OP0587. ANDREA CHENIER, Live Performance, 20 March, 1972, Venezia, w.Peloso Cond. Teatro la Fenice Ensemble; Carlo Bergonzi, Aldo Protti, Raina Kabaiwanska, etc. (Slovenia) 2-Living Stage 1114. Long out-of-print, final copies! - 3830257411147
"Considered the foremost Verdi tenor of his age, Mr. Bergonzi sang more than 300 times with the Metropolitan Opera of New York from the 1950s to the '80s, appearing opposite a roster of celebrated divas that included Maria Callas, Zinka Milanov, Renata Tebaldi, Rise Stevens, Victoria de los Angeles and Leontyne Price.
A lyric tenor of some vocal heft, Mr. Bergonzi lacked the sonic weight and brilliance of tenors in the Wagnerian mold. But what he did possess was an instrument of velvety beauty and nearly unrivaled subtlety.
'More than the sound of the voice, it is Mr. Bergonzi's way of using it that is so special', Peter G. Davis, reviewing a 1978 Carnegie Hall recital by Mr. Bergonzi, wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES. 'He is a natural singer in that everything he does seems right and inevitable - the artful phrasing, the coloristic variety, the perfectly positioned accents, the theatrical sense of well-proportioned climaxes, the honest emotional fervor. Best of all, Mr. Bergonzi obviously uses these effects artistically because he feels them rather than intellectualizes them - a rare instinctual gift, possibly the most precious one any musician can possess'. In the view of his many fans, this vocal elegance amply compensated for the fact that Mr. Bergonzi was no actor and, by his own ready admission, no matinee idol. 'I know I don't look like Rudolph Valentino', he told THE TIMES in 1981. 'I know what a proper physique should be for the parts I sing, but I have tried to learn to act through the voice. The proper, pure expression of the line is the most important thing'.
Mr. Bergonzi began his career as a baritone, and after becoming a tenor a few years later was careful not to push his voice past its natural confines. As a result, he largely escaped the vocal wear that can force singers to retire by the time they reach their early 50s; Mr. Bergonzi, by contrast, continued to sing on prominent stages - and, as critical opinion had it, sing well - into his late 60s.
During World War II, Mr. Bergonzi spent three years in a German concentration camp for his anti-Nazi activities. He returned home after the war, weighing 80 pounds, and resumed singing.
Mr. Bergonzi made his operatic debut in 1948 as a baritone, singing the title part in Rossini's BARBER OF SEVILLE in Lecce, in southern Italy. After coming to realize that tenor parts were better situated for his voice, he made a second debut, as a tenor, in the title role in Umberto Giordano's ANDREA CHENIER in Bari in 1951.
In 1955, Mr. Bergonzi made his United States debut with the Lyric Theater of Chicago (now the Lyric Opera of Chicago) as Luigi in Puccini's IL TABARRO. The next year, on 13 November, he made his Met debut as Radames opposite Antonietta Stella, also making her debut that night.
Mr. Bergonzi also appeared at La Scala, 1953, and at Covent Garden, where he made his debut in 1962 as Don Alvaro in Verdi's FORZA DEL DESTINO. At the Met, in March 1964, Mr. Bergonzi was a soloist (with Ms. Price, Rosalind Elias and Cesare Siepi) in an acclaimed performance of the Verdi REQUIEM in memory of President John F. Kennedy, under the baton of Georg Solti.
In 1994, Mr. Bergonzi, then 70, took the stage at Carnegie Hall for what was billed as his American farewell recital. The concert, a program of Italian art songs and arias, concluded with a 50-minute ovation and was warmly reviewed by critics. But as it transpired, that concert was no farewell. In 2000, two months shy of his 76th birthday, Mr. Bergonzi sang the one Verdi role he had never attempted: the title part in OTELLO, one of the most fiendishly demanding tenor roles in opera, in a concert performance with the Opera Orchestra of New York under Eve Queler. His performance - a high-wattage Carnegie Hall affair whose audience included Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, José Carreras, Sherrill Milnes, Licia Albanese and Anna Moffo - was, by wide critical consensus, an unreconstructed disaster. 'It was immediately apparent that there was something wrong', THE GUARDIAN wrote shortly afterward. 'A grainy tone in the voice inhibited everything. Bergonzi strained audibly in an unsuccessful attempt to reach the high A that caps the triumphant entry phrase'. Mr. Bergonzi withdrew from the performance after two acts, leaving his role in Acts III and IV to be sung by an understudy, Antonio Barasorda.
But the younger, supple-voiced Mr. Bergonzi endures on his many recordings, including several of AIDA (opposite Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo and Montserrat Caballé; a BOHEME and a BUTTERFLY opposite Renata Tebaldi; Donizetti's LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR with Beverly Sills; and a three-record set for Philips on which he sings all of the Verdi tenor arias."
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 26 July, 2014
"Renowned for her interpretations of the roles of Tosca, Manon, Francesca da Rimini, and Madama Butterfly, Kabaivanska accomplished her advanced vocal and piano studies at the Bulgarian State Conservatory in Sofia. In 1958, she moved to Italy and further developed her technique with Zita Fumagalli. She made her debut at the Sofia National Opera in 1957 in the role of Tatyana in Tchaikovsky's EUGENE ONEGIN. But Kabaivanska's most important debut was in the role of Agnese in Bellini's BEATRICE DI TENDA at La Scala in 1961. At her Covent Garden debut in 1962, she sang Desdemona in Verdi's OTELLO, and for the Metropolitan Opera she sang Nedda in PAGLIACCI. Her 1975 Paris debut was as Leonore in Verdi's IL TROVATORE, and for her Salzburg debut, she interpreted the role of Mrs. Ford in Verdi's FALSTAFF. Kabaivanska has been awarded with many accolades throughout her career, including the Premio Bellini (1965) for her interpretation of Beatrice di Tenda, the Viotti d'oro (1970), the Premio Puccini (1978), the Premio Illica (1979), Premio Monteverdi (1980), and the Premio Lorenzo il Magnifico from the Medici Academy for the Arts in Florence (1990). In 1974, Bulgarian Television dedicated a film to her entitled THE SEASONS OF RAINA KABAIVANSKA. Kabaivanska delivered an emotional performance of the 'Ave Maria' from Verdi's OTELLO to open the funeral mass for Luciano Pavarotti in Modena, 8 September, 2007. Mme Kabaivanska has recently added another role to her considerable repertoire: the Comtesse in Tchaikowsky's PIQUE DAME, in a series of five 2008 performances at the Capitole in Toulouse."
- Zillah Dorset Akron
"Protti was born in Cremona. He studied in Parma, and made his debut in Pesaro, as Figaro, in 1948. He made his La Scala debut in 1950, as Amonasro, and sang there for many years. He sang widely in Italy and Europe in the standard Italian repertory, earning a reputation for being 'one of the most reliable baritones in the business'. He made a belated debut at the Metropolitan Opera, as Rigoletto, at age 65. He was particularly appreciated in Verdi roles, especially Rigoletto, his greatest role, but also as Alfio, Tonio, Gérard, Scarpia, etc."
- Zillah Akron Dorset