OP3394. TOSCA, Live Performance, 23 March, 1957, w.Mitropoulos Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Licia Albanese, Daniele Barioni, Leonard Warren, etc. (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-972.
"Conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos’ way with Puccini’s TOSCA, as evidenced in this 1957 broadcast offers the best of all worlds. Mitropoulos combines energy and drive with a relishing of Puccini’s rich orchestral palette, and keen flexibility of pacing and phrasing. How fortunate we are that one of the great orchestral conductors of the 20th century had such a love and affinity for the opera house! I place Mitropoulos’ vision of TOSCA alongside that of Victor de Sabata’s in the iconic 1953 EMI La Scala TOSCA (Callas, di Stefano, Gobbi) as the most gripping renditions I’ve heard. Albanese’s voice was more lyric than spinto, one not by nature ideally endowed for Puccini’s Floria Tosca. And on occasion, the role could be somewhat beyond Albanese’s vocal resources. The March 23, 1957 broadcast is decidedly not one of those occasions. Albanese is in rich and secure voice, and the high C’s ring out with authority. As with her Violetta, Albanese presents Tosca as a three-dimensional character. This Tosca’s jealousy is in no way melodramatic or cartoonish; rather it is a natural outgrowth of her love and passion for Cavaradossi. Once again, Albanese and Warren (as Scarpia) play off each other in riveting fashion. With Mitropoulos leading the way, the tension in Act II is maintained from Tosca’s entrance until her final departure following Scarpia’s death. ‘Vissi d’arte’ is both ravishingly sung, and emoted as the plea of a woman driven to the brink of desperation. A masterful performance, and one that all fans of TOSCA will want to hear. Warren’s Scarpia was, to my mind, one of his most complete and brilliant characterizations. In terms of investing meaning to the text via phrasing and coloring of the music and text, Warren proves Albanese’s equal. And Warren is in stupendous voice for the broadcast. Italian tenor Daniele Barioni is the Cavaradossi. Barioni was a tenor with a gleaming lirico-spinto voice; an artist who sang with passion, some style, and ringing top notes, if not the most secure negotiation of the passaggio. During the mid-1950s to early-1960s, he was a frequent and valuable presence at the Met, at a time when there were many other fine tenors on the roster. But on this occasion, it seems that events conspired against Barioni. The scheduled Cavaradossi for the broadcast was the immortal Swedish tenor Jussi Björling. But Björling was indisposed, and replaced by Barioni. On the Thursday evening prior to the Saturday afternoon broadcast, Barioni had sung Alfredo at the Met, alongside Renata Tebaldi and Ettore Bastianini. The lack of appropriate rest, the last minute call to come to the rescue, and the responsibility of replacing an artist of Björling’s stature seem to have been too much for the 26-year-old Barioni. Act I is marred by intonation problems, choppy phrasing, and pinched high notes. Acts II and III proceed in much better fashion, but overall, this broadcast hardly finds Barioni in optimal form. Still, the performances of Mitropoulos, Albanese, and Warren, in tandem with excellent comprimario work (including an especially well sung and characterized Sacristan by Gerhard Pechner), make this TOSCA worth hearing [op3394]. And if you are an Albanese fan, you won’t want to miss her in such vocally authoritative and dramatically commanding form. The recorded sound is excellent; even better than the TRAVIATA. And if I can’t quite say the sound is equal to studio recordings of the time, that is only because we have now entered the era of some opulent studio productions from the likes of such companies as Decca. Still, this is an important and thrilling document. And if you want to explore more of Mitropoulos’ work in Puccini’s TOSCA, a January 7, 1956 Met broadcast with Tebaldi, Tucker, and Warren, issued by various labels specializing in live performances, is a ‘must’. Likewise, a November 21, 1959 Met performance offers the opportunity to hear Mitropoulos collaborating with Jussi Björling as Cavaradossi. Mary-Curtis Verna is the Tosca, and Cornell MacNeil the Scarpia. The latter is part of a marvelous 6-disc IP tribute to Björling (Fanfare 44:2, Nov/Dec 2020) [v2647]."
- Ken Meltzer, FANFARE, Nov. / Dec., 2021
"Albanese's Tosca is one of her most vivid broadcast portrayals. Her diva is a veritable whirlwind of passionate avowal. She is in excellent voice (even better than for Manon Lescaut), the tone pouring out in liquid legato....In the final duet (still fresh of voice), she spins richly colored tones, enveloping Mario with the warmth of her love before execution takes him from her."
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, p.426
“Featured In the title role of the Puccini thriller was that sterling, little artist of the Italian tradition, Licia Albanese. Miss Albanese applied to the part of the fine sense of theater and dramatic illusion that has always been one of her most cherished attributes.
One had only to watch her in the realistic business of the knife at the table before the killing of Scarpia to know this was a true daughter of the theater….there were moments enough when the tones rose in easy brightness over the turbulent surface of Puccini's orchestra.
I might add that I don't remember when Miss Albanese looked so young and slender and attractive. This was a very believable Tosca. Dimitri Mitropoulos conducted with his usual intensity and zeal. There was no sensation at TOSCA last night, which, for a change, was just as well. The crowd heard Puccini instead."
- Louis Biancolli, THE WORLD TELEGRAM AND SUN, 1957
“Daniele Barioni is an Italian opera singer who had a prolific career during the 1950s through the 1970s. Early on in his career he rose to fame as a leading tenor at the Metropolitan Opera between 1956 and 1962. Afterwards he worked primarily in opera houses and concerts throughout the United States, although he did make numerous appearances in both Europe and South America as well. Barioni was particularly associated with the operas of Giacomo Puccini and the roles of Turiddu in Mascagni's CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA and Alfredo in Verdi's LA TRAVIATA.
Barioni began his singing studies in 1949 in Milan with Attilio Bordonali, initially studying the baritone repertoire. He made his professional singing début that same year at the Circolo Italia, Milan, in a concert with the Chilean soprano Claudia Parada. Not too long after, his teacher became convinced he was actually a tenor and began training Barioni in the tenor repertoire for the next five years. His operatic début was in 1954 as Turiddu in CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA at the Teatro Nuovo, Milan.
In 1956 Barioni came to the United States to join the roster at the Metropolitan Opera where he sang for seven seasons for a total of 54 performances. During his tenure at the Met, Barioni sang opposite some of the world's finest sopranos including Lucine Amara, Maria Callas, Mary Curtis Verna, Victoria de los Ángeles, Dorothy Kirsten, Zinka Milanov, Leonie Rysanek, Giulietta Simionato, Antonietta Stella, and Renata Tebaldi, among others. He made his début with the company on 20 February 1956 as Mario Cavaradossi in TOSCA with Delia Rigal in the title role and George London as Scarpia. Just two days later he sang his first Rodolfo in Puccini's LA BOHÈME opposite Licia Albanese, his most frequent leading lady at the Met, as Mimì. His last performance at the Met was on 27 November, 1962 as the Italian Singer in Richard Strauss' DER ROSENKAVALIER.
Though for many years his career was mostly developed in the United States, he sang in Italy in different cities and theaters, and also in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Canada, Portugal, France, Germany and Ireland. In 1958 he appeared in an Italian film, CAROSELLO DI CANZONI. Though he was a favorite in Rome where he sang for many years at the Opera and Caracalla, he sang at the famous La Scala only in 1966, as Pinkerton and Turiddu. Though his repertory was basically that of a spinto tenor and he was always asked to repeat his well-known roles in TOSCA, LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST or CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA, he also obtained acclaim in NABUCCO, MACBETH, FEDORA, ANDREA CHÉNIER, TURANDOT and LA GIOCONDA.
Barioni married in 1957 the Italian-American pianist Vera Franceschi. In 1958 their son Giulio Barioni was born. She died prematurely of leukemia in 1966. Her death also meant the decline of Barioni's career as a singer. From 1975 to 1980 he appeared in opera and concerts, but not so often as in previous years. His last appearance was in a concert with Renata Tebaldi at the Teatro Comunale, in Ferrara, in 1981, to receive the Premio Frescobaldi 1980.
He made some recordings for the Metropolitan Opera Club, available by subscription on a limited basis only.”
- Ned Ludd
"Leonard Warren emerged as the principal baritone of the Met’s Italian wing in the early 1940s and remained so until his untimely death on the Met’s stage, 4 March, 1960, at the peak of his career. His smooth, velvety, and beautiful voice was powerful and had an unusually large range in its high register. It was easily and evenly produced, whether he sang softly or roared like a lion….Warren acted his roles primarily by vocal coloring, expressivity, and his excellent diction….his singing was unusually consistent….Warren’s legacy should be of interest to all lovers of great singing."
- Kurt Moses, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./Dec., 2006
“Conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos stood apart from the European traditions that dominated first-rank American orchestras for much of the twentieth century. After attending the Athens Conservatory, where he studied piano and composition, his opera BÉATRICE was presented there. The French composer Saint-Saëns was in the audience, and was so impressed that he arranged a scholarship that enabled the 24-year-old to study composition with the Belgian composer Paul Gilson and piano with Busoni in Berlin. Busoni persuaded him to abandon composition and concentrate on becoming a conductor.
From 1921 to 1925, Mitropoulos assisted Erich Kleiber at the Berlin State Opera and on Kleiber's recommendation, was appointed conductor of the Hellenic Conservatory Symphony Orchestra in Athens. In 1927, he became conductor of the Greek State Symphony Orchestra and in 1930 was engaged to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, where he instituted the practice of conducting from the piano.
In 1937 Mitropoulos succeeded Eugene Ormandy as musical director of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. He became a U.S. citizen in 1946, and remained in America until 1959. After 12 years in Minneapolis, he was invited to share the conductorship of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra with Stokowski, becoming its conductor when Stokowski resigned in 1950. Mitropoulos resigned the post after sharing the podium with Leonard Bernstein, his co-principal conductor, in the Orchestra's 1958 tour of Latin America. From 1954, he was a dynamic force as Bruno Walter's successor at the Metropolitan Opera, where he introduced many new operas, including ones by Richard Strauss and Samuel Barber.
Mitropoulos never conducted his own works, but considered his best composition to be a Concerto Grosso written in 1929. He lived simply and took little part in social activities. His conducting style was passionate, highly-charged and demonstrative; he had a phenomenal memory and rarely used a baton. He programmed much modern music and particularly admired Schönberg and the Second Viennese School, such as Webern and Berg, as well as twentieth century American and British composers. His recording of Mahler's First Symphony made with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra in 1941 was the first ever made in the U.S. of that work, and Mitropoulos was awarded the American Mahler Medal of Honor in 1950 for his work in promoting the composer's music. He died while rehearsing Mahler's Third Symphony with Toscanini's famous La Scala Orchestra.”
- Roy Brewer, allmusic.com