About this Recording
8.110144 - TAGLIAVINI, Ferruccio / TASSINARI, Pia: Arias and Duets (1949)

Tagliavini and Tassinari were two of the most appealing Italian singers of their day, and through stage performances and joint recitals (such as this one, recorded in San Francisco in 1949,) they reached a wide and admiring public in Europe and both North and South America.

In the case of this broadcast it is not only the fine vocalism that attracts, but also the varied choice of repertory; the Flotow, Mascagni and CilËa excerpts are fine operatic êstandardsi, and finely performed they are too; the Massenet reminds us that this illustrious couple sang in Werther together at La Scala, Milan and made a highly-praised complete recording; but most unusual are the extracts from Chopin, an opera first staged at the Teatro Lirico, Milan in 1901. Tagliavini and Tassinari had a strong fondness for the piece, and how winningly they spin out Chopinís melodies, adapted for the purpose by Giacomo Orefice (1865 - 1922). So little is heard today of his twelve operas that he is all but forgotten, but for over thirty years he played a significant part in the musical life of Milan. He was pianist, respected teacher and music critic; no matter that the plot of Chopin bears little similarity to the composeris life; this music is infectious, yet casts a perplexing spell of dÈj‡ entendu over the innocent listener. êWas that an Ètude or a nocturne that they were singing in duet just now...?í No matter which; let the familiar melodies delight you in their unfamiliar guise!

As for the better known items, Tagliaviniís honeyed tones serve Miappari well, but he is at his most exquisite in the two Massenet extracts. The vocal velvet is never forced, always pure; what a moving Werther he is in the duet from Act 1 (sung here in Italian) and what a revelation is the aria from Le Cid; Tagliavini brings new light and shade to this familiar piece. Surely it could not be more beautifully sung.

Tassinariís contributions are equally rewarding. Voi lo sapete is infused with all the drama that she would have brought to a stage performance, but most touching is the aria from Act 1 of Adriana Lecouvreur - happily with its preceding recitative in place; the orchestra is magical here too. In later years this opera was a favourite of Tassinariís compatriot Renata Tebaldi, and a similarity between their two voices is certainly evident here - a remark intended as a compliment to them both!

Gaetano Merolaís San Francisco orchestra plays gloriously throughout and gives Verdiís overture its considerable due. Why is this powerful music little heard when we know so much of his output so well? Mascagniís Guglielmo Ratcliff Intermezzo is clearly a first cousin to Cavalleria Rusticana, but it has never achieved the same popularity, and here is a stirring and stylish performance.

This fascinating recital deserves to be heard and heard again; no lover of fine singing would want to deny that it offers some very rare, and very special, riches.

Pia Tassinari, a native of Modigliana in Italy, was born in September 1903 and, after studying in Bologna and Milan, made her dÈbut as MimÏ (Puccini's BohËme) in 1929. Her career at La Scala began in 1932 when she sang in the world premiËre of Veretti's comic opera Il favorito del re, and four years later she appeared there in BoÔto's Mefistofele, Lohengrin and the recently-composed La farsa amorosa by Zandonai. Tassinari continued to sing at La Scala for another twenty years, by which time her vocal range could encompass several mezzo roles, whilst some of the parts in which she had previously enjoyed success as a soprano proved rather too testing for her.

After the second world war Tassinari sang frequently with her husband, the tenor Ferruccio Tagliavini, and they appeared together in South America and at the Met in New York (BohËme and Tosca). One of their more unusual essays into little known Italian opera took place just a few weeks before the San Francisco recital preserved on this CD. The opera Chopin is a highly romanticised (and deeply inaccurate) musical version of the composer's life; Tassinari and Tagliavini sang the leading roles at its Western hemisphere premiËre, at the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro.

Tassinari recorded several complete operas during her career; these roles include a lively Alice Ford in Falstaff in 1930, Suzel in Mascagniís melodic Líamico Fritz, through to Charlotte in Werther in 1953 and, in 1954, Ulrica in Un ballo in maschera. The last three of these recordings she made with her husband in the tenor lead. She also recorded many single discs of arias and duets, which give an excellent report of her gradual progression from lyric soprano to mezzo.

Pia Tassinari retired from the stage in 1962 and died in 1995.

Ferruccio Tagliavini was born in Reggio Emilia, Italy in August 1913. His initial training was as an engineer, but he soon decided that music was to be his career and became a student at the Parma Conservatory; after winning the Concorso Nazionale Italiano he studied with the tenor Amadeo Bassi in Florence. His operatic stage dÈbut took place there at the Teatro Communale in 1938 (Puccini's Rodolfo) and soon afterwards he made his first recordings. During the war Tagliavini sang throughout Italy - including Rome, Trieste and Palermo - first appearing at La Scala, Milan in 1942, as Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia.

Tagliavini was soon acknowledged as one of Italyís finest tenors and in 1946 appeared for the first time in South America, at the Teatro ColÛn in Buenos Aires. Performances in Brazil, Mexico and Chicago followed, and in 1947 he made his dÈbut at the Metropolitan, New York (Rodolfo again); he sang nine seasons there, specialising in lyric roles by Donizetti, Verdi and Puccini. Covent Garden first heard Tagliavini during La Scalaís now legendary 1950 visit (Nemorino in Líelisir díamore), returning in 1955/6 for performances of Tosca; he was last heard in London in 1959 when he sang at the Adelphi Theatre and retired from the operatic stage in 1966. By the late 1960s Tagliaviniis honeyed tones had deteriorated somewhat but he continued singing in occasional concerts until 1981.

In addition to his stage work, Tagliavini enjoyed a career in films, usually with some musical content, and these brought his talents to a different but equally enthusiastic public. During his brilliant career he established himself as one of the great tenors of the 20th century - a member of the distinguished line that links Caruso, Gigli, Schipa, Bj^rling, di Stefano, Pavarotti and Alagna.

Tagliavini died in 1995.

The Italian conductor Gaetano Merola was born in Naples in 1881. He worked at the Met and elsewhere in New York until, in 1918, he conducted the San Carlo Opera in San Francisco for the first time. Five years later he founded the San Francisco Opera which, under his guidance, was to become one of Americais foremost companies, and of which he was General Director for 30 years. An imaginative conductor of considerable skill, Merola died in 1953.

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