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Flaviano Labo – Vol III
27 Sep 2006

Flaviano Labo – Vol III

According to Giancarlo Landini, author of the very interesting and detailed sleeve notes, Labo “has been sorely neglected, if not totally forgotten”.

Flaviano Labo – Vol III

Arias and duets from Lucia di Lammermoor, Luisa Miller, Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, Aida, La Gioconda, Tosca, La Bohème, Manon Lescaut, Don Carlo, Cavalleria Rusticana, Turandot, Das Land des Lächelns. Live Recordings 1958

Bongiovanni GB 1192-2 [CD]

$15.50  Click to buy

Well, for a totally forgotten tenor this third solo album (in reality, the fourth as Bongiovanni also brought out a long joint concert with Magda Olivero) is not a bad track record. In reality the tenor from Piacenza is now better represented in many collections than during his lifetime where he was indeed shamefully neglected. A DG Don Carlo and a Supraphone Lucia plus a Manon Lescaut highlights with Anna Moffo makes up almost all his official output. And then there was the strange solo album he recorded. In Europe Decca put a shabby ten-inch record on the market while in the States London preferred a fine LP with colour photograph and some extra arias (When do we get that album in the Classic Recitals series?).

Happily, Bongiovanni and other labels have corrected the omissions and a lot of Labo’s live performances can nowadays be bought. Therefore I’m sure that signor Bongiovanni didn’t produce the record under review solely to correct history’s injustice. I presume that the sales figures of the three other albums were not bad at all; and there is good reason to believe so as proved by this exciting record. “The biggest voice to come out of such a slight frame” an old Met stalwart told me. But it is not only the volume that impresses an audience. This is the real Verdi voice: a big burnishing sound with all the necessary virility for the great roles. A musical voice, too, even when he often lets it quiver from emotion without becoming unstylish. If Lauri-Volpi had still been with us he definitely would have added an extra chapter in his fascinating ‘Voci parallele’ as on record nowadays Rolando Villazon and Flaviano Labo have so much in common as to colour and singing though two differences remain: Labo had far more decibels and an easier top. It says something about the dearth of Verdi tenors that Villazon nowadays is on top of the world while Labo in his time had much stiffer competition.

Maybe Labo’s only weakness was that he phrased musically but never probed very deeply into his roles. His remains a very beautiful voice yet without that flash of insight that made other tenors so unforgettable. His ‘Quando le sere’ is an example: well sung, with a few not too obtrusive sobs but without the personality of Carlo Bergonzi. The voice, too, lacks some of the honeyed sounds one knows from Gigli or Di Stefano in arias like ‘E lucevan’ or ‘Che gelida’ (but what a glorious C). But at his best, he is superb. His ‘Cielo e mar’ is an example for every tenor. Here he proves he can sing softly when necessary, though it is the shine and strength of the top notes that make his glory. That he was musical, is proven by his ‘Ah si, ben mio’ where the legato is perfect while he doesn’t forget the trill. The conductor (no name given) tries to pester him by rushing ‘Di quella pira’ at a breakneck speed but Labo’s breath control is such that he sings along and still has enough for a good top C. There are some duets with Protti, Mattiucci and Zeani (all singers like Labo who never became household names) which are testimony to the richness in great voices of those days. Of course this is not a CD for high quality sonic fanatics; but the sound is quite acceptable for the times. For the lovers of exciting tenor singing, this will be quite an addendum to their collection.

Jan Neckers

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