V2858. HINA SPANI: The Complete Recordings, 1924-31, incl. Songs by Caccini, Ciampi, Scarlatti, Paradies, Tirindelli, Brahms, Dvorák, Granados, Nin, Ugarte, Buchardo, Obradors, etc.; Arias from Aida, Ballo, Cavalleria, Madama Butterfly, Manon Lescaut & Tosca (the foregoing all 1924, acoustic Columbia); Arias & Duets (w.Zenatello) from Guglielmo Tell, Otello, Ballo, Il Trovatore, Lohengrin, Faust, Manon, Pagliacci, Manon Lescaut, La Boheme, Madama Butterfly, Tosca & La Wally (the foregoing all electric Gramophone, 1926-31); GIANNINA ARANGI-LOMBARDI: Arias from Forza, Il Trovatore, Ballo, Aida & I Lombardi - recorded 1926-35, Italian Columbia. 2-Marston 52077. Transfers by Ward Marston. Elaborate booklet has discographic data, photos & notes by Michael Aspinall & Tully Potter. - 638335207728
“This superb compilation by Ward Marston shines a light on an undervalued spinto soprano from the first half of the 20th century, the Argentinian Hina Spani (1890–1969). In his excellent program notes Tully Potter explains that because her career was limited largely to Italy, Spain, and South America (she never appeared in England or the United States), Spani did not command the kind of attention from record companies that her talent merited. She was a mainstay at Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and other South American opera houses, often singing with the likes of Caruso and Titta Ruffo.
In 1920 her career took off in Italy. She sang Elsa in LOHENGRIN in Parma under Tulio Serafin with Aureliano Pertile and Cesare Formichi, and roles as disparate as Sieglinde in DIE WALKÜRE, Santuzza in CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA, Mimì in LA BOHÈME, and the title role in LA WALLY. A second breakthrough came in 1924 when Puccini on his deathbed asked that Spani sing at his funeral, a service held in the Duomo in Milan. Toscanini led the La Scala chorus and orchestra, and the program was then repeated at La Scala. Although she had sung there in a secondary role in 1915, this event turned Spani into one of La Scala’s leading sopranos. She also appeared throughout Italy and Spain, singing a wide range of operas, concerts, and recitals. She sang her final operatic performances in 1940 but continued giving recitals until 1946. As related in Potter’s booklet essay, Spani had a heart condition, and on the advice of her doctor she made the decision to stop singing. devoting her later years to teaching.
Spani’s acoustical recordings, made for Columbia in 1924, comprise the first seven tracks on CD 1. They show a somewhat more lyrical and brighter voice than on the later electrical recordings, and also a more unbuttoned personality. The latter is not always to the good of the music. Marston includes an unpublished ‘La mamma morta’ from ANDREA CHÉNIER that was reputedly rejected by Spani, and one can understand why. In what may have been an attempt to vividly portray Maddalena’s horror, the climactic high B is an unmusical yelp. Her singing in the duet with Turiddu from CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA is appropriately impassioned, but done in by a thin-voiced tenor, Paolo Masini (not to be confused with the more frequently recorded, and better, Galliano Masini).
Spani’s next recording sessions were electricals for the Gramophone Company, Ltd, beginning in 1926. Most were made with the La Scala orchestra conducted by Carlo Sabajno, and the singer’s approach shows an important shift in both vocal production and style. Some of the difference may be due to recording techniques. Spani’s voice sounds fuller, the upper and middle registers better joined, and her singing is more controlled, which is not to say that it lacks drama. Her 1928 recording of ‘Ebben ne andrò lontano’ from LA WALLY begins intimately and swells to something full-throated and impassioned, and Mimì’s farewell from LA BOHÈME is tender and refined. You can compare the acoustical and electrical versions of ‘In quelle trine morbide’ from MANON LESCAUT and ‘Vissi d’arte’ from TOSCA, and the growth in refinement and control, without any loss of dramatic intensity, is clear.
The one constant is the sheer beauty of tone. Spani’s voice gleams with an attractive shine and a rapid vibrato that is just the right degree to add expressivity, never so strong as to distract. She easily spans the long lines of Aida’s music and Leonora’s in IL TROVATORE. The OTELLO scene with Giovanni Zenatello unfortunately capture the tenor near the end of a long career of singing strenuous roles, and his tone is squeezed out unpleasantly. Spani manages both beautiful singing and a sensitive portrayal.
A couple of other highlights deserve mention. Elsa’s solos from LOHENGRIN, although sung in Italian, are particularly beautiful. Potter points out that Wagner often declared that his music should be sung in the Italian manner, and Spani’s bel canto approach suits it perfectly. Her legato is impeccable, and her imaginative use of dynamic shading is breathtaking. The other recording that I treasure here is the Nedda-Silvio duet from PAGLIACCI, sung with Apollo Granforte. Despite his imposing name, Granforte was an extremely sensitive baritone and a far classier one than is usually cast as Silvio. I doubt that this duet has ever received a superior recording....
The last 20 tracks are devoted to a wide range of Baroque and Classical songs (Caccini, Ciampi, Scarlatti, etc.), where Spani displays her flowing legato, even vocal production through all registers, and flexible technique. Two Brahms Lieder are sung in Italian…beautifully, and Spani shows great character in two of Dvorák’s Gypsy Songs. A group of Spanish songs are of course completely natural to her.
Because Marston always tries to fill CDs to their capacity, he had room for a bonus: six great Verdi recordings by soprano Giannini Arangi Lombardi, 1891 to 1951. Lombardi’s recording of ‘O patria mia’ from AIDA is legendary for is glorious pianissimi, including the one that begins the high C and then swells. She makes a fitting conclusion to this set, since all six Lombardi recordings represent a thrilling example of great Verdi singing. Potter’s notes add to our understanding and our appreciation of her.
Marston’s transfers are as good as can be found anywhere today, and the documentation is thorough. I should also point out that most of Spani’s electrical recordings are very well conducted by Carlo Sabajno. There is some very beautiful singing contained on these two discs.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE, July, 2022
"When electrical recording came in, the Columbia Graphophone Company engaged Giannina Arangi Lombardi, a wonderful dramatic soprano who recorded four complete operas and many other records for them. To build up their catalogue, La Voce del Padrone really needed a dramatic soprano to replace Celestina Boninsegna, whose acoustic records had sold so well;
Spani was a robust lirico spinto, and Maestro Sabajno, who planned and conducted most of her operatic records, led her from one success to another….Spani greatly admired Claudia Muzio, and perhaps occasionally we catch a fleeting glimpse of a ‘Muzio effect’ in Spani’s records….Reviewing the [two following] arias in GRAMOPHONE in 1928, Herman Klein wrote that the disc was ‘of surpassing excellence. It would be difficult to imagine a more delicate and refined rendering either of the ‘Addio di Mimì’ or the charming page, ‘In quelle trine morbid’, from MANON LESCAUT. This singer offers a lesson in naturalness, sweetness, and steadiness of tone'.
Maestro Sabajno also supports her with wonderful conducting in what may be her most beautiful record, and also one of the rarest. Two pages from LOHENGRIN reveal a perfect Wagner singer, despite her rather earthy type of vocal timbre, warm and ripe - a southern voice…. Wagner longed to hear his operas sung in the Italian manner, and this Spani can provide, as well as very long phrases without having to snatch breaths. She may not have the pure, virginal timbre that might be thought appropriate to a royal lady of Brabant, but she has other weapons: a voice floating securely on the breath, clear diction, a true musician’s command of rhythm and the dreamy piano and pianissimo that this music demands but rarely gets."
- Michael Aspinall
"Although this great soprano drammatico never sang at Covent Garden or the Metropolitan, her electrical recordings for Columbia have always kept Arangi Lombardi’s name before opera lovers, especially because of her incomparable performances in the complete AIDA and LA GIOCONDA. She might be thought of as Italy’s counterpart to Rosa Ponselle, whose voice was often compared to pure gold, while Arangi Lombardi’s is more akin to silver tempered with steel.
Each of Arangi Lombardi’s records show her deep feeling for the music, and, in particular, ‘D’amor sull’ali rosee’ from IL TROVATORE is a classic performance. This difficult aria presents no obstacles to this polished technician: all the trills are clearly articulated, she observes the implied increase of intensity as the aria progresses….Hers is a voice that lends itself spontaneously to the expression of pain, longing, nostalgia - qualities that she finds again, most nobly, in two excerpts from Verdi’s I LOMBARDI, an opera that she apparently never sang in the theater but which she had obviously studied as no detail in the score is overlooked."
- Michael Aspinall