Edizioni Choudens Parigi - Rappresentante esclusivo
per Casa, Musicale Sonzogno Milano
Margherita Ana Maria Gonzalez
11 Dottor Faust Alfredo Kraus
Mefistofele Nicola Ghiuselev
Valentino Roberto Coviello
Siebel Ambra Vespasian i
Marta Wilma Colla
Wagner Tito Turtura
Orchestra Sinfonica deU'Emilia-Romagna "Arturo Toscaninl din t i n da Alain Guingal
Coro del Teatro Regio di Parma della Cooperativa "Artist! del Coro" cli Parma
Maestro del Coro Adolfo Tanzi
Regia, scene e costumi Beppe De Tomasi
Luci Alberto Roccheggiani
THE "FRENCH" KRAUS
However much lauded as the leading tenor for the French repertory in his day, Alfredo Kraus had not yet heen recorded in one of his key roles, that of Faust. And yet Faust, the pre-eminent character in French opera, had become part of Kraus's repertoire in 1957, only one year after his artistic debut (even though his appearance in the role, at the Teatro Sociale in Rovigo, had been in an Italian version) and only a few months before his performance in the legendary Traviata in Lisbon with Callas, a performance in which, with the help of her commanding presence, his brilliant career was launched.
At the time there was no tenor who truly impersonated Faust, for an attractive, caressing lyric voice also able to rise to the famous high C of the aria had passed from the scene with the young Di Stefano (who in any case had given the pleasure of his spectacular voice more to American audiences than to ours). Neither Poggi nor Raimondi could render the nuances and the style typical of the lyric genre, for they brought a bit too much Italian extrovertedness into the sophisticated French way of singing.
And in America Bjoerling—the great Faust of those years—unfortunately was soon to disappear from the scene in 1960. In elegance and technique Kraus was heir to the tenor tradition of Schipa and Valletti, and furthermore, handled the high register with more assurance and greater range than either of them. He must have sensed that the French repertory could lend itself to his talents, for he took popular roles of the light lyric genre (the Duke of Mantua, Alfredo, Ernesto, Almaviva, Edgardo) as his more or less exclusive specialty, and also risky roles for the highest of tenor voices (Arturo, Fernando, Elvino), mastering these latter victoriously. And in taking on these risky roles, he made, as it happens, exactly the right move, for at this critical juncture in Kraus's career a rising new star, the young Pavarotti, began to monopolize all the old warhorses, the popular roles, since Pavarotti was considered more appealing to popular audiences than Kraus, a man unjustly accused of frigid aloofness. And so the Spanish tenor, Kraus, was led to roles in which he had no rivals: Faust, Nadir, Rom^o, Des Grieux, Hoffmann and, obviously, Werther, the character with whom he identified himself, and was identified, most of all.
Goethe's art brought out the nostalgic, intimate, sentimental side of Kraus, and the character of Faust also brought out the aristocratic, refined, romantic side that so singularly characterized Kraus's way of presenting and impersonating fabulous characters, making them, as he did, rather princely even when they were of lower rank. This manner of presentation is clearly in evidence on this video. As a recording made of a live performance, it suffers from technical limitations, for it was filmed without adequate lighting, but nonetheless, in watching it one is struck not only by the vocal aplomb but also by the noble, sovereign presence of this Faust. Though on the threshold of sixty years old, Kraus has the charm of a young seducer, while not losing entirely the noble, detached demeanor of that old age which Mephistofeles had removed from him in exchange for his soul. As for the singing, this video is an authentic miracle of longevity in the freshness of timbre and the splendor of high notes that it preserves. And even more wonderfully, it shows us an artist who was able to surpass himself, achieving a vocal and expressive development that eclipses even the impeccable singing of the young Kraus. For in youth Kraus wasn't able to sing, as he does here, with such delicate shading, such perfect legato, with breath control that creates phrasings of ineffable sentimental abandon, with high notes—for example the B-sharp of "Je t'aime" in his first encounter with Margherite—opening softly and then increasing in theater.
The Regio Theater of Parma deserves credit for having presented Kraus at various stages of his career, and especially in his late maturity.
Kraus had a special affection for this theater, and it was the last opera house in Italy to give him roles regularly, to long-ago 1959, in Rigoletto and The Pearl Fishers, and for many years afterwards, Kraus performed in Parma in his standard repertoire, from Soreambula to Traviata (and also in an unrecorded Pinkerton in 1960). And in the final golden season of his long career he performed at Parma in a range of operas, from Werther to Favorita, from Fille du Regiment to Romeo et Juliette, from Faust to Lucia, and from Rigoletto (already reproduced on a Hardy video) to Les Contes d'Hqffmann.
In this list of acclaimed performances one notices more French roles than Italian, to this most Italian of Italian opera houses, such French predominance seems astonishing until one remembers that the "French" Kraus had no rivals, as has been said, and so, to present the leading tenor of the French repertory gave prestige to the Regio. Kraus's impeccable pronunciation, perfectly refined style, and interpretive distinction were outstanding even in a repertory less constricted than ours today, to his final season(s) at the Regio Kraus not only achieved his last great triumphs before an Italian audience but also gained a popularity that had escaped him in the early years of his career. And to attract a large following when singing to a language and repertory that are foreign is an achievement only of the greatest performers, those able to overcome every obstacle thanks to the communicative power of their art, universal and untarnished in its appeal—as was the art of Alfredo Kraus.