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Recordings

Giuseppe di Stefano: Opera Recital
21 Jan 2007

Giuseppe di Stefano: Opera Recital

This issue from DG’s own classic recital series is a copy of the 1963 LP.

Giuseppe di Stefano: Opera Recital
Arias from Aida, Luisa Miller, Otello, Mefistofele, L’Africana, La Gioconda, La Fanciulla del West, Adriana Lecouvreur, La Bohème, Fedora, Maristella, Il Calzare d’Argento.

Giuseppe di Stefano, tenor, Orchestra del maggio Musicale Fiorentino conducted by Bruno Bartoletti.

DG 477 619-4 [CD]

$11.99  Click to buy

Theoretically it is meant to pleasure collectors who want to replace their worn LP’s but I think economy is more important to the company than just faithful reproduction . It’s nice to read the original sleeve notes but as a lot of it is nonsense, indulging the tenor’s vanities, some historical correction could have been added as well. Moreover the exact recording dates should have been given (March – May 1962). Those not familiar with the recital should start with track 12, the beautiful serenade of Pietri’s Maristella; incidentally not an operetta as it is so often described but a tragic opera. There you will get the best and a fair example of the worst of this recording. One is immediately struck by the still existing beauty of the middle register and by Di Stefano’s imaginatively phrasing, partly due to his perfect enunciation, a quality that remained with him till the last days of his career. The moment he comes into the passagio, the voice thickens and on high A the sound starts to grate alarmingly before he sails into half singing half shouting (witness his Bflat in Celeste Aida). Di Stefano is perfectly summed up in his colleague Del Monaco’s definition: “the heart of a dramatic tenor with the voice of a lyric one”. It’s no use crying over spilt milk and by now we have to accept living with Di Stefano’s fall from vocal grace. By 1962, apart from his before mentioned qualities, there was still the exciting beauty of the timbre, a sound of honey or velvet. As he is pushing his voice unmercifully, it soon becomes clear he is better in declamatory tracks than in early Verdi or Meyerbeer. He only sang Otello once, in 1968 (a disaster, though the rehearsal tape is fine) but the way his monologues of Otello are half sung and half spoken are most convincing, and few Otellos have the breathtaking beauty of sound or the energy he uses to pronounce his lines. When compared to his earlier recordings the decline due to his open throated singing is marked, especially in the ‘Cielo e mar’ and the ‘Or son sei mesi’ from La Fanciulla which he recorded 7 years earlier and with the recitative included here conspicuously lacking. In short this is the recital by a great has been but still a ‘great’ one.

Jan Neckers

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