OP2929. LES PÊCHEURS DE PERLES (in Italian), Live Performance, 10 Dec., 1960, w.La Rosa Parodi Cond. RAI Ensemble, Milano: Alfredo Kraus, Pina Malgarini, Giuseppe Taddei & Carlo Cava; LES PÊCHEURS DE PERLES (in Italian) - Excerpts, Live Performance, 4 Jan., 1959, w.de Fabritiis Cond. Teatro San Carlo Ensemble; Ferruccio Tagliavini, Marcella Pobbe, Ugo Savarese & Carlo Cava. (E.U.) 2-Walhall 0299. - 4035122652994
“Alfredo Kraus, a lyric tenor who was revered for the refinement of his phrasing and the artistry he brought to bel canto roles, never received the kind of popular acclaim accorded Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo, but had a tremendous following among opera connoisseurs. In particular he was admired for his bright, trim timbre, his distinctive phrasing and an assured, self-possessed acting style. Mr. Kraus avoided empty display, preferring to use a composers' demand for virtuosity as an emotional element, intrinsic to the character he was creating.
Mr. Kraus' career was also an object lesson in how a singer might preserve his voice, despite the temptations to sing too often and too loud or to take on unsuitable roles. He learned those roles, and he said that he gave single performances of them early in his career. But he decided that his voice would last longer and remain fresher if he confined himself to the lyric roles of the bel canto repertory. Indeed, he was able to produce his high D, at full power and with a lovely ring, well into his 60s.
‘It's a matter of knowing what kind of voice you have from the very beginning and learning to use that voice onstage, with the right technique’ he told THE NEW YORK TIMES in 1988. ‘It is not so easy, because we are using an instrument that is immaterial. We can't touch it, it's only air. We don't even hear it properly, because we hear a combination of inside and outside sound. You cannot go by what you hear, you must learn to be very sensitive to how it feels, and you can only speak of it in a very figurative language’.
Mr. Kraus also enjoyed running the business side of his career. He did not employ a personal manager during his most active years, preferring to make his own decisions, which were often based on instinct. He would not, for example, work with conductors who he felt tried to sublimate performers' personalities, no matter how auspicious the engagement. He limited his schedule to about 60 appearances a year, and although these usually included performances at the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, the Vienna State Opera, La Scala and the Teatro Colon, in Buenos Aires, he also made a point of appearing in small Spanish and Italian opera houses normally outside the limelight.
He owned and personally supervised a small Spanish record label, Carillon Records. Carillon was the first Spanish company to release a complete opera set, a recording of PEARLFISHERS, with Mr. Kraus in the cast.
In 1955 Mr. Kraus won the silver medal in a vocal competition in Geneva. He had appeared onstage in zarzuela performances in Madrid, in 1954, but he always gave the date of his formal operatic debut as 1956, when he sang the Duke in a Cairo performance of RIGOLETTO. The Cairo engagement also included Mr. Kraus's only performance as Cavaradossi.
The same year as his Cairo debut, Mr. Kraus was engaged by the Teatro La Fenice for performances of LA TRAVIATA with Renata Scotto. In 1958 he sang with Maria Callas in the Lisbon performances of LA TRAVIATA, which quickly became legendary among collectors of pirated recordings of live opera performances.
Mr. Kraus' first appearance in the United States was as Nemorino at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1962, and in 1966 he made his Met debut as the Duke. Other roles he has sung at the Met include Don Ottavio in DON GIOVANNI, Ernesto in DON PASQUALE and the title role in FAUST, as well as Werther, Alfredo, the Duke and Nemorino. Aside from his fine sense of the musical nuance and phrasing, his portrayal of the mentally unstable, morbid, masochistic, and manipulative character of Werther has been acclaimed as one of the most effective and insightful readings ever.”
- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 11 Sept., 1999
“Giuseppe Taddei was a distinguished Italian baritone who made his Metropolitan Opera début to glowing notices in 1985 at the astonishing age of 69. Born in Genoa on 26 June, 1916, Mr. Taddei made his operatic début in 1936, as the Herald in a production of Wagner’s LOHENGRIN in Rome. In the decades that followed he performed on many of the great opera stages of Europe, including those of the Vienna State Opera, La Scala and Covent Garden. In the 1950s, Mr. Taddei appeared in the United States with the San Francisco and Dallas Civic Operas; he was also long known to listeners here through his many recordings. In the 1960s, he sang in New York in concert performances. But until 25 Sept., 1985, when he stepped onto the stage at Lincoln Center in the title role of Verdi’s FALSTAFF, Mr. Taddei had never sung at the Met. At his curtain call, THE NEW YORK TIMES reported, Mr. Taddei received ‘a rafter-shaking ovation’.
Opera exacts a great toll on the voice. Singers often retire in their 50's, at least from weightier fare. Appearing at a major opera house in one’s late 60s is highly unusual; making a début at that age, breathtakingly so. To do so to the kind of rapturous reviews Mr. Taddei received is almost beyond contemplation. What apparently stood Mr. Taddei in good stead was the Italian bel canto tradition — the lighter, less forceful style of singing in which he had been trained — which can let its practitioners extend their careers beyond the usual retirement age. In all, Mr. Taddei performed with the Met 21 times. Besides Falstaff, which he sang in 1985 and 1986, he appeared as Dr. Dulcamara in L’ELISIR D’AMORE in 1988.
Reviewing Mr. Taddei’s Met début in The Times, Donal Henahan wrote: ‘His Falstaff, not only wittily acted and fully formed, was astonishingly well sung. The voice is not exactly plummy these days, but it retains a wonderfully liquid quality in lyric passages’.
If Mr. Taddei could sing like that at 69, then why had the Met not signed him in even plummier days? As Mr. Taddei explained in a 1985 interview with The Times, the reasons centered on diplomacy, or rather what he saw as the lack of it. In 1951, he said, Rudolf Bing, then the Met’s general manager, asked him to audition. That did not sit well with Mr. Taddei, who was already a star in Europe. He declined Mr. Bing’s request. In 1958, Mr. Taddei said the Met tried to engage him again, at $600 a week. That did not sit well with Mr. Taddei, who asked for more money. The Met declined his request. A quarter-century went by. Then, in the early 1980s, after Mr. Taddei sang a well-received Falstaff at the Salzburg Festival in Austria, Mr. Levine, the Met’s music director, approached him. He offered Mr. Taddei the part of Fra Melitone in Verdi’s FORZA DEL DESTINO — a role typically billed sixth from the top. That did not sit well with Mr. Taddei . As he told THE TIMES, ‘I said thank you, but coming for the very first time, I think I should come as protagonista’. And thus, as Falstaff, Mr. Taddei went onstage a world-renowned singer and came back a star.”
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 4 June, 2010
"Known as a versatile artist effective in dramatic and comic roles…[Taddei] had an ample, warm, and smooth voice and was a very fine vocal actor, delivering the many declamatory passages with excellent diction."
- Kurt Moses, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, July/Aug., 2005