OP2089. Aï¿½DA, Live Performance, 30 Sept., 1960, w.Basile Cond. RAI Ensemble, Roma; Gabriella Tucci, Gastone Limarilli, Adriana Lazzarini, Giangiacomo Guelfi, Giuseppe Modesti, etc. (E.U.) 2-Walhall 0302. - 4035122653021
“Gabriella Tucci, an Italian soprano whose richly expressive voice and beguiling stage presence made her a mainstay at major international houses who, from the start of her career in the 1950s in Italy, was praised for her lustrous sound and the velvety smoothness and refinement of her singing. An unaffected and subtly compelling actress, she was best known for her interpretations of the spinto repertory, like her rendition of the title role of Verdi’s AIDA, which demanded both lyric soprano lightness and the vocal heft to lift soaring phrases over an orchestra. Yet Ms. Tucci displayed notable range during her career. She brought brightness and agility to coloratura soprano parts, like Elvira in Bellini’s I PURITANI, and fervor and carrying power to the title role of Puccini’s TOSCA. In a 2002 interview with OPERA NEWS, she attributed the confidence of her singing to good technique and common sense. ‘I saved my voice’, she said. ‘I never tried to push, to make the voice seem bigger or stronger that it was’. If one has the technique, she emphasized, ‘you can sing lightly, you can sing, you know, smiling, sorriso, and you can sing dark’. True to the Italian operatic heritage, she emphasized the importance of the text. ‘All the answers are there’, she said.
During her prime years, from the late 1950s into the early ’70s, Ms. Tucci earned consistent respect from critics and loyal fans but tended to be overshadowed by star sopranos who also sang her repertory, including Maria Callas (for a period), Renata Tebaldi and Leontyne Price. That she was held to comparison with the greats of her day was, if somewhat unfair, inevitable. When the Metropolitan Opera introduced a new production of Verdi’s OTELLO, conducted by Georg Solti, in March 1963, Ms. Tucci was called upon to take over the role of Desdemona from Tebaldi, who had withdrawn. ‘Stepping into the shoes of Renata Tebaldi’ had to be ‘a thankless task’, the critic Paul B. Affelder wrote in THE BROOKLYN EAGLE, but ‘the attractive young Italian carried it off with dignity and sensitivity, gaining considerable effect by slightly underplaying the part’. And, he added, ‘one could wish for no finer singing of the ‘Salce’ and ‘Ave Maria,’ her two big arias in the final act’
Her granddaughter Flaminia Filoni explained in an email, Ms. Tucci drew from her ‘own strength’ even as a child. She put great effort into her studies and throughout her career remained ‘very precise and stubborn’, Ms. Filoni said. Ms. Tucci continued her studies at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, the Rome conservatory, working with the vocal coach Leonardo Filoni. They married in 1955; he died in 1993.
She made her debut in a leading role as Leonora in Verdi’s LA FORZA DEL DESTINO at Spoleto in 1951, opposite the celebrated tenor Beniamino Gigli, then 61. ‘I had to learn the role, and I was a little bit afraid to face it’, she said in the OPERA NEWS interview. But she had six months to prepare. ‘It was really emotional for me to sing with this god’, she said. ‘But he was very kind. He said ‘Brava, brava’. Appearances followed in Florence, Venice and, in 1959, Milan, where she made her debut at La Scala as Mimì in Puccini’s LA BOHÈME. The next year she sang the title roles of AIDA and TOSCA at Covent Garden in London.
Following her American debut with the San Francisco Opera, Ms. Tucci made her Metropolitan Opera debut in October 1960 as Cio-Cio-San in MADAMA BUTTERFLY, winning strong reviews. She went on to sing 259 performances with the Met in 20 roles, mostly in works by Verdi and Puccini. She appeared in four new productions, including Verdi’s FALSTAFF in 1964, which was also the Met debut of both the director Franco Zeffirelli and the conductor Leonard Bernstein. That Rudolf Bing, the Met’s general manager at the time, valued Ms. Tucci was clear from the double-duty assignment he gave her on April 16, 1966, the company’s last day at its old house: She sang Mimì at the Saturday matinee and took part in the gala farewell to the house that night, ending the program in a performance of the final trio from Gounod’s FAUST (with the tenor Nicolai Gedda and the bass Jerome Hines).
She fared equally well in the new house. Reviewing her as Liù in Puccini’s TURANDOT in 1968, Harold C. Schonberg of THE NEW YORK TIMES wrote: ‘Has the first-act aria ‘Signore, ascolta’ been sung more touchingly, more artistically, more elegantly in recent years? One doubts it’.
Ms. Tucci sang Marguerite in FAUST in her final performance at the Met, in December 1972.
Though she can be heard on historic recordings of live performances and radio broadcasts, Ms. Tucci made only two studio recordings of complete operas, both early on: Leoncavallo’s PAGLIACCI in 1959 (starring the tenor Mario del Monaco) and Verdi’s IL TROVATORE in 1961 (with an exceptional cast that also included Franco Corelli). ‘I don’t live in my past’, she said in the 2002 interview. ‘Inside me, nothing has changed. I’m still Tosca. I’m still Aida. But now, above all, I’m Gabriella’.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 17 July, 2020
"Gastone Limarilli was a fine lirico-spinto tenor with tremendous squillo who debuted as Canio at the Teatro Nuovo, Milano, 1959. Later, on 23 Dec., 1959, he debuted at La Scala in Pizetti's FEDRA. These were followed by the Vienna Staatsoper, the Royal Opera at Covent Garden, Monte Carlo, Macerata, the Verona Arena and the Baths of Caracalla. His repertoire was primarily Verdi, Puccini, then Pizzetti, Alfano and Porrino."
- Ned Ludd
"Giangiacomo Guelfi [not to be confused with Carlo Guelfi, a younger baritone] studied at the Centro Lirico in Florence, as well as with legendary Italian baritone Titta Ruffo, and made his opera debut in the title role of Verdi's RIGOLETTO in 1950, an exceptionally young age for such a work. He won the Spoleto Experimental Theater Prize and made his La Scala debut in 1952 as The Visitor in Castro's PROSERPINA Y EL EXTRANJERO. He made his London debut two years later at Drury Lane as GÃ©rard in Giordano's ANDREA CHENIER. Though he drew considerable acclaim in a 1957 performance of Verdi's I DUE FOSCARI in Venice, and he was considered a rising star during the late '50s and early '60s, it was not until his 1964 performance of Verdi's MACBETH at La Scala that he was acknowledged as a full-fledged star. He made his Metropolitan debut in 1970 as Scarpia. He was particularly admired during his prime for his powerful voice, but like many possessors of such voices, occasionally indulged in bellowing and, toward the end of his career, relied excessively on extra-musical vocal effects."
- Anne Feeney, allmusic.com