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Recordings

Il mito dell’opera: Sesto Bruscantini
05 Aug 2017

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Il mito dell’opera: Sesto Bruscantini

Sesto Bruscantini and others

Bongiovanni 1236 [CD]

$14.99  Click to buy

This is one of the latest releases in an extensive CD series on the Bongiovanni label entitled “Il Mito dell’Opera,” a phrase that can be freely translated as “Legends in the Opera World.” The CD consists mainly of a recital that Bruscantini and pianist Fabio Maestri gave in Ancona (Italy) in 1981. Some collectors may own the original LP release.

The recital offers, in very good sound, verbally alert and musically smooth readings of baritone arias—usually the most famous ones—from seven Italian operas (by Cimarosa, Mozart, Donizetti, plus Ford's aria from Verdi's Falstaff), as well as two well-known songs by Tosti. The hall seems to have been a small one, and the singer, though 62 years old, does not force his voice, which in fact sounds quite well preserved.

These recordings offer model lessons for any young singer—and of course especially a baritone—on how to handle Italian and comic inflection. The only unusual bit of repertoire turns out to be a charmer: a tuneful “Le figliole che so' de vent’anni” from Cimarosa's Le astuzie femminili.

The recording ends with what the jewel case calls a bonus section, presumably not included on the LP: excerpts from live operatic performances of Renato's two arias from Un ballo in maschera and of three excerpts from Puccini's Tosca. Two of the latter fade out disconcertingly, but the concluding section of Act 1 (“Tre sbirri, una carozza” and the subsequent “Te Deum”) stands very well on its own. These opera-house excerpts were recorded in “1973-1978” (i.e., when the singer was 54 and 59 respectively). The voice, engaged at full volume, sounds more worn than in the recital of a few years later, and is sometimes not fully captured by the microphones (whereas the orchestra comes through clearly).

Even in these somewhat problematic bonus tracks, though, we gain a fine sense of how a smart singer was able to husband his resources through a long and distinguished career. Lovers of Italian opera and good Italian-style singing will take much pleasure in this engaging and gratifying CD and may be happy to learn, or be reminded, of Bongiovanni’s valuable “Mito” series.

Ralph P. Locke

The above review is a lightly revised version of one that first appeared in American Record Guide and appears here by kind permission.

Ralph P. Locke is emeritus professor of musicology at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music. His most recent two books are Musical Exoticism: Images and Reflections and Music and the Exotic from the Renaissance to Mozart (both Cambridge University Press). Six of his articles have won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for excellence in writing about music. He edits Eastman Studies in Music, a book series published by University of Rochester Press.

   

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