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Piero Cappuccilli: Recital
14 Jun 2006

Piero Cappuccilli: Recital

Can you believe it? With all the profound knowledge of my 24 years, I first visited the Verona Arena in 1968. On was Trovatore with Bergonzi, Gencer and, as Luna, Piero Cappuccilli.

Piero Cappuccilli: Recital

Arias from Pagliacci, Zaza, Rigoletto, Andrea Chénier, Nabucco, Il Trovatore, La forza del destino, Roberto Devereux, Hérodiade, Ernani, I Due Foscari, Les pêcheurs de perles, Don Carlo.

MYTO 055321 [CD]

$16.99  Click to buy

Not him again, I thought, as during the early sixties he was a regular of bel canto concerts at Flemish Public Radio where I worked. Well, I softened somewhat during the performance as he was in terrific form and had to encore “Il balen” (so did Bergonzi with “Di quella pira”).

Still, in retrospect, I don’t think my reaction was one of pure conceit as this magnificent CD proves so amply. All of the items derive from RAI concerts or RAI performances and, I presume, Myto got the original tapes as the sound is exemplary. For almost 80 minutes one gets a stream of that kind of beautiful dark sound which we all associate with the Italian baritone voice. And yet, after half an hour a little bit of tiredness sets in as a few things are lacking. There is no mellowness, no “morbidezza” in the voice which makes it less suited for Donizetti (as amply proved by his complete Lucia recording). The sound too is a bit rigid and not very supple. No one knew it better than Cappuccilli himself. After a tour of Germany in his early years, where he sang a lot of Figaros, he refused to sing another performance of Il Barbiere during the rest of his career. His use of dynamics is limited: forte and mezzo-forte but seldom a fine pianissimo. His phrasing, especially in Verdi, is almost perfect but there is rarely an unexpected insight which gives a small ‘frisson’. Introspection is not Cappuccilli’s forte and one sometimes longs for Gobbi’s far smaller voice and snarling but more interesting interpretations.

But a magnificent voice it is, homogeneous from the bottom to the high B-flat. Some tenors envied him. The CD starts with four arias from 1962. In Cascart’s “Zazà, piccolo zingara” the strength and weakness is immediately clear. The voice gleams with beauty and power but this is not the love song of an old man for a young girl like Gobbi so well suggests. The next four items date from four years later and here he is at his best: the strong and noble man in difficult circumstances, be it Nabucco, Trovatore or Forza. One hears the evolution of the voice: some of the shine is gone but the voice itself has become broader and more voluminous. A concert of 1967 reveals him in unexpected repertoire. His longing for Salomé in Massenet’s Hérodiade has little in common with the sick lovelorn uncertainty of the king the best of French baritones put in it. Cappuccilli sings straight on and there’s no doubt he’ll get the girl. In Ernani he misses the smoothness and introspection the very great like Battistini and Stracciari could put in Don Carlo’s abjuring his wild years. Cappuccilli’s contemporary Mario Sereni got those feelings far better.

On the other hand Cappuccilli has magnificent breath control—as a young man diving was his favourite sport and he attributed his long power to it—and sails up to a full and splendid high A; a feat those legendary baritones too did though nobody else in Cappuccilli’s generation. As an angry older Foscari he is at his very best while the duet from Pearl Fishers was probably just a courteous gesture towards his partner, Margherita Rinaldi. Myto added two bonuses: one is the last duet from Forza with Bergonzi, culled from a magnificent RAI performance that even surpasses the two gentlemen’s official Forza on EMI (though that set has the third tenor-baritone duet lacking in the RAI-concert). The last filler consists of two Don Carlo scenes with Bruno Prevedi. As Posa his breath control is ideal for the long drawn out phrases of the death scene. In short, this is Cappuccilli at his very best, surpassing his only solo album on Bongiovanni. That was a recording of a 1984 live recital and is not to be dismissed as he was a careful singer. He waited 15 and 18 years before singing Boccanegra and Macbeth. But of course the voice sounds less fresh than on this Myto.

Recently I listened to new recitals by nowadays baritones as Lado Atanelli and Carlos Alvarez, two singers lacking a bit of imagination too but proof that, as to pure vocal beauty and strength, nobody nowadays comes even close to the baritone from Trieste.

Jan Neckers

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