OP3303. ADRIANA LECOUVREUR (Cilea), Live Performance, 26 Feb., 1983, w.Thomas Fulton Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Renata Scotto, Viorica Cortez, Neil Shicoff, Mario Sereni, etc. (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio stereo YSL T-676. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Better voices sing these parts with more body and security, but they are dull; they could easily feed their voices onto computer tape and let technology sing for them. Parceling out the notes as each score reads, for only Scotto takes the trouble to distinguish….Scotto is the last of the mad-genius sopranos….When she goes, opera is [will be, and is] in a lot of trouble. Above all, she is mistress of the traditions, with a grasp on authenticity.”
- Ethan Mordden, DEMENTED, THE WORLD OF THE OPERA DIVA, p.99
"In the same vein as Magda Olivero and Claudia Muzio, [Scotto’s] singing is a paragon of class, communication, and emotional authenticity."
- Raymond Tuttle, FANFARE, May/June, 2006
“Renata Scotto's long and successful operatic career was marked by a rare combination of dramatic intensity and vocal flexibility, which allowed her to traverse a wide variety of styles. She believed strongly in the theatrical elements of performing and always focused her energies on the meaning of a text. She also felt much of the standard verismo performing tradition to be exaggerated and vulgar, and strove to keep her performances as close to the composer's marked intentions as possible, especially with respect to subtleties of dynamics. Many speak of her as ‘the last of the divas’.
She began vocal studies when she was 14, and moved to Milan when she was 16. In 1952, when she was just 19, she made her debut as Violetta (LA TRAVIATA) at the Teatro Nuovo, followed by her La Scala debut as Walter in LA WALLY. However, only a few years later she had a vocal crisis, losing most of her upper range; she now credits her recovery to Alfredo Kraus (himself renowned for a solid technique and vocal longevity), who introduced her to his teacher, Mercedes Llopart. After completely restudying her technique, she re-began her career as a coloratura, making her London debut at the Stoll Theater as Adina in L'ELISIR D'AMORE. She returned to La Scala, and in 1957, replaced Maria Callas (whom she had greatly admired) as Amina in LA SONNAMBULA.
In 1960, she debuted at the Chicago Opera as Mimi (LA BOHEME), followed by her Covent Garden debut in 1962 as Puccini's Cio-Cio san (MADAMA BUTTERFLY). Her Metropolitan Opera debut was in 1965 was also as Butterfly; during the next two decades, Scotto was one of their major stars, appearing in several telecasts.
She began to add the heavier roles to her repertoire again, including Verdi's Lady Macbeth, which was to become a signature role, as well as verismo parts such as Fedora, La Gioconda, Francesca in Zandonai's FRANCESCA DA RIMINI and Maddalena in ANDREA CHENIER. In all of these roles she was applauded for her committed acting and stylistic fluency. While no recording can fully recreate the impressions of a stage performance, her first recording of MADAMA BUTTERFLY, under John Barbirolli, is one of her most vivid.”
- Anne Feeney, allmusic.com
“Viorica Cortez is a noted Romanian-born mezzo-soprano. Starting her operatic and concert career in the mid-1960s, she went on to become one of the most prominent female performers of the '70s and '80s.
In Bucharest, Viorica Cortez was the student of Arta Florescu, a post-war Romanian soprano and professor. After being hired by the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest in 1967 she toured the country and Europe (the former Yugoslavia, France, Greece and especially Ireland), making her debut in Thomas' MIGNON, Verdi's DON CARLO, AIDA and IL TROVATORE, Donizetti's LA FAVORITA and Massenet's WERTHER.
After hearing Cortez, Sir Georg Solti declared: ‘This IS the Carmen we've been looking for. We found HER’. Her London debut came in 1968 and the performances were hailed as one the season's most notable events.
Cortez's American debut occurred in 1970. She performed in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, then finally New York, where she first appeared alongside Martina Arroyo in Verdi's REQUIEM in Carnegie Hall. Both La Scala and the Metropolitan scheduled her, the first in SAMSON ET DALILA, the other in CARMEN. In New York, Richard Tucker, her Don José for the debut night, hailed her as one of the most attractive and convincing Carmens he has ever sung with.
From then on, Cortez's career covered every major opera house in the world. Claudio Abbado invited her for the Verdi REQUIEM at La Scala, along with Plácido Domingo and Nicolai Ghiaurov. The celebrated Bulgarian bass was her partner for Massenet's freshly revived opera, DON QUICHOTTE, both in Paris and Chicago. In Chicago, Cortez was a commanding and electrifying Elisabetta in MARIA STUARDA opposite Montserrat Caballé (1973). The friendship and mutual respect between the two divas represented a milestone in Cortez's career. For NORMA and MARIA STUARDA, as well as for DON CARLO and IL TROVATORE, the Catalan soprano and the Romanian mezzo-soprano were scheduled together in Lisbon, Naples, Nice, Vienna, Cologne, Madrid and La Scala (NORMA, 1974) and at the Met (IL TROVATORE, 1973). For almost four years, she was rarely in Europe, due to her long-term Metropolitan engagements (SAMSON ET DALILA - 1981, IL TROVATORE, LES CONTES D'HOFFMANN, ADRIANA LECOUVREUR - 1982, 1983, 1984).”
“Although he never achieved the star status of his some of his baritone contemporaries in the Italian repertory, Mario Sereni was an unfailingly sincere, intelligent artist of great commitment….Sereni, was a valuable member of the Metropolitan Opera’s roster for more than 27 seasons, beginning with his company debut, as Carlo Gerard in Andrea Chenier, in 1957. Sereni enjoyed a long and steady career at the Metropolitan Opera. In twenty-seven seasons, he sang most of the important baritone roles of the Italian repertory in opera such as Ernani, Luisa Miller, Il Trovatore, La Traviata, Un Ballo in Maschera, La Forza del Destino, Don Carlo, and Aida. He also sang in La Gioconda, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, Manon Lescaut, La Boheme, and Madama Butterfly, as well as L'Elisir d'Amore and Lucia di Lammermoor. In 1964, Sereni was a memorable Ford in the first performances of Franco Zeffirelli’s beloved Met staging of Falstaff, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. He also appeared in the 1972 Met gala saluting Rudolf Bing. Sereni made his last appearance with the Met in 1984, as Schaunard in La Boheme.
Sereni was also a regular guest at the opera houses of Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas. He also enjoyed a successful international career appearing frequently at the Vienna State Opera, La Scala in Milan and the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.
Despite his success, Sereni always remained in the shadow of the more charismatic baritones of his time, principally Leonard Warren, Robert Merrill, Ettore Bastianini, Rolando Panerai and Piero Cappuccilli, yet Sereni’s many recordings reveal a singer and musician of considerable distinction, with a handsome voice, a solid technique, and a fine sense of style.”
- OPERA NEWS, 1 Aug., 2015