Monday, May 30, 2011

The Very Best of Tito Gobbi






  • Release Date: 09/02/2003
  • Label: Emi Classics
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Composer: Various
  • Performer: Tito Gobbi
  • cd info/ buy

Here's a virtual compendium of great Italian opera baritone arias, and Tito Gobbi's singing is a textbook illustration of how they should be done. He was a singing actor, at his best either on stage or in complete operatic recordings where he built layered, dramatically convincing characters. While few of the 36 arias and duets here are among the most beautifully sung versions, Gobbi's artistry makes them indispensable. Like Maria Callas, his partner in their memorable complete opera recordings, intensity, characterization, and imagination allied to individual vocal timbre made Gobbi a great singer. And like Callas, he infused his voice with an almost limitless range of colors precisely suited to a role.

 Tito Gobbi as Sir John Falstaff Though on the dry side, Gobbi's lean instrument was ideal for Verdi, as we hear on Disc 2's 17 arias from 10 Verdi operas. His "Di Provenza il mar" is suffused with tenderness at the start, then moves through a range of moods that reflect text and music. When it ends we feel know Germont in ways revealed by few other exponents of the role, and while the forte top notes may not have the ideal "ping", diminuendos are ravishing. Gobbi was the reigning Rigoletto of his time, amply demonstrated in the inflections he lavishes on the repeated "la-la-las" of "Povero Rigoletto", and his tortured pleadings in "Cortigiani, vil razza dannata" strike to the heart. If he can't take the opening of "Pietà, rispetto, amore" from Macbeth in one breath, few baritones can. But he makes you forget about the vocally dry fortes and focus instead on the idiomatic breadth of his phrasing, apt rhythmic emphases, and a variety of vocal nuances that are never imposed self-consciously. The disc ends with Falstaff's air-borne "Quand'ero paggio" from a 1964 recital disc, and a terrific "L'Onore! Ladri" from his complete 1957 recording with Karajan.

Disc 1 ranges from Gobbi's Figaro (Rossini's young barber of Seville and Mozart's "Non, piu andrai") and a Donizetti set (highlighted by his inimitable Belcore in L'elisir d'amore), to first-rate verismo selections that include arias from lesser-known operas by Leoncavallo (Zaza), Giordano (Fedora), and Wolf-Ferrari (I gioieli della Madonna), to standards such as the Pagliacci Prologue. The disc ends with a bang--three Puccini arias, including "Tri sbirri" from the 1964 complete Tosca led by Prêtre (not the classic earlier one under Sabata), and a lovely 1959 "Minnie, della mia casa", from La fanciulla del West. Recommended--among the very best of a variable series.--Dan Davis


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