Classical Reissue Reviews
Giuseppe di Stefano Operatic Recital – DGG Spotlight
Published on October 19, 2006
DGG Spotlight 00289 477 6194, 45:33 (Distrib. Universal) ****:
Giuseppe di Stefano (b. 1921) remains one of the stellar vocal talents of the last century, a stratospheric lyric voice noted for his hitting a high C forte, then diminishing his dynamic into any number of plastic nuances. The supple beauty of di Stefano’s tone found a rich complement in his expressive power and a fair degree of acting ability. Here, in his only operatic recital for DGG (rec. 1962, replicating the original LP), di Stefano provides ample evidence of the staying power of his voice, even making of the more spinto projection needed for Verdi’s Othello a vehicle of flexible, emotive sensitivity. What pathos he conveys in Otello’s final lament, easily rivaling the more stentorian affects of Ramon Vinay and Mario del Monaco. His mezzo-voce has resonance and subtle anguish, his sigh an implacable resignation. Faust’s aria from Boito’s Mefistofele seems to celebrate the transience of its own beauty. Vasco da Gama sings of his immaculate vision, di Stefano’s chest tone swelling with the orchestra’s strings. The music evolves into a triumphal march of a spirit which owns the world as he knows it.
Ponchielli’s Heaven and Sea, Enzo’s romanza, opens what would have been Side B of the old LP. Long a di Stefano staple, it receives a darker, more sensual resonance than some of versions for EMI. The lyric flexibility has something of the Gigli ardent sweetness surely, but no less of Bjoerling’s vocal stamina. Had an audience been present, the walls would have tumbled down. The Puccini excerpt brings out the tonal brightness in di Stefano’s tone, the splendid diction fashioned into vocal silver. Cilea’s canzone enjoys a rich, Sicilian lilt, a melting resonance amid harp and strings. The “other” La Boheme, that by Leoncavallo, again pushes the lyric envelope to its limit, requiring a huge sustaining tone, as does the aria by Giovanni from Fedora, a vehicle Bjoerling made his own. With only a slight ritard at the end of a phrase, di Stefano steals the thunder. A master of Neapolitan song, di Stefano can put across Maristella, a serene garden scene, as suavely as anything Perry Como could, and di Stefano keeps you awake. The recital ends on a novel note, with an excerpt from the underrated Ildebrando Pizzetti, whose Violin Sonata found a champion in Menuhin. Built up from a recitative and parlando elements, the aria pushes di Stefano’s chromatic line into modal harmonies supported by trumpets and strings, eerily voluptuous.
– Gary Lemco