OP2558. GRISELDA (Scarlatti), Live Performance, 27 Sept., 1960, Hannover, w.Maderna Cond. Hannover Ensemble; Mirella Freni, Eugenia Ratti, Pierre Mollet, Heinz Rehfuss, Ernst Häfliger, etc. (E.U.) 3-Archipel 0478. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 4035122404784
“GRISELDA is an opera seria in three acts by the Italian composer Alessandro Scarlatti, the last of Scarlatti’s operas to survive completely today. The libretto is by Apostolo Zeno, with revisions by an anonymous author. Zeno wrote his work in 1701 and it had already been set by Pollarolo and Antonio Maria Bononcini (Albinoni, Giovanni Bononcini and Vivaldi would later produce versions). It is based on the story of Patient Griselda from Boccaccio's DECAMERON. Scarlatti's opera was first performed at the Teatro Capranica, Rome in January, 1721 with an all-male cast (five castratos and a tenor).”
- Hans Lick
“Mirella Freni, an exemplary Italian prima donna for nearly 50 years, whose voice was ideally suited to lighter lyric roles but maintained its bloom even as she took on weightier, more dramatic repertory in midcareer, was hailed as a last exponent of the great Italian operatic heritage. ‘That tradition is ending’, Plácido Domingo was quoted as saying in a 1997 NEW YORK TIMES article about Ms. Freni. ‘Mirella is the end of a chain. After that you cannot see who really follows her’. Many opera lovers acknowledged Ms. Freni’s special claim on this tradition, which valued bel canto principles of producing rich, unforced sound; of shaping even, lyrical lines across the range of a voice; and of sensitively matching sound to words.
With her beguiling stage presence, quiet charisma and the affecting vulnerability she could summon in her singing, Ms. Freni made Mimì in Puccini’s LA BOHÈME a signature part. She won international acclaim in the role in a landmark 1963 production at La Scala in Milan, directed by Franco Zeffirelli and conducted by Herbert von Karajan, who became one of her major champions. Though vocal beauty and proper technique were central to the Italian tradition, Ms. Freni placed a premium on expressivity and feeling. Commenting on the state of opera in a 1997 interview with The Times, she said there were many young artists who sing well and move well. ‘But that is all’, she added. ‘Finito! I want something deeper. It is important to have emotion, to live through the music onstage’, she continued. ‘Also, the Italian singers have a special feeling for the language. Even when we speak it is musical’. Yet she steadily expanded her repertory and, as the colorings of her voice grew darker with maturity, sang more dramatically intense and vocally heavy roles, like Desdemona in Verdi’s OTELLO, Verdi’s Aida and Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. She was particularly urged on this course by Karajan, who brought her to the Salzburg Festival to sing Desdemona and the demanding role of Elisabetta in Verdi’s DON CARLO.
With the support of her second husband, the Bulgarian bass Nicolai Ghiaurov, she ventured into Russian repertory, singing Tatyana in Tchaikovsky’s EUGENE ONEGIN and Lisa in Tchaikovsky’s PIQUE DAME. Yet Ms. Freni never lost the warmth and richness of her lyric soprano origins. Reviewing her performance in MANON LESCAUT at the Met in 1990, THE TIMES’ Donal Henahan marveled at her longevity and excellence. ‘The wonder of Mirella Freni at this stage of her career’, he wrote, ‘is that she continues to sing Puccini with seemingly reckless ardor while preserving a surprisingly fresh and beautiful sound’. Still, Ms. Freni considered herself a judicious soprano. She could say no, even to the imposing Karajan, if she though a particular role was not right for her. She recorded Puccini’s Madama Butterfly twice, including a film version conducted by Karajan, but never performed the role complete in a staged production in an opera house.
‘I am generous in many ways, but not when I think it will destroy my voice’, she said in a 2013 OPERA NEWS interview. ‘Some singers think they are gods who can do everything’, she added. ‘But I have always been honest with myself and my possibilities’.
She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1965 as Mimì and returned regularly to sing, among various roles, Adina in Donizetti’s L’ELISIR D’AMORE, Liù in Puccini’s TURANDOT and a new 1967 production of Gounod’s ROMÉO ET JULIETTE opposite the star tenor Franco Corelli (with whom she recorded the opera splendidly the next year). But she had been absent from the Met for more than 14 years when she returned in 1983 as Elisabetta in DON CARLO, with James Levine conducting and Mr. Ghiaurov as Philip II. In 1996 the Met mounted a production of a rarity, Giordano’s FEDORA, for Ms. Freni and Mr. Domingo, garnering rave reviews for both. She sang more than 140 performances with the company in all.
Asked whether she thought of herself as the ‘last prima donna’, as she was sometimes called, Ms. Freni demurred. ‘You tell me why I am the last of a tradition’, she said. ‘I have done my job honestly. I have worked hard and with joy’.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 9 Feb., 2020
“Bruno Maderna, like his close friend and fellow avant garde composer Pierre Boulez, had in recent years become a conductor of international reputation. Since his debut here in 1970 conducting Mercadante's opera II GIURAMENTO at the Juilliard School, Mr. Maderna had led the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Symphony and the Detroit Symphony. In Europe he had conducted widely, including the London Symphony, the B.B.C. Symphony and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. For the last two years of his life he was music director of the Italian Radio in Milan.”
- THE NEW YORK TIMES, 14 Nov., 1973
“Italian composer and conductor Bruno Maderna was one of the preeminent figures in contemporary European music in the mid-twentieth century. By the age of 20 Bruno Maderna had already earned his degree in composition from the Conservatory of Rome and returned to Venice to continue under composer Gian Francesco Malipiero.
In 1948 Maderna took a conducting class with legendary maestro Hermann Scherchen and probably through him got to know Wolfgang Steinecke, the founder of the Darmstadt Festival. Maderna had already met composer Luigi Nono at Ricordi, and would meet Luciano Berio in Milan after leaving the Venice Conservatory in 1952. Steinecke engaged Maderna as a conductor at the Darmstadt Festival, a post that made Maderna a celebrity in postwar European avant-garde and one that he would hold until the end of his days.
As the 1950s gave way to the 1960s, Bruno Maderna's work as a composer began to take a back seat to his activity as a conductor. He was named principal guest conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, appeared frequently with the Juilliard Ensemble, and was musical director for two years at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood. He also spent a great deal of time in the recording studio and produced many fine albums of contemporary music, although in concert Maderna was equally well known for conducting the symphonies of Mahler and other well-worn repertoire of the Viennese classics. Perhaps this had some effect on Maderna's personality as a composer, as well, for by the end of his life he'd turned his back on the serial aesthetic espoused by the Darmstadt Festival and his colleague Pierre Boulez.
When the end came for Maderna at age 53, it did so swiftly - he was diagnosed with lung cancer during the rehearsals for his SATYRICON, which premiered in March 1973, and was dead by that November. His celebrity in America was so short-lived that by 2004 Maderna's name was largely forgotten there, but not so in Europe, where he is yet regarded as one of the giants of postwar modernism.”
- Uncle Dave Lewis, allmusic.com