OP2781. LA FORZA DEL DESTINO, Live Performance, 26 Oct., 1961, Parma, w.Ottavio Ziino Cond. Teatro Regio Ensemble; Marcella de Osma, Flaviano Labò, Piero Cappuccilli, Fiorenza Cossotto, Ivo Vinco, etc. (Slovenia) 2-Living Stage 1061. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copies! - 3830025710618
"This is not a new release, and it would not normally qualify for a FANFARE review. But sometimes one makes a discovery so unusual that it seems appropriate to share it with FANFARE readers. Prior to hearing this performance of LA FORZA DEL DESTINO I had not known the name of Marcella de Osma, and I could find little about her on the Internet except that she was an Italian soprano active in the 1960s. Yet she might be the greatest Verdi soprano you never heard of.
On the basis of her Leonora it is difficult to understand Osma’s lack of a wide reputation. Certainly the competition among Verdi sopranos in that era was strong - Tebaldi, Milanov, Callas, Cerquetti, Gencer, and Price for example - but the singing de Osma displays here belongs in that company. I did learn that she was a student of Carmen Melis, who was also Tebaldi’s teacher, and one can hear some similarities to Tebaldi in vocal technique and in de Osma’s absorption of the Verdi style. She is able to float lovely pianos and sustain long arching phrases. She begins ‘Pace, pace mio Dio’ with a gorgeous messa di voce that is the equal of anyone’s, and the sustained pianissimo B-flat in the aria is exquisite. ‘La Vergine degli Angeli’, despite the recording suffering from a technical glitch at 1:55 that skips a few beats, is sung with hushed beauty. ‘Madre, pietosa Vergine’ has urgency and grandeur.
De Osma’s voice can turn a slight bit hard when she pushes too much, but she rarely does so, and that same effect adds a dramatic intensity that reflects Leonora’s plight. It is also fair to point out that there are occasional minor instances of singing a fraction under the pitch (also a flaw with Tebaldi). However, this is a major performance overall of one of Verdi’s great dramatic soprano roles, and anyone who loves the music should be familiar with it.
The rest of the performance is enjoyable as well, if not quite at the soprano’s level. In the 1960s Flaviano Labò was at the very top of the second tier of tenors. Today he would be in the first rank. His quintessentially Italianate sound was married to secure breath control and a fluent legato. What kept him at that second tier was a voice that lacked the kind of distinctive sound that could match Corelli, Del Monaco, Tucker, or di Stefano, and also a lack of the imagination that marked singers like Bergonzi or Vickers. What Labò had to offer was vocal power, a very good sense of shaping a musical line, rock-solid intonation, and a strong, if generalized, dramatic instinct. His Alvaro here is a pleasure.
Piero Cappuccilli too suffered from the strength of the competition, in particiular Warren, Merrill, Gobbi, and Bastianini. He was also uneven, seeming to phone in some performances, and he too lacked a unique timbre. He is totally involved here, fortunately, and sings with force and, like Labò, a seamless legato when the music demands it. The two Alvaro-Carlo duets (the performance omits the ‘Sleale’ duet, as many did in that era) are well sung and dramatically compelling.
The roles of Preziosilla and Padre Guardiano are cast from strength. In the former role Fiorenza Cossotto, who was a young 27 at the time, demonstrates rich vocalism and keen dramatic awareness. The orchestra displays some woodwind intonation problems and a bit of scrappiness in the strings, but the musicians and conductor Ottavio Ziino know the idiom. The result is that the totality of the performance has a natural ebb and flow. The recorded sound is quite good broadcast mono, well balanced and clear.
This would not be anyone’s first or only FORZA recording, but it is one that you should know if you are a Verdi lover.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
“Flaviano Labò was an Italian operatic tenor, particularly associated with heroic roles of the Italian repertory. Labo was born at Borgonovo, near Piacenza. While in the army, he came to the notice of the conductor Antonino Votto, and subsequently studied with Ettore Campogalliani in Parma, Renato Pastorino in Milan and Valentino Metti in Piacenza. He made his stage début at the Teatro Municipale in Piacenza, as Cavaradossi in TOSCA, in 1954. He quickly sang widely in Italy and various European opera houses, as well as in South America, before making his début on 29 November, 1957, at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, as Alvaro in LA FORZA DEL DESTINO, where he sang thirteen roles in eight seasons. In 1959, he sang at the New York City Opera as Calaf in Puccini's TURANDOT (conducted by Julius Rudel) and Rodolfo in LA BOHEME. He also appeared at the San Francisco Opera, and the opera houses of Philadelphia, Houston, and New Orleans.
Other important debuts were at the Royal Opera House in London, and the Palais Garnier in Paris, both as Radames in AIDA in 1959. He first sang at La Scala in Milan, in the title role of DON CARLOS, in 1960. He appeared at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in 1967, as Gualtiero in IL PIRATA, opposite Montserrat Caballé, and was a regular guest at the Verona Arena. He also made guest appearances at the Vienna State Opera, the Zürich Opera, the Teatro Nacional Sao Carlos in Lisbon, and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires.
Labò was admired for his robust, typically Italianate voice, and his direct unaffected manner. He died in an automobile accident caused by fog in Milan at the age of 64.”
- Ned Ludd
“Though Piero Cappuccilli never achieved international stardom, he was enormously admired within the field of opera for his rich and abundant voice, fine vocal technique and exceptional breath control. In the great Italian tradition he fused words and music into elegant phrases. He focused on Italian repertory, particularly the operas of Verdi, singing 17 major rôles. Some critics found his full-voiced singing blunt and burly. And in striving for expressive restraint, he could sometimes come across as stiff. But at his best, with his handsome physique and vocal authority, he made a powerful impact onstage.
In 1960, just three years into his professional career, he was tapped by the producer Walter Legge to sing the rôle of Enrico in a recording of LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, starring Maria Callas and conducted by Tullio Serafin. That EMI work remains a classic. In the mid-1970's, Claudio Abbado chose him for the title rôles in Verdi's SIMON BOCCANEGRA and MACBETH at La Scala. These productions led to studio recordings that remain prized by opera buffs.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 21 July, 2005
“While best known for the fiery, scenery-chewing Verdi roles such as Azucena, Amneris, Lady Macbeth, and Eboli, Fiorenza Cossotto was also a prominent performer of bel canto parts such as Rosina in Rossini's BARBIERE, Leonora in LA FAVORITA, and Adalgisa in NORMA. Such large and powerful mezzo voices, particularly with a secure top, are rare compared to the lyric mezzo, and from the late 1960s through the early 1980s, she was the Verdi mezzo, the successor to Simionato and the predecessor to Zajick.
Cossotto made her operatic début as Sister Matilde in the world premiere of Poulenc's THE DIALOGUES OF THE CARMELITES in 1957. Her international début was at the 1958 Wexford Festival as Giovanna Seymour in Donizetti's ANNA BOLENA. Her Covent Garden début was in 1959 as Neris in Cherubini's MEDÉE, with Callas in the title rôle. A 1961 performance of the lead in LA FAVORITA at La Scala led to wider fame and she made her Chicago début in the same rôle in 1964 and as Amneris at the Met in 1968.”
- Anne Feeney, allmusic.com