1985 as Don Magnifico. In 1986 he sang Iago (never one of his best roles) at Dallas in an emergency and obtained a new Rossini role at Bordeaux, Asdrubale in LA PIETRA DEL PARAGONE. In 1988 he sang Don Alfonso in Los Angeles, the four villains in Madrid. In 1989 he sang Michonnet in Rome. In 1990, also in Rome, he sang a new role, the Magistrate in WERTHER, and sang a final Don Alfonso in Macerata. He was 70.

After retiring from the opera stage, he started a school of singing in Civitanova."

- Elizabeth Forbes, THE INDEPENDENT, 11 May, 2003