Parole e musica di Ruggero Leoncavallo
Nedda – Mafalda Micheluzzi
Canio – Franco Corelli
Tonio – Tito Gobbi
Peppe – Mario Carlin
Silvio – Lino Puglisi
Maestro del Coro Roberto Benaglio
Regia Di Franco Enriquez
Orchestra e Coro della Radio Televizione Italiana
Dirige Afredo Simonetto
Registrazione del 26 settembre 1954
La Rosa di Stambul (Leo Fall) “O Rosa di Stambul”
Carmen (George Bizet) “La fleur que tu m’avais jetee”
Aida (Giuseppe Verdi) “Celeste Aida”
Il Trovatore (Giuseppe Verdi) “Ah! Sib en mio”, “Di quella pira”
Cavalleira rusticana (Pietro Mascagni) “Addio alla madre”
La Messa di Requiem (Giuseppe Verdi) “Indemisco”
A TROVE OF MEMORIES
The importance of this DVD--the latest in a long line of great operatic productions that Hardy has rescued from Ihe historic RAI archives-is twofold. First, il is one of the very few filmed performances that we have of Franco Corelli, and second, it oilers important evidence of his artistic development. Certainly we would have loved lo have a visual memorial of the grc. nor from Ancona in other roles that lie made famous, like Radames, Manrico, Ernan illlone, Poliuto, Gualtiero of "The Pirate", and Raul of "The Huguenots." These, together wil Calaf, Don Jose, Cavaradossi, Chenier, and Don Alvaro (which fortunately are all still vailable in some form) were the most unforgettable roles of his brilliant career. Canio, ii inlrast. was a role that he played at the beginning of his career, in 1953 at the Baths o uracalla in Rome, and seldom later. He had made his operatic debut at the Experimental in polelo in 1951, and in 1953 he was to make a fleeting reappearance there, precisely in the role of Canio, at a time when he was already renowned lo an extent unusual for a singer still 1 near the start of his career. Subsequently Corelli performed only sporadically in oncavallo's masterpiece, though each time with distinction: at La Scala in 1957; three years Iater at La Scala in an audiotaped performance; at the Met in 1964; and a few times in some his well-known opera houses in Italy and America.
The video recording on this CD was made in the RAI studios in Milan on 26 September 1954 Corelli was then just over thirty years old (and two mon ths lat er would make his debut at La Scala, singing in "La Vestale" with Callas). Though so young, he was already considered on
Ihe most promising tenors of the day. even though his repertory was not yet extensive and well-defined. II included roles he knew well (in "Carmen" and "Norma"); operas in which h had made good beginnings ("Aida," "Tosca," and "Don Carlo"); and a variety of other striking
perfomances—in "Agnese di Hohcnstaufen" by Spontini, "Ifigenia in Aulide" by Gluck, Carust "Giulietla e Romeo" by Zandonai, and "Guerra e Pace" by Prokofiev. Thus at this point the new tenor still needed to gain mastery in classic roles of the type called "lyrico-spinto." and without doubt Canio is one of those roles. It was inevitable, then, that he would have to deal with the character of Canio; and in any case it had been a point of honour to do so ever since Caruso had given the role unquestioned pre-eminence in the tenor repertory. Let us return in our minds to fifty years ago, and try to imagine the impact that Corelli's performance must have had on the audience of that time, even though it was a rather small audience since there were not yet many fortunate subscribers to the then-very-new phenomenon of RAI television. In those days, Gigli had recently retired and the reigning star in the role of Canio was Del Monaco. (Di Stefano had very recently sung the role, but only for a recording.) Del Monaco sang the role with almost muscular force and acted it with violence. Corelli, too, had a strikingly powerful voice, a voice of bronze, and was capable of passionate outbursts; and surely he knew of and kept in mind the best performances in the role, both past and present. However, even then Corelli already had an extremely personal style: his large voice, sculpted phrasing, and the nobility of even his most emphatic moments were not simply the style of a tenor devoted to early-nineteenth-century opera; they were also the product of modern good taste, opposed to ostentation and respectful of tradition. Furthermore, besides the extraordinary nature of his voice, Corelli had other arrows in his quiver: an amazing ability to reduce the flow of sound to a plaintive near-whisper and to draw out the high notes as only Fleta (among dramatic tenors) had been able to do; a spectacular high register of astonishing expansiveness and luminosity (who else, since Lauri-Volpi and Filippeschi. had flaunted such insolent high notes?); and a stage presence-a physical beauty--unknown heretofore in the lyric theatre. These qualities would become ever more clear in the years to come, and in any case "Pagliacci" is an opera that gives only limited opportunities to display them. Indeed, the role calls for a kind of singing that is declamatory and intense and thus leaves lit I le space lor colorist subtleties, and furthermore, if Canio were physically fascinating, his betrayal by Nedda would make no sense.
Despite these limitations, Corelli manages, in this recording, to do justice to all of the most hazardous vocal moments with a sincerity and vocal force that is overwhelming and at Ihe same time with an expressive sobriety that Is modesty itself compared to what one heard in those days. For instance, he avoids the stagey sobbing--in "Vesti la giubba" and in the finale--on which other tenors depended lo guarantee their success with undiscriminating audiences. And not only thai; also, his Interpretation of the role is truly new and personal: he presents a character who is pulsing with vitality but fragile and neurotic, a character who, when faced with the collapse of his world, literally loses his mind, destroying not only his wife and her lover but also himself. Thanks to the directing of Franco Enriquez we are made aware of this self-destruction in the final images that follow "La commedia e finita!"--a phrase pronounced soundlessly and tonelessly by a Canio now destroyed. This ending, and this interpretation of the character, are something quite new for those days: finally they achieve a psychological understanding of a character heretofore superficially dismissed as a man obsessed by a thirst for blood.
Supporting this new young tenor is a veteran of the operatic stage, Tito Gobbi, performing in one of his old standby roles, Tonio— a role he had played just three months earlier in a recording alongside Callas and Di Stefano. Here we have not only the thousand expressive turns of this baritone's voice (especially eloquent in sarcastically insisting on the "chaste" character of Nedda in the course of the drama); we also have the chameleon-like quality of his acting, his extraordinarily mobile face transmitting all of the character's einolions--lrom cynical to imploring, from comic to desperate. It is a portrayal pushed almost lo Ihe point of being grotesque, and amplified by the make-up this noble translormis! wore, for which he was famous, and which enabled him to transform himself from the obsequious Tonio lo Ihe domineering Scarpia with incomparable success.
The rest of the cast are more typical of their era both in their acting and In Ihelr tiislc. Mafalda Micheluzzi is a Nedda vocally accurate and sufficiently flexible lo adjust scenic, illy to I he needs of the new medium of television; Mario Carlin presents an honcsl licppe anil I.Inn I'nglisi a successful Silvio; and the performance is well conducted by I In- vein an Alfredo Si me niello. On this DVD we proceed from 1954 lo 1963 to encounter Corelli again.