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Giuseppe Verdi (1813-190)


The British company Decca began recording complete operas inItaly in 1951 when they made La Boh?â?¿me (Naxos 8.110252-3). As a venue theychose the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, situated off the Viadel Corso in Via Condotte, near the Spanish Steps. The hall in which therecording was made is long and narrow, with a very high ceiling and a finebalcony, which also contained seats. The venue proved ideal for mono recordingwith the control room in an adjoining room on the same ground floor level. Thisrecording of Aida was made in July 1952 and was a much larger undertaking thanthe previous year's efforts. The Triumphal Scene remains a challenge to anyrecording engineer, even today, but the difficulties would have been fargreater fifty years ago with far fewer microphones and equipment that was muchprone to break down at crucial moments. Rome in July is also invariably veryhot.

The soprano Renata Tebaldi (b. 1922) studied at the BoitoConservatorio in Parma, before making her debut as Elena in Mefistofele atRovigo in 1944. She sang for Toscanini at the opening concert at the Teatroalla Scala, Milan, in 1946. Later that season she was engaged as Eva inMeistersinger and Mim?â?¼ in La Boh?â?¿me. Her first appearance outside Italy was inLisbon in 1949 and the following year Tebaldi made her London debut asDesdemona in Otello when the La Scala Company appeared at Covent Garden. Herinternational introduction came through her first American engagement as Aidain San Francisco in 1950, soon followed by three seasons in Rio de Janeiro. TheItalian soprano first sang at the Metropolitan in New York in 1955, a house shewould grace for seventeen further seasons before retiring from the stage in1973 and the concert hall three years later. Tebaldi appeared regularly at theVienna State Opera and also sang in Chicago and Japan. As the most significantItalian lirico spinto soprano during her career, she also recorded prolificallyfor Decca over nearly a quarter of a century.

The Italian mezzo-soprano Ebe Stignani (1904-1974) studiedat the Conservatorio di San Pietro a Majella in Naples with Agostino Roche. Shemade her debut in that city in January 1925. The following year she sang inVenice and in October first appeared at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, in aperformance of Beethoven's Choral Symphony under Toscanini. Two months latershe was Eboli in Don Carlo. Over the next four decades her r?â??les in this housewould include Adalgisa in Norma, Azucena in Il trovatore, Laura in La Giocondaand Leonora in La favorita. In 1927 Stignani appeared at the Teatro Colon,Buenos Aires, for the first of numerous seasons and at the Teatro Municipal,S?â?úo Paolo. She continued to sing in all the principal houses throughout Italy.Her Covent Garden debut in London was as Amneris in the 1937 Coronation season.She would return again in 1939, in 1952 (with Callas in her London debut asNorma), 1955, 1957 (again with Callas in Norma) and, finally, in 1958 as anunforgettable Azucena at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Her Americanappearances were limited to San Francisco in 1938 and 1948, and Chicago in 1955with Callas and Bjorling in Il trovatore. She retired in 1958, dying in Imolain October 1974. She was the finest Italian mezzo-soprano of her generation,and, whilst no great actor, always moved with dignity on the stage. Sherecorded extensively.

The tenor Mario del Monaco (1915-1982) possessed one of themost thrilling and powerful natural voices, which he used with energy anddramatic intensity, and, at times, unremitting volume. Born in Florence, hestudied at the Pesaro Conservatorio before being encouraged by the Italianconductor Tullio Serafin to take part in a competition organised by the RomeOpera School, which he won. After six months Del Monaco left, dissatisfied withthe teaching, preferring to learn through recordings. His formal debut was asPinkerton in Madama Butterfly at the Teatro Puccini, Rome, in 1941, whilst onleave from the army. He then sang Radam?â?¿s at the Verona Festival in summer1946, and in the autumn appeared with the visiting San Carlo company fromNaples at Covent Garden in London, where he performed Rodolfo in

La boh?â?¿me, Cavaradossi in Tosca and Canio in Pagliacci.While in London he made his first recordings, for EMI, but these remain unpublished.Continuing to sing in Italy, Del Monaco also appeared on the American continentin Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Mexico City, before making his UnitedStates debut as Radames in San Francisco in 1950. November that year also sawhim make his New York appearance in Manon Lescaut. He continued to appear atthe Metropolitan until 1959, giving a total of 102 performances in all. In 1960he toured Russia, singing at the Bolshoy Theatre in Moscow. His return toLondon was in 1962 as Otello, a r?â??le he claimed to have sung on 427 occasions.Retiring from the stage in 1973, he died near Venice, buried in his Otellocostume. This recording of Aida was Del Monaco's first for Decca, for whom hewould record complete operas and recitals over a period of almost twenty years.

The baritone Aldo Protti (1920-1995) was born in Cremona andstudied in Parma. After war service he made his stage debut as Figaro in Ilbarbiere di Siviglia in Pesaro in 1948. Two years later he was engaged to singAmonasro, and Gerard in Andrea Chenier at La Scala, where he would appear until1963. He sang throughout Italy and also visited Spain, the United States andSwitzerland. He was a regular member of the Vienna State Opera from 1957 forthe following decade, singing all the main Italian baritone r?â??les that suitedhis voluminous tone. His last appearance was in 1989. He took part in tworecordings of Otello as Iago (1954 and 1961), the title-r?â??le of Rigoletto(1953), as Germont p?â?¿re in La traviata (1954), Cilea's L'arlesiana for the nowdefunct label Colosseum, and Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci for Philips.

Of the bass Dario Caselli little is known, but he first sangat La Scala in 1948 in Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges, and later appearedin Aida, Fidelio and La forza del destino. His career was entirely based inItaly. He took part in seven complete operas for Decca during the 1950s,including Otello, Rigoletto, Manon Lescaut and La fanciulla del West, all withMario Del Monaco.

The r?â??le of the King is sung by Fernando Corena (1916-1984),a Swiss bass, born of a Turkish father and Italian mother in Geneva. Aftermaking his debut in 1947 as Varlaam in Boris Godunov, his first MetropolitanOpera engagement was in 1954 where he would sing until 1978. He sang thetitle-r?â??le in Falstaff at the Edinburgh Festival in 1956 and appeared at CoventGarden in 1960 and 1969. Corena was a fine linguist and a witty and inventivecomedian in buffo r?â??les. He recorded extensively for Decca, from Cimarosa andMozart to Verdi and Puccini.

The conductor Alberto Erede (1908-2001) was well known inboth Italy and Britain, and had conducted at Glyndebourne in 1938-39. He wasmusical director of the short-lived but most enterprising New London OperaCompany at the Cambridge Theatre in the late 1940s. He was then hired by theMetropolitan Opera in New York between 1950 and 1954 and becameGeneralmusikdirektor at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein between the years 1958-1962.Erede also conducted Lohengrin at Bayreuth in 1968. He recorded extensively,both complete operas and as accompanist to singers and instrumentalists. He wasmuch admired for his excellent training of young singers and was a greatbeliever in ensemble work.

Malcolm Walker


Disc: 1
1 Preludio
2 Act I, Scene 1: Si: Corre voce che l'Etiope
3 Act I, Scene 1: Se quel guerrier io fossi!...Celes
4 Act I, Scene 1: Quale insolita gioia nel tuo sguar
5 Act I, Scene 1: Alta cagion v'aduna, o fidi egizii
6 Act I, Scene 1: Su! del Nilo al sacro lido
7 Act I, Scene 1: Ritorna vincitor!
8 Act I, Scene 2: Possente, possente Ftha
9 Act I, Scene 2: Mortal, diletto ai numi
10 Act II, Scene 1: Chi mai fra gl'inni e i plausi
11 Act II, Scene 1: Fu la sorte dell'armi
12 Act II, Scene 1: Su! del Nilo al sacro lido
13 Act II, Scene 2: Gloria all'Egitto, ad Iside
14 Act II, Scene 2: Marcia (Triumphal March)
15 Act II, Scene 2: Vieni, o guerriero, vindice
Disc: 2
1 Act II, Scene 2: Salvator della patria, io ti salu
2 Act II, Scene 2: Quest'assisa ch'io vesto vi dica
3 Act II, Scene 2: O re, pei sacri numi
4 Act II, Scene 2: Gloria all'Egitto, ad Iside
5 Act III, O tu che sei d'Osiride
6 Act III, Qui Radames verra!...O patria mia
7 Act III, Cie! Mio padre!
8 Act III, Pur ti riveggo, mia dolce Aida
9 Act III, Fuggiam gli ardori inospiti
10 Act III, Aida!...Tu non m'ami. Va!
11 Act III, Tu! Amonasro!
12 Act IV, Scene 1: L'aborrita rivale a me sfuggia
13 Act IV, Scene 1: Gia i sacerdoti adunansi
14 Act IV, Scene 1: Ohime! Morir mi sento
15 Act IV, Scene 1: Radames! Radames! Radames!
16 Act IV, Scene 2: La fatal pietra sovra me si chius
17 Act IV, Scene 2: Presago il core della tua condann
18 Act IV, Scene 2: O terra, addio; addio, valle di p
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