OP3225. COSÌ FAN TUTTE, Live Performance, 27 Jan., 1956, Piccolo Scala, w.Guido Cantelli, Cond.Piccolo Scala Ensemble; Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Nan Merriman, Graziella Sciutti, Luigi Alva, Rolando Panerai & Franco Calabrese. (Canada) 2-Immortal Performances IPCD 1083, accompanied by Elaborate Booklet with photos & notes by Henry Fogel, B. H. Haggin & Richard Caniell. Transfers by Richard Caniell. - 019962528613
“This January 27, 1956 performance of COSI FAN TUTTE was broadcast from the stage of the Piccolo Scala Theater in Milan. The Piccolo Scala COSI is the only recorded document of the Guido Cantelli leading a complete operatic performance. By the time Cantelli led this COSI, performed in celebration of Mozart’s 200th birthday, the young Italian conductor had firmly established himself as one of the finest and most dynamic young artists of his generation. But on November 24, 1956, Cantelli died in a plane crash shortly after taking off from Paris’ Orly Airport. Cantelli (like Mozart at the time of his untimely death) was only 36 years old. Because Arturo Toscanini greatly admired and identified with Cantelli’s conducting, and did much to champion the young man’s career, these two great artists are often compared to each other. Suffice it to say that Guido Cantelli was a brilliant talent, a conductor with extraordinary and patrician musical sensibilities, coupled with the necessary technique and fierce will to achieve his desired results. [This] 1956 COSÌ has also previously been issued on several labels devoted to in-performance recordings.
Collectors have long prized the Cantelli Piccolo Scala COSI FAN TUTTE for the extraordinary quality of the performance, if not its recorded sound. Cantelli was a fiercely demanding perfectionist, and the quality of execution in this live performance is breathtaking. But despite the obvious amount of rehearsal invested, the performance always has a genuine feeling of spontaneity, as if the artists were discovering the miracles of Mozart’s creation for the very first time. In that sense, the Cantelli COSI reminds me of the best work of Carlos Kleiber, notably the latter’s performances of LA BOHEME and DER ROSENKAVALIER. As my colleague Henry Fogel notes in his superb liner notes for the Immortal Performances issue under review, COSI FAN TUTTE is an ensemble opera par excellence. And on this occasion, Cantelli had at his disposal six world-class singers, all in prime vocal form, and totally sympathetic to their Maestro’s approach. And that approach was to perform Mozart’s score with absolute respect for the beauty and subtlety of the music, all the while capturing both the comedy and pathos of the story, without ever lapsing into caricature or slapstick. All of the singers also well understand the importance of crystal-clear diction, not only to advance the story, but also to launch and maintain the vocal line. The contributions of the singers are by themselves more than sufficient to recommend this set, but there is also the ravishing, detailed playing Cantelli elicits from the Piccolo Scala Orchestra. Indeed, conductor, singers, and orchestra emerge as a unified voice, complementing each other, and thereby giving Mozart’s score its full due (there are some cuts, typical of performances of the time). This is truly a magical performance from start to finish, and one of the finest accounts of COSI FAN TUTTE I’ve ever heard. If only the quality of the sonics approached the performance! But alas, the radio broadcast is marred by a cramped, colorless acoustic. And as if matters weren’t bad enough, a furnace used to warm the theater during the January performance creates an omnipresent hum. I’ve heard three prior releases of this broadcast….[This] new Immortal Performances release represents by far the best sonic restoration I’ve heard of the Cantelli COSI. Producer Richard Caniell has managed through painstaking work to remove the continuous hum caused by the [Piccolo Scala] furnace, without resorting to noticeable filtering. There is more tape surface noise in this version than the others I’ve heard. But the welcome tradeoff is the best representation by far of the orchestra’s contribution to this performance. And, given the magic conjured by Cantelli and the Piccolo Scala Orchestra, that is a necessary component for a full appreciation of this important document. The singers, too, emerge with greater definition and tonal beauty. In addition to Henry Fogel’s essay on Mozart’s Opera and this performance, the booklet includes a plot synopsis, singer bios, a brief history of Piccolo Scala, Richard Caniell’s Recording Notes, B. H. Haggin’s memorial appreciation of Cantelli, a further essay on the conductor by Caniell, and performance and artist photos. The recorded sound on the Immortal Performances release still does not approach the quality of studio recordings of the era. But at long last, the totality of the unique and transcendent achievement by Cantelli, his superb team of vocal soloists, and the Piccolo Scala forces may be savored in its entirety, with no need to rely upon one’s imagination. Recommended, with gratitude to Richard Caniell and Immortal Performances.”
- Ken Meltzer, FANFARE, Sept./Oct., 2017
“Rolando Panerai, an Italian baritone who sang more than 150 roles at leading international opera houses, made many classic recordings and appeared frequently with the celebrated soprano Maria Callas in her prime, was widely admired throughout a 65-year operatic career for his full-bodied sound and the elegance of his singing. Steeped in the Italian vocal heritage, he sang with supple phrasing and evenness throughout his entire vocal range. If not the most charismatic presence onstage, he readily conveyed authority and dramatic depth and brought a light comedic touch to the title roles of Puccini’s GIANNI SCHICCHI and Rossini’s THE BARBER OF SEVILLE, among many other characters. Though his repertory was extensive, Mr. Panerai focused closely on Italian opera. Earlier in his career, he sang several German roles in Italian translation, like Amfortas in Wagner’s PARSIFAL.
Outlining the requisite qualities of a true ‘Verdi baritone’ in an interview earlier this year with Classical Singer magazine, Mr. Panerai essentially described his own voice: ‘a dark brownish tint like bronze’ coupled with ‘the quality of the metal, which reminds us of the power and strength’. In a 1996 interview with Bruce Duffie for WNIB, a former classical music radio station in Chicago, Mr. Panerai cautioned younger singers about being ‘dragged into’ the characters they portray. ‘I am used to acting with a certain detachment or coldness’, he said. By acting that way ‘you can act better’, he asserted, and more effectively convey ‘what the composer has to say’.
Famous from his recordings and busy in Europe, Mr. Panerai had a lower profile on American opera stages. Mr. Panerai singing Figaro in a production of THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO at the San Francisco Opera in 1958. Famous from his recordings and busy in Europe, Mr. Panerai had a lower profile on American opera stages.
His performances sounded anything but detached. On a 1955 live recording of Donizetti’s LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, a production at the Berlin State Opera conducted by Herbert von Karajan starring Callas, Mr. Panerai holds his own in every gripping moment of the confrontation between his character, Enrico, the head of a Scottish estate in severe decline, and Callas’ Lucia, Enrico’s tormented sister, whom he is trying to force into an advantageous marriage to save the family from ruin. Callas sounds frantic and dazed by her brother’s bullying. Yet below the surface bluster of Mr. Panerai’s Enrico, you hear the panic of a prideful young man who needs his fragile sister to rescue him. Mr. Panerai sang often with Callas during the 1950s, the most important decade of her career, and made several treasured opera recordings with her, including versions of Bellini’s I PURITANI, Verdi’s IL TROVATORE and Puccini’s LA BOHÈME. He called Callas ‘the greatest singer I ever listened to or worked with’ in the 1996 interview.
In 1972, 16 years after the BOHÈME with Callas, Mr. Panerai recorded the role of Marcello, this time with Mirella Freni as Mimì, Luciano Pavarotti as Rodolfo and Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic. It is the BOHÈME of choice for many Puccini-lovers.
He sang one of his signature roles, Ford in FALSTAFF, on three acclaimed recordings: with Karajan conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra of London in 1956; with Leonard Bernstein leading the Vienna Philharmonic in 1966; and again with Karajan, in 1980, also leading the Vienna Philharmonic. The critic Peter G. Davis, reviewing the last version for THE NEW YORK TIMES, wrote that Mr. Panerai’s ‘dark, vibrant, firm, slightly dry tone has changed remarkably little with age, nor has his characteristic nobility of expression, incisive diction and elegant feeling for Verdian phrases deserted him’.
Rolando Panerai was born the youngest of three brothers on Oct. 17, 1924, in Campi Bisenzio, near Florence. His father, Oreste, ran a shoe factory. His mother was Ada (Paoli) Panerai. Rolando was drawn to music early. He studied at the academy in Florence, continued his training in Milan and made his stage debut in 1946 as Enrico in “Lucia di Lammermoor” at the theater in his hometown.
He never appeared at the Metropolitan Opera, though he was offered some engagements early in his career. But by then he had a family and wanted to stay closer to home. He continued to sing, as well as coach and, in later years, direct operas, through his 70s. In 2011, at 87, he sang the title role of GIANNI SCHICCHI in Genoa. Mr. Panerai attributed his longevity to sensible work habits, giving up smoking in his 20s and eating a Mediterranean diet. He advised younger singers to focus on their artistry and not obsess about a career. ‘It is best to sing well and not become bigheaded’, he said in 1996. ‘The rest comes all by itself’.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 30 Oct., 2019