OP3253. ERNANI, Live Performance, 1 Dec., 1962, w.Schippers Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Leontyne Price, Carlo Bergonzi, Cornell MacNeil, Giorgio Tozzi, etc. (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio T-680. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
"[This] Met performance has so much more of the smell of the theater [than the later commercial recording] that it is clearly preferable as a musical and dramatic experience. To show us all how normal such a remarkable level of singing was in those days at the Met, there is also available, on the Myto label, a 1965 live ERNANI with Price, Franco Corelli, Sereni, and Cesare Siepi. These were not gala evenings, just the normal house standard!
Price and Bergonzi sing differently than they do on the RCA set. They are more involved in the drama at every moment, they hold notes longer and inflect with a thrust that is missing from the studio recording. Price's luscious soprano produces a remarkably beautiful sound throughout, but she is not averse to pushing the voice at climactic moments, thus adding urgency to her performance. Her trill in the cabaletta to 'Ernani, involami' is perfect, and in the quartet that ends the third act she soars gloriously above the other three. Bergonzi is even farther removed from his beautifully vocalized but rather staid bandit Ernani heard on the RCA. The cabaletta to his entrance aria pushes forward (from both him and Schippers) in a way totally absent from the studio recording. As Rayfield notes in his original FANFARE review, both Price and Bergonzi 'color words with real dramatic force'. The tenor's singing in the opera's final scene is the kind of vocalism that catches you up short with its beauty.
MacNeil is stupendous here. This might be (along with a Met TOSCA from the same period) the best recorded representation of the American baritone….MacNeil's leading the finale to the third act, 'O sommo Carlo', is reminiscent of Leonard Warren's singing in the 1956 Met radio broadcast.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
"...give Bergonzi a lyrical moment, no matter how brief, and he turns it to account....spinning out more lyrical phrases than one remembered Verdi had written....[he] banishes all trace of the bandit Ernani and becomes the aristocratic Don Juan of Aragonin manner as well as name."
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, pp.384-85
“Giorgio Tozzi, a distinguished bass who spent two decades with the Metropolitan Opera and also appeared on film, television and Broadway, was a distinguished professor emeritus at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, where he had taught since 1991. He was previously on the Juilliard School faculty [originally having studied with Rosa Raisa, Giacomo Rimini and John Daggett Howell].
Esteemed for his warm, smooth voice; skillful acting; pinpoint diction; and authoritative stage presence - he was 6 foot 2 in his prime - Mr. Tozzi sang 528 performances with the Met. He was so ubiquitous there for so long that THE NEW YORK TIMES was later moved to describe him (admiringly) as ‘inescapable’. Mr. Tozzi made his Met début as Alvise in Ponchielli’s LA GIOCONDA in 1955. Reviewing the performance, The NEW YORK POST wrote that he ‘proved to have a voice of beautiful quality’, adding: ‘It was rich in texture and expertly handled both as to characterization and technique’. His most famous performances at the Met include the title roles in Mussorgsky’s BORIS GODUNOV and Mozart’s MARRIAGE OF FIGARO; Ramfis in Verdi’s AÏDA; Don Basilio in Rossini’s BARBER OF SEVILLE; Philip II in Verdi’s DON CARLO; and Hans Sachs in Wagner’s DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG. Mr. Tozzi began his vocal life as a baritone. He made his début (as George Tozzi) in 1948, singing Tarquinius in Benjamin Britten’s THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA. Staged at the Ziegfeld Theater on Broadway, the production also starred Kitty Carlisle.
He originated the role of the Doctor in Samuel Barber’s VANESSA, which had its world premiere at the Met in 1958. Conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos, the production also starred Eleanor Steber and Nicolai Gedda. Mr. Tozzi’s last performance with the Met was in 1975, as Colline in Puccini’s BOHÈME.
He also sang with the San Francisco Opera, La Scala and other companies and appeared as a soloist with major symphony orchestras throughout the United States and Europe. On film Mr. Tozzi dubbed the singing voice of the actor Rossano Brazzi in the role of Emile de Becque in SOUTH PACIFIC (1958), directed by Joshua Logan. (Mr. Tozzi had played the role himself, opposite Mary Martin, in a West Coast production of the musical the year before.) On the small screen he sang King Melchior in the 1978 television film of Gian Carlo Menotti’s AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS, also starring Teresa Stratas. On Broadway he received a Tony nomination for the role of the lonely California grape farmer Tony Esposito in the 1979 revival of Frank Loesser’s operatic musical comedy THE MOST HAPPY FELLA. (The award went to Jim Dale for BARNUM.)"
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 2 June, 2011