OP2618. GÜNTHER VON SCHWARZBURG (in Italian) (Holzbauer), Live Performance, 27 June, 1960, w.de Fabritiis Cond. RAI Ensemble, Milano; Anna Moffo, Giacinto Prandelli, Luigi Infantino, Raffaele Arié, Orietta Moscucci, etc. (E.U.) 2-Myto 00321. - 0801439903210
"GÜNTHER VON SCHWARZBURG is a Singspiel in three acts by Ignaz Holzbauer set to a German libretto by Anton Klein. Loosely based on events in the life of the 14th century German king, Günther von Schwarzburg, the opera premiered on 5 January 1777 at the Hoftheater in the Mannheim Palace.
Holzbauer's librettist, Anton Klein, a former Jesuit who taught philosophy and literature at Mannheim University, was a strong advocate for the use of German and set about writing a libretto comparable to those written for Italian opera seria. The writing was also influenced by contemporary Sturm und Drang literature. However the colourful music was praised more than the drama when it was originally heard. Mozart attended a performance on 5 November 1777 and in a letter to his father on 14 November 1777, he praised the music but scorned the libretto:
‘Holzbauer's music is very beautiful, but the poetry is not worthy of such music. What surprises me the most is, that so old a man as Holzbauer [66 years] should still have so much spirit, for the opera is incredibly full of fire.’
GÜNTHER VON SCHWARZBURG was the first full German opera score to come off a printing press. The beautifully engraved edition was published by the Mannheim firm of Johann Michael Götz with a dedication to Karl Theodor: ‘the most illustrious patron of music under whose august protection the Palatinate Theatre has first praised a German hero.
The first performance took place at the Hoftheater in Mannheim on January 5, 1777 in a lavish production with sets designed by Lorenzo Quaglio. The performance also included a ballet choreographed by Étienne Lauchery to music by Christian Cannabich. The cast included two of the most famous singers of the day, Anton Raaff as Günther von Schwarzburg and Francesca Lebrun (née Franziska Danzi) as Anna, a rôle which Holzbauer had composed specifically for her voice. The opera was successfully revived in Mannheim in 1785. Modern revivals of the opera include a radio broadcast (RAI) in 1960, sung in Italian, with Luigi Infantino and Anna Moffo, conducted by Oliviero De Fabritiis.”
"Gerd Albrecht was a prolific recording artist who spent almost his entire career in Germany with the exception of posts at the Zurich Tonhalle and Danish Radio and four years (1993-96) when he was controversially elected chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and subsequently deposed.
In the introduction to the German edition of my book THE MAESTRO MYTH, I reported that Albrecht had won the Czech vote by promising a record contract that he could not deliver. Albrecht applied to have the book banned, but the judicial process never got off the ground after Czech musicians supplied me with the incriminating faxes. In the immediate post-communist confusion, a part of the orchestra had become bedazzled by the prospect of western wealth.
Albrecht’s Wikipedia entry describes his period in Prague as ‘a musical success’. Not many who heard the orchestra in that time would share that conclusion. It was an unhappy period, ending in a bust-up with the President, Vaclav Havel. Albrecht left behind a deeply divided orchestra. He was invited back for further engagements at the 2004 Salzburg Festival and for a 2006 South America tour. The orchestra has lately reverted to Jirí Belohlávek, the music director whom Albrecht displaced. From 1997 to 2007, Gerd Albrecht was principal conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo. Since September 2012 he has been musical director of the Besançon International Music Festival.
His podium work can be judged on more than 50 recordings, some of them reviving music by Schreker, Korngold and other composers who were banned under the Nazi regime. Albrecht’s father had been an official in that regime.”
- Norman Lebrecht, 3 Feb., 2014
“Anna Moffo, an American soprano who was beloved for her rosy voice, dramatic vulnerability and exceptional beauty, was drawn early on into television and film, playing host of her own variety show on Italian television for many years. She might not have fulfilled her promise, but for a good dozen years Ms. Moffo enjoyed enormous success and won a devoted following at a time when her competition for roles like Verdi's Violetta, Puccini's Mimi and Donizetti's Lucia included Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi and Joan Sutherland. Though Ms. Moffo's voice was not large, it was warm and rich, with soft pastel colorings and a velvety lower range. Agile coloratura technique allowed her to sing high soprano bel canto repertory impressively, especially LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR. She was a thoroughly trained musician, having studied the piano and viola when she was a voice major on scholarship at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
Her RCA recording of LA TRAVIATA, with Richard Tucker and Robert Merrill, is still prized for the subtlety and pathos she brings to her portrayal of Violetta. Still, her career could be seen as a cautionary tale about doing too much too soon. In 1954 she entered and won the Philadelphia Orchestra Young Artists Auditions. Awarded a Fulbright fellowship, she went to Rome to study voice, master the Italian language and train for opera.
Ms. Moffo made her stage opera debut in 1955 as Norina in Donizetti's DON PASQUALE in Spoleto. Her big breakthrough came the next year, when she starred in a television production of Puccini's MADAMA BUTTERFLY, directed by Mario Lanfranchi, a producer for RCA Victor and RAI. She and Mr. Lanfranchi married in 1957. Sensing her star potential, he pushed her too hard. Recalling this period in a 1977 interview, Ms. Moffo lamented that she sang an average of 12 new roles a year for the first four years of her career, all star parts. ‘I was working too hard and traveling too much’, she said. ‘I got mixed up in TV, films, things like that. Psychologically, I was miserable, always away, always alone’.
Her Met debut in 1959 was as Violetta in LA TRAVIATA. The reviews, though encouraging, were cautious. Ms. Moffo soon became a favorite at the Met, and remained so well into the 1960s. She appeared some 200 times with the Company, including her portrayal of Liù in the legendary production of Puccini's TURANDOT in 1961 that starred Birgit Nilsson and Franco Corelli. By the late 1960s, her voice was often unreliable. In his book THE AMERICAN OPERA SINGER, the critic Peter G. Davis writes of a now infamous 1969 Saturday afternoon broadcast performance of LUCIA at the Met. Rudolf Bing, the general manager, was so dismayed by her singing that he considered stopping the performance before Lucia's daunting ‘mad scene’ was broadcast to millions. That same year, Ms. Moffo caused a scandal in Italy when she appeared to be nude in a scene in the film UNA STORIA D'AMORE. In later years she insisted that she had not been totally unclothed.
In 1972 she and Mr. Lanfranchi divorced. Two years later she married Robert W. Sarnoff, the chairman of RCA, who was enthralled with his glamorous wife. Under Mr. Sarnoff, RCA built a promotional campaign around her, including an ill-advised recording of Massenet's THAÏS, with Ms. Moffo in the title role. The reviews, predictably, were very poor. For a brief time, though, Ms. Moffo was a lovely singer and appealing artist who broke out of the traditional career mode to reach the larger public. ‘You may not like what I do’, she said in a 1972 interview, ‘but you can't say I'm dull’."
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 11 March, 2006
"In 1948, Luigi Infantino made his début at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, as Nadir in LES PÊCHEURS DE PERLES, later singing Ramiro in LA CENERENTOLA, which he also sang that same year at the Verona Arena. The tenor sang regularly in Naples and Bologna, and made guest appearances at the New York City Opera in 1947: LA TRAVIATA (with Enzo Mascherini as Giorgio), RIGOLETTO (opposite Giuseppe Valdengo and Virginia MacWatters), MADAMA BUTTERFLY, LA BOHÈME, IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA (conducted by Julius Rudel) and DON GIOVANNI. In 1949, the tenor went on a concert-tour of England and Australia.
In 1954, at the Teatro Fenice in Venice, Infantino sang Edgardo to the Lucia of Maria Callas, in LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR. At the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, he created AMLETO, by Mario Zefred, in 1961, and LA STIRPE DI DAVIDE by Franco Mannino, in 1962. In 1964 Infantino reprised his rôle of Edgardo at the Bombay Opera in India, with soprano Celia Baptista as his Lucia.
He was also active throughout his career singing on Italian Radio (RAI), where he gave his last performance in 1973, in Mannino's IL DIAVOLO IN GIARDINO.
A stylish lyric tenor with an attractive voice, Infantino can be heard in complete recordings of LA TRAVIATA (EMI, 1946) and IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA (Cetra, 1950, opposite Giuseppe Taddei and Giulietta Simionato). There is also a live recording of DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG, sung in Italian (Melodram, 1962).”
- Ned Ludd
“Raphaël Arié was never as well known as his two great compatriots Nicolai Ghiaurov and Boris Christoff, but he is the third in the trinity of great Bulgarian basses. Born in Sofia he studied with the important pedagogue Christo Brambarov who guided his pupil’s career with care and caution. He won the Geneva singing competition in 1946, continuing studies in Italy with stellar figures such as Stracciari and Granforte and soon made a name for himself in Prokofiev, in BORIS and DON GIOVANNI. He performed widely in Italy and France in particular – though in 1953 he was chosen as the Commendatore for a Salzburg Festival performance under Furtwängler – even if he made Rome his base. His successes in the Italian repertoire were many, his forays into German opera (much less lieder), few.
The trajectory of his career might indicate a certain stalling – a lack of Vienna, Met, Covent Garden performances, a desire to sing in houses closer to home. But the truth is that Arié was a considerable artist whose relative lack of charismatic vocalising perhaps prevented him from reaching the topmost echelons of international houses. His Rossini immediately discloses a voice of refined imagination. It’s elegant, forwardly produced, well sustained, even of tone and lacking melodramatic flourish. It was certainly a voice with presence, lest one mistakes refinement for reluctance to engage – his Bellini is impressively characterised, fully rolled “r’s” whilst his Verdi reinforces, with the beauty of his line, his bel canto lineage. The extract from Ernani may not be the most sulphurous or incendiary but it is beautifully done.
If one measures his Boris (and by implication his Glinka) with Christoff or even Chaliapin of course, one finds him lacking in histrionic projection – but there’s no lack of commensurate sonorous directness Certainly the lurid dramas enacted by others was not Arié’s way – as one can plainly note in Boris’ Farewell scene. He triumphs rather in the lyricism of Anton Rubinstein or in the full warmth he brings to Eugene Onégin. There, one feels, he is intimately at home."
- Jonathan Woolf