Page 33, July 2008
Turkish soprano, in Milan, on May 9, aged 79. Few sopranos specializing in the bel canto repertory ever surpassed the extraordinary achievements of Leyla Gencer. Milan was the centre of the Turkish star's career: she made her debut there in 1957, as the prudent prioress Mme Lidoine in the premiere of Poulenc 's Dialogues des Carmelites. Over the next two decades Gencer sang 19 roles at La Scala, becoming one of that theatre's favourite sopranos of the 20th century.
All great singers have some vocal signature that sets them apart from others. Gencer had several: an exquisite, floated pianissimo (unforgettably executed in 'O patria mia' and 'Addio del passato' , among other arias); a commanding chest voice that she was always unafraid to unleash; and a means of breath support that was nothing short of staggering. From her principal teachers, Giannina ArangiLombardi and Apollo Granforte, she mastered the technique of singing from 'the diaphragm, in maschera' . She was also a compelling vocal and dramatic presence.
(In Maria Stuarda, her denunciation of Elisabetta,'Vii bastarda' ,was so hairraising that she often drew frantic applause mid-scene.) Later, when her voice did not always do what she wanted it to, Gencer could still be counted on to sing with nothing less than utter commitment.
As Giorgio Corapi once observed of Gencer, 'Her biography is full of unresolved contradictions and many blanks purposely left unfilled, which in its vagueness seems destined to become a myth.' Born in Istanbul on 10 October 1928 to a Polish Catholic mother and Turkish Muslim father, Gencer studied at the conservatory there. She came to the attention of Arangi-Lombardi, who took her on as a pupil and arranged for her professional debut at the State Opera House in Ankara in 1950. Arangi-Lombardi died the following year, and in 1953-4 Gencer made a successful Italian debut as Santuzza at Naples's outdoor Arena Flegrea, before an audience of 10,000. Tullio Serafin heard her and invited her to appear at the Teatro Di San Carlo in both Madama Butterfly and Yevgeny Onegin.
Over the years Gencer would sing with many of the great Italian conductors —De Sabata, Gavazzeni, Gui —but Serafin became the greatest single influence on her career. It was he who pointed her on the path towards the bel canto repertory, which was just beginning to enjoy a major renaissance in the hands of Maria Callas. Bel canto would become the cornerstone of Gencer 's career: over the next two and a half decades, she sang Lucia, Norma, Amina, Elvira, Caterina Cornaro, Lucrezia Borgia , Antonina in Belisario, and all three demanding lead roles in Donizetti's 'Three Queens' trilogy: Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda and Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux. She also excelled as Verdi heroines, notably Aida, Lady Macbeth, both Leonoras and Elena in I vespri siciliani. In 1956 she made her US debut in San Francisco Opera's Francesca da Rimini, and went on to appear in Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas (a memorable 1973 Lucrezia Borgia, with Tatiana Troyanos),
New Orleans and San Diego. She was never able to work out a satisfactory Met debut; thus her 1972 appearance in New Jersey State Opera's Attila was billed as her 'New York area debut'. At La Scala in 1958, she sang the First Woman of Canterbury in the premiere of Pizzetti's L'assassinio nella cattedrale , which she later dismissed as 'not a very good part'.
More controversial were Gencer's Mozart performances. Her interpretation of `Martern aller Arten' , from Die Enffiihrung aus dem Serail, is a dazzling display of technical virtuosity and a blazing vocal personality, but some critics were dismissive of it. 'I thought, at this time,' said Gencer in the 1990s, 'that Mozart must be interpreted in the Italian style, because Mozart loved the Italian style, and he composed for Italian singers ... It was rare at this time to find a singer like me to sing this repertory. Now they say I was right.'
It was for Donna Anna that she came to Covent Garden in 1962, when she also stood in as Elisabetta. Glyndeboume heard her as the Countess, and she sang two Donizetti roles at the Edinburgh Festival.
Because they overlapped in the bel canto repertory, comparisons with Callas were inevitable—particularly during the late 1950s, when both singers were appearing regularly at La Scala. Gencer later observed, 'I was the young soprano who came into the company, and she was already there. But we never had any difficulties.' But Callas trumped Gencer when it came to recording projects: Gencer never made a single commercial recording, although her best work is generously documented in a series of pirate discs.
Gencer sang her final operatic performance (Gnecco's La prova d'un opera seria) at La Fenice in 1985, although she continued to appear in recital until 1992.A 1980 Paris recital disc demonstrates that she could still create vocal magic — especially in her 'Al dolce guidami castel natio' from Anna Bolena.
Unlike many of her contemporaries, Gencer enjoyed a happy personal life. She was married to Ibrahim Gencer, an executive at Turkey's Yapi Kredi Bank.
Beginning in 1995, she presided over the Yapi Kredi International Leyla Gencer Voice Competition, held in Istanbul every two years. Later, she was engaged by Riccardo Muti to head up La Scala's School for Young Artists. On May 16, her ashes were scattered into the Bosporous after a special ceremony, held in the public square between the Dolmabahce Palace and Dolmabahce Mosque. BRIAN KELLOW
Page 42, July 1963
Monte Carlo. The season ended with performances of Don Giovanni (Leyla Gencer, Ilva Ligabue, MarieIla Adani, Renato Capecchi, Richard Holm, Erich Kunz, Renato Cesari, Giovanni Foiani, c. Manno Wolf-Ferrari).
Page 44, August 1968
Bilbao. The Seventh Festival of Opera will take place at the Coliseo Albia from September 3 to 13 and will consist of performances of: Ernani. With Leyla Gencer, Gianfranco Cecchele, Piero Cappuccilli, Ruggero Raimondi, c. Manno Wolf-Ferrari.
Page 36, October 1966
Lausanne. The annual autumn festival of Italian opera at the THEATRE DE BEAULIEU will open on October 6 with Norma with Leyla Gencer, Fiorenza Cossotto, Gastone Limarilli, Ivo Vince, c. Oliviero De Fabritiis, p. Enrico Frigerio (repeat performance on October 8).
Page 14, August 1972
Listening to Leyla Gencer in the theatre, and even when talking to her, it is difficult to remember that she is Turkish and a Moslem. I was quite shattered the day Madame Gencer said to me 'You always forget my origins. I am a Moslem and an oriental'. It was as if this had been a sudden revelation.
It is not that I had forgotten — I just never think of it; I cannot even conceive of Leyla Gencer that way. And yet this is precisely what she is. Born in Istanbul, she lived in Turkey until 1953, and she is, 'in theory, anyway', as she puts it, a Moslem. Her name means 'Young night' — and that's another thing she says I always forget. She maintains that whenever writing or speaking about her I constantly refer as if to an older person, something not at all consonant with a 'Young night'.
The point on which perhaps we disagree most is that of her oriental origin. 'Like all orientals', she loves to say, 'and like all Moslems, I am lazy and a fatalist. I am instantly resigned to adversity, my temperament is gentle and I am quite incapable of putting up a fight for anything. Anybody who says anything different is a liar'. Unfortunately I am one of those who do think differently. To my way of thinking, she is neither lazy nor a fatalist, and she has always fought tooth and nail, first in order to survive and then to achieve success.
When she came to Italy in 1953, she had four very strong points in her favour : she spoke fluent Italian (having attended the Italian high school and Liceo in Istanbul); she possessed a general knowledge unusual for an opera singer; she was by instinct a good actress; and she already had a considerable technique, partly because she had been taught by Giannina Arangi-Lombardi in Turkey. These qualities, however, were offset by other, not too impressive vocal connotations. The voice was indeed agile, pliable and extended, but it was of small calibre, especially in the lower register; it lacked sheen — it was neither bright, nor brilliant, nor sensual — and although the timbre was pleasant enough (her delivery was particularly good), one detected here and there a certain opaqueness and unevenness. With this type of voice, anyone else would have been content to be a tolerable coloratura. But in July 1953 Gencer ventured into the popular open-air Arena Flegrea in Naples, singing Cavalleria Rusticana, which among other things requires a robust and intense middle register. This, her debut, was followed in
February 1954 — again in Naples at the San Carlo — by some performances of Madama Butterfly. The following year she was already in Munich (Tosca); in 1956 she was singing Francesca da Rimini in San Francisco; in 1957 she made her debut at the Scala (premiere of Dialogues des Carmelites) and immediately afterwards was singing Violetta at the Vienna State Opera conducted by Karajan.
That was a rapid and impressive rise, brought about more by intense musicality, acting ability and varied, sensitive phrasing than by actual vocal quality. Then came the decisive turning-point in her career with Anna Bolena for Italian Radio and La Battaglia di Legnano at Florence in 1958-9. Gencer was here following in the wake of Callas who over the previous decade had re-launched the repertory of the so-called soprani d'agilitii of the early 19th century. That was not all. The desire to emulate Callas found Gencer also tackling, and successfully, the pure coloratura parts, such as Lucia (San Francisco, 1957), Amina (Naples, 1959), Gilda (San Francisco, 1959 and Buenos Aires, 1961). Even this did not prevent her from simultaneously appearing in Verdi's more popular operas (from Un Balk in Maschera to La Forza del Destino and Don Carlos), and even venturing into Mozart. For example for her Glyndebourne debut in 1962 she sang in Le Nozze di Figaro, followed by a concert performance of the same opera at the Albert Hall.
This specifically Callas-like eclecticism not unnaturally caused doubt and criticism. The comparison after all was not very favourable to Gencer since her voice was less personal than Callas's, the timbre not so unique or penetrating, the volume itself much slimmer, and the virtuosity not nearly so spectacular. Even her stage presence was nothing like so magnetic and riveting. So ten years ago, in Italy at least, there was talk of imitation, of plagiarism. I believe this was unjust. It is true that in her phrasing, accents and gesture, she had assimilated certain of Callas's particular interpretative formulas, but she always showed sufficient awareness and good taste to adapt these to her own voice and conception of the various parts. She could never, in other words, be a servile imitator of anyone for her own personality was too strong.
TWO DONIZETTI QUEENS
Possibly Leyla Gencer is not a great singer in the traditional sense of the word. But she has something more than a great voice, she has intelligence. She was the first, about 12 years ago, to realize that from Callas's success would follow revivals of Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini and early Verdi. And meticulously, with great patience and a will of iron — talk about oriental laziness and fatalism! — Gencer year after year built up her own position and reputation.
With a basically lirico leggero voice, more inclined to slender, fluty high notes than to violent, lightning delivery, Gencer undertook Norma, Lucrezia Borgia, Lady Macbeth, Antonina (Donizetti's Belisario)— all aggressive, passionate, often cruel and even satanic ladies, demanding explosive top notes, and broad and intense middle and low ones. Gencer clearly is drawn to these parts by her cultural background and temperament. She has such an accurate conception of melodramatic regality, such an innate, spontaneous feeling for authority, from heraldic gesture to outbursts of supreme indignation, that her best portrayals are those of queens, her best scenes those in which she condemns to death some treacherous courtier or faithless lover, parts such as Elizabeth in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux, or in Rossini's Tudor opera.
I often ask how all this ties up with the image of a mild, gentle oriental Moslem. All I have ever got in reply has been either a mischievous smile or a burst of rippling laughter. As to the fairly rampant rumour going around that the sweet, docile Leyla is actually rather resolute and quick to solve stage conflicts, I really do not know what to say. I can only suppose that here too, Gencer uses her favourite weapon — intelligence. From a professional point of view, she is undoubtedly extremely astute. Her technique moves basically on three levels : agility, an extraordinarily subtle use of piano and pianissimo, and the employment of certain emergency measures when the texture demands maximum dramatic tension.
With Gencer, agility follows the virtuoso tradition, of Rossinian origin, which gives vehemence and aggression to ornamentation and runs. Her piani and pianissimi are particularly unique in melancholy, intimate passages, although they frequently also acquire special dramatic significance. Gencer's ability here is quite astounding. With merely a thread of voice she is able to convey what others could not even with plenty of volume. When it comes to the need for sheer declamatory power, for swooping from low to high and straight back, for breadth of volume of middle register, then she is definitely in dangerous country and frequently one can detect the strain — the variations in colour and vibration. Yet even here Gencer is able to extract something personal. When for instance she has to move from the slender white timbre of her. middle notes to the dark colour of the lower, even if the voice is not beautiful and seems suddenly to be coming from another throat, it can become, in certain scenes in particular, warm, tender and above all unbelievably moving.
Leyla Gencer is really an actress-singer, by which I mean the voice is at all times totally allied to stage presentation and interpretation. With her mobile and expressive features, Gencer's stage manner is not generally detailed or analytical.
It is more in keeping with what the French describe as le grand style and is especially suited to the heroic figures of the tragedie chantee: goddesses, queens, princesses. Not for nothing is she a great interpreter of Gluck's Akeste, as has been confirmed by recent performances at the Scala.
Further, her accentuation is exceptionally varied and eloquent. It is entirely through accent that she manages to give her voice colours that are substantially lacking in the basic timbre, or to bind together and make meaningful certain combinations of sound which taken singly would be definitely unpleasant. This is precisely how she is able to be equally a Mary Stuart or a great Elizabeth, a Beatrice di Tenda or a Norma. Her inventiveness in this area would seem to be unlimited. She can produce with equal facility and accuracy the regal accent of a Rossini canto di bravura, the languid caress of a melancholy Donizetti cavatina, the veiled simplicity of a plaintive Bellini flourish, or the inflamed highsounding assurance of a Verdi cabaletta. She will harangue, rail, suffer, beg, whisper or scream — with arguable sound perhaps, but always with the right expression for the right dramatic moment. At times, driven by the rage, despair or anguish of her favourite heroines, she will arrive at the very edge of melodramatic over-emphasis, only to halt and draw back for she also has a great sense of proportion. On other occasions she may seem inextricably enmeshed in a particularly adventurous and risky bit of vocal acrobatics, when with an impromptu pianissimo, a finely spun note or two, or some other diabolical invention, she gets herself out of it and is off again.
With a Turkish father, Polish mother and Italian cultural and professional background, Leyla Gencer is truly a mosaic-like artist. Rational and impassioned, tight-rope walking and histrionic (in the noblest sense of the word of course), she is infinitely adept at giving expediency the veneer of high-class virtuosity. At the same time she will give of her voice with a generosity which can seem sheer folly to someone unaware of her technical resources. She has been, for 19 years, infinitely industrious and irrepressible. If we add Gioconda, Cherubini's Medee, Spontini's La Vestale, Ernani, Poliuto, and Pacini's Saffo, we have to arrive at the most extraordinary conclusion : no other soprano in the whole of this century has sustained a repertory so risky, complex and wearing.
Page 45, January 1963
Barcelona. The 1962-3 season at the GRAN TEATRO DEL LICEU opened on November 3 with Norma with Leyla Gencer singing the title-role for the first time. Fiorenza Cossotto was heard as Adalgisa, Bruno Prevedi as Pollione and Ivo Vince as Oroveso. Mario Parenti was the conductor.
Page 51, May 1967
May 2 Florence, Teatro Comunale. May Festival opens with Donizetti's Maria Stuarda, with Leyla Gencer in the title-role 6 Glasgow, King's Theatre.
Page 46, May 1969
Genoa. The season at the TEATRO MARGHERITA, which opened on March 11 with Ernani, followed by May 25, June 1 Medee (Cherubini)*. With Leyla Gencer, Rita Talarico, Aldo Bottion, Paolo Washington, c. Peloso, p. Alberto Fassini, d. Pier-Luigi Pizzi. June 4, 8, 10
Page 41, January 1966
Some notable events this month; ** indicates a premiere; * a work new to the locality January 2 Rome, Teatro dell'Opera. Moses und Aron*, by German Opera, Berlin 4 London, Jeannetta Cochrane Theatre, W.C.1. Julius Caesar Jones (Malcolm Williamson)** 5 Bologna, Teatro Comunale. Peter Glossop sings title-role of Simon Boccanegra 14 Brussels, Theatre Royale de la Monnaie. Gulliver (Dasnoy)** 17 Milan, La Scala. Spontini's Olimpia* with Elena Suliotis in the title-role 18 Philadelphia, Lyric Opera. Ludmilla Dvorakova sings Senta 22 Amsterdam, Netherlands Opera. Wozzeck with Toni Blankenheim 23 London, LAMDA Theatre. Luciano Chailly's Trial by Tea-Party* 27 London, Sadler's Wells. New production of Rossini's The Thieving Magpie 28 London, Covent Garden. Solti conducts new production of Der fliegende Hollander 19 Naples, Teatro San Carlo. Revival of Lucrezia Borgia, with Leyla Gencer 29 Stockholm, Royal Opera. New production of Lohen grin, with Nicolai Gedda
Page 35, January 1963
Vienna. Performances at the STATE OPERA during November have included Don Carlos with Leonie Rysanek and Leyla Gencer alternating as Elisabeth de Valois, Biserka Cvejia as Eboli, and Giuseppe Zampieri in the title-role, Aldo Protti as Posa, Nicola Zaccaria as Philip and Hans Hotter as the Grand Inquisitor, c. Nino Verchi; Rigoletto with Ruth-Margret Ptitz, Cvejie, Gianni Raimondi, Giuseppe Taddei, Zaccaria, c. Georges Pretre; and Die Fledermaus with Hilde Gueden, Hanny Steffek, Anton Dermota, Eberhard Waechter, Murray Dickie, Erich Kunz, c. Wilhelm Loibner.
Page 32, July 1958
San Francisco. The autumn season is due to open on September 12 and will continue until October 23; it includes, as already announced, the first stage performance in America of Cherubini's Medea with Eileen Farrell in the title role, as well as the American premiere of Orff's Die Kluge (in English) and Carmina Burana (in Latin and German), and the first San Francisco performance of Don Carlos. There will be new productions of La Boheme and The Bartered Bride (in English) and a revival of Tannhauser. In addition the repertory will include II Trovatore, La Forza del Destino, Gianni Schicchi and Elektra in a double bill, Manon, Figaro, Rigoletto and II Barbiere di Siviglia.
American debuts wil be made by Eugenia Ratti, Sebastian Feiersinger, Ernest Blanc, Rolando Panerai, Keith Engen, Giuseppe Modesti and Arnold van Mill; and local debuts by Lisa della Casa, Christel Goltz, Joan Moynagh, Irene Dalis, Grace Hoffman, and Cecilia Ward. The company further includes Leyla Gencer, Leontyne Price, Leonie Rysanek, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Sylvia Stahlmann, Claramae Turner; Jussi Bjorling, Richard Lewis, Gianni Raimondi, Eugene Tobin, Frank Guarrera, Ralph Herbert, Giorgio Tozzi and Lorenzo Alvary. The conductors will be Jean Fournet (American debut), Leopold Ludwig (American debut), Francesco Molinari-Pradelli and Glauco Curiel.
Page 46, August 1970
Rome. Casts and operas for the remainder of the open-air season at the TERME DI CARACALLA are as follows: Mefistofele. With Lidia Nerozzi, Margherita Casals-Mantovani, Corinna Vozza, Giorgio Merighi, Gabriele De Julis, Carlo Cava, c. Bruno Bartoletti, p. Giovanni Poli, d. Mischa Scandella. August 1 Aida. With Leyla Gencer/Virginia Zeani, Franca Mattiucci/Mirella Pamtto, Angelo Mori/Amedeo Zambon, Mario Sereni/Walter Monachesi, Ivo Vince/Mario Rinaudo, Carlo Micalucci/Paolo Dari, c. Francesco Crittofoli/Carlo Franci, p. Bruno Nofri, d. Giovanni Cruciani/Camillo Parravicini. August 3, 5, 8, 10, 12, 14 Cavalleria Rusticana. With Fiorenza Cossotto, Maria Na Fabretti, Giannella Borelfi, Flaviano Labb, Giangiacomo Guelfi, c. Ottavio Ziino, p. Mario Missiroli, d. Attilio Colonnello. August 2, 4 (with Ballet) Cavalleria Rusticana. With Gigliola Frazzoni/Luisa Malagrida, Adriana Barbetta, Luciana Palombi, Giuseppe Vertecchi, Giovanni Ciminelli/Renzo Scorsoni, c. Ferruccio Scaglia and Pagliacci. With Clara Petrella, Gastone Limarilli, Attilio D'Orazi, Angelo Marchiandi, Athos Cesarini, c. Scaglia, p. Carlo Acly Azzolini, d. Parravicini. August 7, 9, 11, 13
Page 45, August 1969
Florence Opera opens its season with Donizetti's Maria Stuarda* with Leyla Gencer 28 Amsterdam, City Theatre. Netherlands Opera begins 1969-70 season with Die Fledermaus 29 Edinburgh, King's Theatre. Florence company in double bill comprising Malipiero's Sette Canzoni* and Dallapiccola's 11 Prigioniero
Page 48, May 1961
Buenos Aires. The 1961 season at the TEATRO COLON will open on May 12 with Honegger's Jeanne d'Arc au Blicher with Claude Nollier and Jean Doublier; conductor, Jean Fournet. The season will include an Argentinian opera, Pasqual de Rogatis's La Bovia del Hereje and the first South American performance of Strauss's Die schiveigsame Frau. The repertory will also include Simone Boccanegra, Carmen, Turandot, La Damnation de Faust, L'Italiana in Algeri, Rigoletto, La Forza del Destino, Der Rosenkavalier, Die Entfiihrung aus dem Serail, Parsifal and Mavra. Among the artists engaged are Floriana CavaIli, Regine Crespin, Oralia Dominguez, Leyla Gencer, Irma Gonzalez, Ingeborg Hallstein, Renata Holm, Kerstin Meyer, Jane Rhodes. Anneliese Rothenberger, Lucille Udovick; Manuel Ausensi, Kurt Bohme. Plinio Clabassi, Fernando Corena, Hans Hopf, Flaviano Labe, Richard Martell, Angelo Mattiello, Ferruccio Mazzoli, Cornell McNeil, Juan Oncina, Gianni Raimondi. Giuseppe Taddei, Raymond Wolansky, Fritz Wunderlich. The conductors will be Jean Fournet, Juan E. Martini, Fernando Previtali, Argeo Quadri and Heinz Wallberg; the producers, Jean Doumier, Carlo Maestrini, Ernst Pottgen. Frank de Quell and Friedrich Schramm.
Page 44, October 1970
Genoa. The autumn season at the TEATRO COMUNALE, which opened on September 15, will continue until October 22. The repertory is: Rigoletto. With Maria Pellegrini, Stefania MalagU, Angelo Mori, Peter Glossop, Antonio Zerbini, Alfredo Giacomotti, c. Franco Ferraris, p. Aldo Mirabella Vassallo
Les Contes d'Hoffmann. With Antonella Della Porta, Margherita Guglielmi. Nicoletta Panni, Romana Righetti, Gabriella Carturan, Edoardo Giminez, Sesto Bruscantini, Luigi Pontiggia, Giuseppe Zecchillo, Arturo La Porta, Enrico Campi, Giudo Mazzini, c. Samo Hubad, p. Mladen Sabljic, d. Miomir Denic La Filk du Regiment. With Gugliehni, Anna Di Stasio, Ugo Benelli, Renato Cesari, Campi, Andrea Mineo, c. Paolo Peloso, p. Filippo Crivelli, d. Ferruccio Villagrossi. October 3, 7, 11 Cavalleria Rusticana. With Claudia Parada, Di Stasio, Mafalda Masini, Flaviano Lab6, Lino Puglisi and Gianni Schicchi. With Maddalena Bonifaccio, Masini, Di Stasio, Luciano Saldari, Rolando Panerai, Franco Calabrese, Leonardo Monreale, Paolo Pedani, c. Manno Wolf-Farrari, p. Carlo Maestrini. October 15, 18, 20, 22
Page 56, March 1977
12 Naples, San Carlo. Leyla Gencer sings title-role in revival of Mayr's Medea in Corinto 12 Munich, National Theatre.
Page 68, July 1960
Questions and Answers
Can you give me any information about soprano Leyla Gencer? Barbara Dodgson, Sinnington, York.
Leyla Gencer is a Turkish soprano. She studied at the Istanbul Conservatory and made her debut at the Ankara Opera in 1950 as Santuzza. After her initial successes in Turkey she went to Italy where she studied with ArangiLombardi and Apollo Granforte. Her Italian debut was at the San Carlo. Naples, during the 1953-4 season when she was heard as Butterfly, Tatiana, Violetta, and in other roles. She has sung at all the leading Italian opera houses. including the Scala, where she made her debut during the 1956-7 season as Madame Lidoine in the premiere of The Carmelites. She made her American debut as Francesca in Zandonai's opera at San Francisco in 1956. and returned there in 1957 and 1958 singing a variety of roles including Lucia, Violetta, Gilda, Elisabeth de Valois. Leonora (Forza), and Manon. Her repertory also includes Anna Bolena. Lida (Battaglia di Legnano), Lady Macbeth. and Renata in The Flaming Angel. In reply to Mr K. D. Louis's query in the May OPERA concerning Ponchielli's Lina, R. Stallmann sends the following information:
Page 36, July 1964
ELSEWHERE IN AMERICA . . .
The full cast for the production of La Boheme which is to mark the return of Renata Tebaldi to the LYRIC OPERA has now been announced: Renato Cioni will be heard as Rodolfo, Luisa De Setta as Musetta, Sesto Bruscantini as Marcello, Bruno Marangoni as Colline, and Renato Cesari as Schaunard; Pierre Dervaux will conduct. Robert Massard has been engaged to sing Escamillo in Carmen with Grace Bumbry, Franco Corelli and Niooletta
c. Dervaux, p. Marcel Lamy. Bumbry will also share the role of Eboli with Fiorenza Cossotto in Don Carlos, with Leyla Gencer, Richard Tucker, Tito Gobbi, Nicolai Giaurov and Bruno Marangoni, c. Bruno Bartoletti, p. Christopher West.
New Orleans. The 1964-5 season will open on October 8 with Otello with James McCracken in the title-role, Raina Kabaivanska as Desdemona, and Cornell MacNeil as Iago— second performance on October 10. On October 22 and 24 Gianna D'Angelo will sing Amina in La Sonnambula. Werther will be given on November 5 and 7 with Giuseppe Di Stefano in the title-role and Rosalind Elias as Charlotte. Leyla Gencer will be heard as Leonora in ll Trovatore on November 12 and 14 with Richard Torigi as Luna.
Page 35, October 1964
ARGENTINA Poettgen's Verdi
Buenos Aires. Between these two Verdi operas, we had Norma (July 10) and Don Rodrigo (July 24), the latter by the Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera, with libretto by the Spaniard, Alejandro Casona. The theatrical style of the work is old-fashioned and traditional, quite false, and its music in many moments superficially modern, with underlined effects. The whole is therefore not dramatically workable. It requires an enormous orchestra (18 horns all over the auditorium, bell, megaphone, etc.) and proved the technical capacity of the Teatro Colon and conductor Bruno Bartoletti; but left on balance only some musically attractive symphonic and choral fragments. Norma was a routine performance, such as we are now, fortunately, mostly without. Bartoletti's conducting showed the highest ability, but the same cannot be said of Lou Bruder's production. The cast was quite insufficient, the best being William Wildermann as Oroveso and the worst Adriana Lazzarini as Adalgisa. Leyla Gencer (Norma) and Bruno Prevedi (Pollio) were below the requirements of their respecting roles. OSCAR FRIGUEROA
Page 99, June 2008
Le nozze di Figaro, Mozart
Leyla Gencer (Countess Almaviva), Mirella Freni (Susanna), Maria Zen i (Barbarina), Edith Mathis (Cherubino), Johanna Peters (Marcellina), Patricia McCarry (Bridesmaid), Hugues Cuenod (Don Basilio), John Kentish (Don Curzio), Gabriel Bacquier (Count Almaviva), Heinz Blankenburg (Figaro), Carlo Cava (Don Bartolo), Derick Davies (Antonio), Glyndebourne Chorus , Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, c. Silvio Varviso. GFO CD 001-62 (three CDs)
At first I thought this live recording —the first, along with the Betrothal reviewed below, on Glyndebourne's new label—of 8 June 1962 might appeal only to older readers with nostalgic memories of the classic Carl Ebert production, but on listening I realized that by any standards and in any context this is an outstanding version of the score.
Varviso was surely an under-valued conductor in his lifetime: I never heard a less than excellent performance from him across a wide range of repertory. His Figaro dances with delight—elegant, lightly humorous, on the whole brisk yet never sounding rushed—and he brings proper sensitivity of phrase to the Countess's and Cherubino's arias. In the earlier acts he and Martin Isepp's continuo ensure that there is never the slightest break between recit and set number as the comedy bowls along; the only breaks come later with well-deserved applause. The other great virtue of the performance is the range of colour and point that the whole cast brings to the text. This Figaro is vibrantly alive dramatically. It's a classic Glyndebourne cast, nicely balanced between the house's favourites of the time and world-class guests. Blankenburg, whose statue used to stand in the garden by the old theatre, is verbally a splendidly pungent Figaro, set against Bacquier's young-sounding, very dangerous Count. The young Freni is an utter delight: with her and Varviso 'Deh, vieni' is heart-stoppingly lovely. Gencer 's full and warm-toned Countess is almost heroic of timbre, yet she can fine her sound down to the sweetest pianissimo. As Marcellina, the mezzo Johanna Peters is very much in soprano mode (the regrettable loss of her aria is the only major cut) and the single possible reservation is that with Mathis as Cherubino (very good) there is perhaps an excess of soprano sound. Cuenod's venomous Basilio, Maria Zen's sweet and sly Barbarina, Cava's cavernous Bartolo, John Kentish's hilarious Don Curzio — there are no weak links The mono sound is of its time and perfectly acceptable, and the RPO's playing efficiently middle-of-the-road. The performance is decoration-free —this was before Mackerras's epoch-making Figaros at Sadler 's Wells. But it's hugely enjoyable all the same. RODNEY MILNES
Page 49, May 1969
6 Venice, Teatro La Fenice. Revival of Donizetti's Belisario with Leyla Gencer and Giuseppe Taddei
Page 59, July 1968
20 Verona, Arena. 1968 season opens with Aida with Leyla Gencer in the title-
Page 47, January 1963
We hear that . . .
Leyla Gencer will return to Glyndebourne next summer. She will be heard as Donna Anna in Monte Carlo in February and as Lida in La Battaglia di Legnano at Trieste in March.
Page 50, December 1963
We hear that...
Leyla Gencer will sing the title-role in Bellini's Beatrice di Tenda at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Elisabeth in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples, and Norma and Amelia in Simone Boccanegra at the Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires, during the 1963-4 season.
Page 71, August 1993
Channel 4 Television. 'A Night at the Turkish Opera' is part of the series 'Rear Window': the programme on August 31 examines the presentation of opera in the five subsidised opera houses in Turkey. Filmed around a new production of Der fliegende Hollander, the programme includes interviews with Leyla Gencer and others involved with the presentation of opera in an Islamic community.
Page 47, April 1972
Milan, La Scala. Leyla Gencer sings title-role in Gluck's Alceste 13 19 21 22 24
Page 44, September 1972
The OPERA THEATRE OF NEW JERSEY'S 1972-3 season will include: Attila*. With Leyla Gencer, Cesare Bardelli, Jerome Hines, c. Alfredo Silipigni, p. Franco Gratale.
Page 47, September 1972
4 Edinburgh, King's Theatre. Leyla Gencer sings title-role in Rossini's Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra
Page 47, September 1967
19 San Francisco, War Memorial Opera House. Season opens with La Gioconda with Leyla Gencer and Grace Bumbry 26 Berlin, German Opera.
Page 48, May 1972
25 Naples, San Carlo. Leyla Gencer sings the title-role in Donizetti's Caterina Cornaro, c. Carlo Felice Cillario
Page 41, December 1966
Adriana Lecouvreur. With Leyla Gencer, Adriana Lazzarini, Amedeo Zambon, Enzo Sordello, Plinio Clabassi, c. Oliviero De Fabritiis, p. Attilio Colonnello, d. Camillo Parravacini (December 17)
Safo (Pacini)*. With Leyla Gencer, Franca Mattiucci, Del Bianco, Louis Quilico, c. Capuana, p. Margherita Wallmann, d. Attilio Collonello
Alceste. With Leyla Gencer, Mirto Picchi, Attilio D'Orazi, c. Vittorio Gui, p. Giorgio Di Lullo, d. Pier Luigi Pizzi (March 7)
Lucrezia Borgia. With Gencer, Anna Maria Rota, Renato Cioni, Ruggero Raimondi, c. Francesco Molinari-Pradelli, p. Carlo Piccinato, d. Orlando Di Collalto (June 3)
Page 47, October 1956
San Francisco. The 1956 season opens on September 13 with Manon Lescaut with Dorothy Kirsten in the title role, Jussi Bjoerling as Des Grieux, Rolando Panerai as Lescaut (American debut) and Lorenzo Alvary as Geronte; this will be followed two nights later by Tosca with Renata Tebaldi, Richard Martell as Cavaradossi and Leonard Warren as Scarpia. On September 16 Eileen Farrell will make her debut as Leonora in II Trovatore with Oralia Dominguez as Azucena. Bjerling as Manrico, Anselmo Colzani as Di Luna and Nicola Moscona as Fernando. The first German opera will be Der fliegende Hollander on September 18 with Leonie Rysanek making her American debut as Senta, Hans Hotter in the title role, Alvary as Daland and Suthaus as Erik. Then comes Falstaff with Warren in the title part, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf as Alice (her first stage appearance in this role), Dominguez as Qucikly, Campora as Fenton. Frank Guarrera as Ford. Before the end of the month Boris Godunov (Boris Christoff, Richard Lewis, Hotter, Moscona, Alvary, Martell, Dominguez) and Francesca da Rimini (Leyla Gencer, Martell, Colzani, Moscona) will also have been given. (See next paragraph.) Full reports of these performances will be published in OPERA in due course.
San Francisco. Leyla Gencer, the Turkish soprano who has sung with success in Italy, especially at the San Carlo Opera, Naples, has been engaged to sing the title role in the new production of Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini, which receives its first performance on September 28. Renata Tebaldi was originally announced for this role.
Page 43, February 1967
Turin, Teatro Regio The season opened on January 25 with Don Carlos (with Ilva Ligabue, Flaviano Labe, Sesto Bruscantini, Raffaele Arie, c. Vittorio Gui, p. Franco Enriquez) and will continue with the following : Norma. With Leyla Gencer, Fiorenza Cossotto, Bruno Prevedi, Ivo Vince, c. Oliviero De Fabritiis, p. Margherita Wallmann
Page 48, September 1968
We hear that...
Leyla Gencer will sing the title-role in Donizetti's Maria Stuarda at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples, next season
Page 49, September 1976
We hear that...
Leyla Gencer will sing the title-role in Mayr's Medea in Corinto at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples, in February
Page 56, September 1958
Lausanne. The operatic programme for the Festival was entirely in the hands of the remarkable Belgrade Opera, which made a striking impression. Boris Godunov, conducted by Kreshimir Baranovich, was given in the RimskyKorsakov version—the Polish Scene was reduced to the duet between Marina and the False Dimitri (see also under Berlin, p. 588). Not only did the bass Miroslav Changalovich score a considerable success in the title role, but there was some excellent singing in the smaller roles — from Zarko Tsveych as Varlaam and Stepan Andrasevich as Missail, for instance. Indeed, it was perhaps the Inn Scene that most eloquently revealed the art of the producer, Josip Kulundzich, who succeeded in making the action perfectly and vigorously clear to a public almost entirely unfamiliar with the language (Russian for the principals, Serbo-Croatian for the minor roles and the chorus).
Prince Igor, conducted by Oscar Danon, was sung by Valeria Heybalova, Milica Mladinovich, Zarko Cvejic (Galitzky) Changalovich (Khonchak), Dushan Popovich (Igor—a lyric actor with splendid stage presence) and the tenor Drago Startz (Vladimir). With the whole of the third act amputated, thus considerably confusing the action of the fourth, this production seemed to have no purpose beyond a pretext for staging the Polovstian Dances—not a very lofty ambition, though I know that without the Dances Igor would doubtless have long since dropped out of the repertory. Massenet's Don Quichotte (also under Oscar Danon) was at once a revelation and a triumph. The performance vividly displayed the outstanding qualities of the work, which may be a little short on inspiration but is none the less admirably written for voices and orchestra. Changalovich took the title role, Latko Korosech was a magnificently lively and warmhearted Sancho; and, as Dulcinea, Biserka Tsveych revealed a rich and strong contralto. Mladen Sablyich's production made sober but expressive play with lighting against the background of Miomir Denich's simplified sets: clearly the lesson of Wieland Wagner's Bayreuth has reached Belgrade, but it has been learnt originally, not slavishly. Certainly this was the most remarkable, if not the most brilliant, of the three productions. Marcel Senechaud. Zurich. The operatic programme of the Festival has included no new works this year, though there were two new productions' Oedipus Rex (Maria Davenport, Helmut Melchert) and Figaro (Hilde Koch, Vera Schlosser, Edith Mathis, Hilde Biichel, Heinz Rehfuss, Heinz Borst, Rold Bottcher, Charles Gillig). There were also seven gala performances : Fidelio (Heinz Imdahl, Symonette, Sebastian Feiersinger, Helga Pilarczyk and Birgit Nilsson; Hans Knappertsbusch); Magic Flute (Josef Greindl, Ernst Hafliger; Reinshagen); Trovatore (Leyla Gencer, Lucia Danieli, Piero Miranda Ferraro, Ettore Bastianini; Hartogs); Entfiihrung (Hafliger, Eva Maria Rogner, Ingeborg Friedrich; Erismann); Traviata (Virginia Zeani, Ferrando Ferrari, Bastianini; Kampel); Tosca (Nilsson, Eugenio Fernandi, Imdahl; Hartogs).
Page 58, December 1967
AMERICA Balletic 'Cav' and Pag '
San Francisco. La Gioconda returned after a 19-year absence to open the SAN FRANCISCO OPERA'S 45th season September 19. The company's general director, Kurt Herbert Adler, had persuaded three leading ladies to learn roles for the production, Grace Bumbry taking on Laura, Maureen Forrester La Cieca and Leyla Gencer the title-part, and there was much inspiration in his casting.
At the opening, Miss Bumbry gave one of the most dazzling demonstrations of perfectly-projected singing I ever expect to encounter. Not an ill-placed sound intruded from first note to last as her buoyant mezzo soared forth effortlessly. The grand manner may be a bit harder to project from the lower and inherently less brilliant alto reaches, but Miss Forrester offered the ideal blend of creamy sound and tidy phrasing as La Cieca. She does not appear much on the opera stage, but she looked completely at home in a role which, quite literally, requires its roughed-up protagonist to take the floor.
Miss Gencer, who learned the title-role at extremely short notice. Regine Crespin having bowed out. was decidedly uneven at the first performance, but at the second, three days later, the voice sounded more lustrous, and there was less gear-changing. Both evenings one had to admire Gencer for consistently using her voice as a piece of dramatic equipment and she got inside the character, putting you on her side. Renato Cioni registered plenty of sweetness and 'ping' at the opening, but he was more effective the second time around, too, substituting relaxed exuberance for anxiety. Chester Ludgin, while he has the right dark coloration for Barnaba, betrayed a woefully unlimbered baritone in the first performance. There was a much firmer phraseological line at the repeat. Giuseppe Patane impressed with his crisp, propulsive and exhilarating conducting, and Lotfi Mansouri, the producer, was equally intent on keeping things moving. I especially liked his direction of Ludgin, who sensibly refrained from playing Barnaba at full \ illainistic throttle. ARTHUR BLOOMFIELD
Page 44, December 1968
Florence. The season at the TEATRO COMMUNALE is as follows : Macbeth. With Leyla Gencer, Angelo Mori, Cornell MacNeil, Luigi Roni, c. Bartoletti, p. Aldo Mirabella Vassallo, d. Mischia Scandella. January 12, 15, 19
Naples. The 1968/9 season at the TEATRO SAN CARLO will consist of the following operas: Maria Stuarda. With Leyla Gencer, Shirley Verrett, Juan Oncina, Giulio Fioravanti, Plinio Clabassi, c. Francesco Molinari-Pradelli, p. Franco De Lullo. December 29, January 2 1
Page 36, December 1957
San Francisco. Maria Callas had been scheduled for Lucia and Verdi's Macbeth and Antonietta Stella for Un Ballo in Maschera and Aida. Both were taken ill in Italy, with the result that Leyla Gencer, whom we had previously admired as an efficient lyric soprano, blossomed into a great coloratura as the bride of Lammermoor, Leontyne Price won her biggest operatic success as Aida, and Leonie Rysanek took the town by storm as Amelia and Lady Macbeth and also as Strauss's Ariadne and Turandot; she had originally been engaged only for the last two roles.
Page 66, December 1971
Italy Home-town Donizetti
Bergamo. For Donizetti fans this beautifully situated city, just 30 miles from Milan, is a 'must'. It certainly held me spellbound throughout my 40 hours stay for the serenata inaugurate of its 1971 Autumn Festival at the TEATRO DONIZETTI on October 6 Lucrezia Borgia, not given here since 1892, and with its definitive nuovo finale (i.e. without Lucrezia's final 'Era desso il figlio mio') restored. It was a production (by Enrico Frigerio) which in its no-nonsense straightforwardness might have been enjoyed by Desmond Shawe-Taylor, although occasional glimpses at the stage made me thankful that the management had given me a box-seat, where the visibility, and the intensity of the smell of the carnations, distributed over the whole house, offered a somewhat reversed order of priorities. The conductor, Adolfo Camozzo, is the head of the local conservatory, having his one big night of the year and inspiring his orchestra and chorus to enthusiasm. I immensely enjoyed the evening including the audience, which seemed not at all 'after that of Parma, the most difficult to please in Italy' (Oxford Dictionary of Opera) at least not on this night, when there were only 'brava' and 'bravr, most of them starting after the first part of the arias, after which everybody seemed surprised that there was a cabaletta to follow. After holding back in her 'Com'e bello' Leyla Gencer as Lucrezia came into her own at her growing anxiety about Gennaro's fate. Her final pleading could have carried greater urgency but then hers is a voice of rather monochrome colour. If Umberto Grilli brought little life to the character of Gennaro, he sang him quite elegantly and energetically, with ringing tone and crisp diction. As Orsini we had Anna Maria Rota a too complacent and sedate singer for the dash and swagger of the Brindisi. There was an obviously still rather youngish Don Alfonso: Gianfranco Casarini, whom I liked very much indeed with a voice of dark and brooding power and great dramatic potential, even if still somewhat clumsily handled. GIORGIO GUAI.ERZI
Page 46, December 1957
The 1957-58 season at the Teatro Giuseppe Verdi opened on November 16 with II Trovatore conducted by Vincenzo Bellezza with Leyla Gencer, Dora Minarchi, Mario Filippeschi and Ettore Bastianini in the leading roles.
Page 52, December 1960
Italian Opera House Plans, 1960-61
Italian Opera House Plans, 1960-61
Teatro Giuseppe Verdi, Trieste Francesca do Rimini. Leyla Gencer, Anna Gasperini, Giuseppe Campora, Mario Ferrara, Anselmo Colzani. Conductor Franco Capuana.
Page 44, February 1965
Summer Festivals, 1965
Glyndebourne. Anna Bolena, Donizetti. With Leyla Gencer, Patricia Johnson, Maureen Morella, Juan Oncina, Carlo Cava, Don Garrard. c. Gianandrea Gavazzeni, p. Franco Enriquez, d. Lorenzo Ghiglia
Page 50, August 1974
We hear that...
Leyla Gencer will sing the title-role in Lucrezia Borgia in Los Angeles next month
Page 52, August 1955
The open-air season at the Castello di San Giusto opened on July 7 with a performance of Carmen with Pia Tassinari in the title role, Roberto Turrini as Jose, Marcella de Osma as Micaela, and Giangiacomo Guelfi as Escamillo; Mario Parenti was the conductor. Other works to be heard during the summer include La Traviata (Leyla Gencer, Giacinto Prandelli, Enzo Mascherini, conductor Pino Trost) and Turandot (Carla Martinis, Renata Scotto, Attilio Planisc, Paolo Pedani and Antonio Massaria, conductor Antonio Narducci).
Page 36, November 1963
ITALY A Dwindling Interest
Venice. Verdi's Gerusalemme, the Italian translation of Jerusalem which was the French version (with several additions) of I Lombardi, returned to the Italian stage after almost a century, when it was revived at the TEATRO LA FENICE on September 24. The leading roles were sung by Leyla Gencer, Giacomo Aragali and Giangiacomo Guelfi. Gianandrea Gavazzeni was the conductor and Jean Vilar the producer.
Page 25, March 1959
Philadelphia. The first five operas of the Grand Opera Company's 24th season were Un Ballo in Maschera (Nelli, Marie Traficante, Belen Amparan, Giuseppe Campora, Cesare Bardelli), Carmen (Amparan, Richard Cassilly), 11 Trovatore (Anita Cerquetti, Irene Kramarich, Walter Fredericks, Frank Valentino), II Barbiere di Siviglia (Giulietta Simionato, Thomas Hayward, Frank Guarrera, Nicola Moscona, Gerhard Pechner), and La Traviata (Leyla Gencer, Eugene Conley, Cornell MacNeil). Giuseppe Bamboscheck conducted all the performances.
Page 66, September 1978
Italy Donizetti rarity
Venice. The first Italian performance of Donizetti's Les Martyrs on June 24 at LA FENICE caused great interest, both on account of the opera itself and some of the singers. This French version of Poliuto, expanded to satisfy Parisian tastes, above all lacks theatrical rhythm, and the best parts of Les Martyrs remain the music written for Poliuto. The halfhour ballet was quite unbearable, both as music and in the way it was performed. Scribe's French libretto, which lacks the concision of Cammarano's original, is no help at all.
The role of Polyeucte in Les Martyrs is less heroic than in the previous opera, and thus more suited to a tenor like Ottavio Garaventa, who sang pleasantly but was wooden dramatically. Leyla Gencer was too mature for Pauline visually and above all vocally. There were still some marvellous moments in her pianissimos, but generally she forced her voice, sometimes sang out of tune, and her unsteadiness was a strain on the ear. Years ago her presence in this role would have been something to relish, but today she has too many limitations. As one would expect, Renato Bruson as Severe (although not in perfect voice) dominated the evening. He is a really great baritone, and his beautifully resonant, easy singing is a delight. I cannot understand why we do not hear him more often in leading theatres and recordings. The remaining singers were only adequate, among them the young bass Ferruccio Furlanetto (Felix), who has a beautiful but immature voice. Alberto Fassini's production was non-existent, and the sets by Pier Luigi Pizzi uninspired. There was a young conductor, Gianluigi Gelmetti, who gave the impression of being accurate, but who was not helped much by the orchestra. The performance was also spoiled by the loud and always audible voice of the prompter. The on-the-whole enthusiastic reception was deserved by the historical significance of the performance, but not by its artistic achievement. SERGIO CASTAGNINO
Page 55, October 1969
ITALY Composer as Artistic Director
On June 4, Cherubini's Medee (like The Maid of Pskov, a 'first' for Genoa) gave me the opportunity of hearing Leyla Gencer, who last December in Venice in the same role did not seem in the best vocal state. She fought like a lion but, particularly in the last act, seemed in difficulties with the taxing tessitura and failed to register the dramatic edge that Medea certainly demands to the nth degree.
The rest of the cast was mostly different from the one in Venice. Common to both casts was the tenor, Aldo Bottion, vigorous but not always stylistically controlled, with Rita Talarico (vocally a less persuasive Glauce than expected), Adriana Lazzarini (a Neris nobly expressive though marred by a tiresome vibrato) and Paolo Washington (a dignified Creon). Pier Luigi Pizzi's sets logically seemed rather wasted and Alberto Fassini's production had to be suitably modified. The great revelation of this performance was Paolo Peloso, a 37-year-old conductor of whom I had heard and read quite favourable reports but whose work I was able to judge personally for the first time.
In an exacting opera like this, he revealed intelligence and a first-rate technique, which distinguish him as one of the most impressive conductors of the new generation (in no way inferior to Muti or Ceccato, for instance, maybe not even to Abbado) and one can only wonder why he is not yet an established 'commuter' between the principal Italian opera-houses. GIORGIO GUALERZI
Page 66, January 1963
Continental Opera House Plans, Season 1962-3
Florence, Teatro Comunale, Der Freischatz. Leyla Gencer, Orietta Moscucci, Mirto Picchi, Nicola Zaccaria; c. Vittorio Gui; p. Frank De Quell; d. Cajo Kiihlny. December 16, 19, 22, 29
Bologna, Teatro Comunale, November 30 to January 20 Don Carlos. November 30, December 2, 5 Don Giovanni. December 12, 16 Lucrezia Romana (Respighi). II Segreto di Susanna (Wolf-Ferrari). November 20, 23 II Maestro di Cappella (Cimarosa). Isabeau, Mascagni. December 26, 30, January 3 La Boheme. December 29, January 1, 6 Tannhiiuser. January 12, 15, 20 The Love of Three Oranges. January 17 (by the Ljubljana Opera)
Artists engaged include: Maria van Doehgen, Carla Ferrario, Gigliola Frazzoni, Mirella Freni, Licia Galvano, Rena Garazioti, Leyla Gencer, Gianna Maritati, Giuliana Matteini, Sofia Mezzetti, .....
Page 39, December 1967
Milan. Teatro alla Scala The details of the 1967-8 season were announced by Gianandrea Gavazzeni, the theatre's artistic director, and are as follows: Idomeneo. With Leyla Gencer, Margherita Rinaldi, Peter Schreier, Domenico Trimarchi, Nicola Zaccaria, c. Wolfgang Sawallisch, p. Oscar Fritz Schuh
The 1967-8 season at the TEATRO DELL'OPERA, Don Carlo. With Leyla Gencer, Fiorenza Cossotto, Bruno Prevedi, Bruscantini, Nicolai Giaurov, Luigi Roni, c. Fernando Previtali, p. & d. Luchino Visconti. April 22, 24, 28, 30, May 2
Page 50, February 1962
ITALY 'The Consul' Reaches Turin
Don Giovanni (November 18) had not been performed here since the 1949 production (conducted by Jonel Perlea. with Mariano Stabile as the Don) and now marked Fernando Previtali's first appearance as an operatic conductor in Turin and Renato Capecchi's Italian debut in the title-role. Previtali showed skill in gauging the various expressive elements in Mozart's clear, linear but complex music. Capecchi revealed a mastery of stage technique in addition to his well-known intelligence as a singer and his remarkable penetration as an interpreter, yet failed to achieve the vocal projection necessary to make Don Giovanni the activating centre of the drama. Leyla Gencer was stylistically excellent but not always vocally adequate as Donna Anna; Ilva Ligabue (Elvira) had undoubtedly the most compelling voice in the cast; and the 23year-old Adriana Maliponte, with her fresh, pleasing and robust voice (perhaps too much so for the part of Zerlina), showed an unusual sensibility that holds promise of a brilliant career. A lack of abundant vocal resources was noted among the men — Italo Tajo as Leporello . Alvinio Misciano as Ottavio. Leonardo Monreale as Masetto, and Silvio Majonica as the Commendatore (inexplicably deprived not only of the statue's 'marble' covering, but also of the customary amplifier for the Commendatore's spectral utterances). These were not the only eccentricities in Sandro Bolchi's production, which was in other respects effective. The beautiful sets were designed by Pier Luigi Pizzi, and the choreography was by Sara Acquarone Bertone
The season at the TEATRO COMUNALE opened on November 25 with Un Ballo in Maschera conducted by Oliviero De Fabritiis. with Leyla Gencer as Amelia, Dora Gatta as Oscar, Adriana Lazzarini as Ulrica. Carlo Bergonzi as Riccardo and Mario Zanasi as Renato.
Page 24, February 1964
Scala Season Opens
La Scala's new season, which opened on December 7, .... The second night of the season was given to Don Carlos. Once again Margherita Wallmann's exemplary production brought to life the El Greco paintings used as a model for the reconstruction of the Spanish court by the designer, Georges Wakhevitch. Of the singers, Leyla Gencer (Elisabeth) was certainly not the wisest choice, especially as she had to compete with Fiorenza Cossotto (Eboli) who was in exceptionally fine voice. Bruno Prevedi (Carlos) is clearly destined for a successful career but has yet to perfect his technique and refine his interpretation. Nicolai Giaurov (Philip) has undoubtedly learnt to subordinate his opulent voice to a closer study of the character, thus giving a more controlled and tasteful performance. Martti Talvela (the Grand Inquisitor) displayed an even more powerful voice than Giaurov formerly did in this role.
Page 41, May 1965
Page 53, March 1965
ITALY Calm After the Storm
January 9 saw another return — Bellini's Norma, produced again by Margherita Wallmann with sets by Salvatore Fiume. The conductor this season was Gianandrea Gavazzeni, who showed himself obviously intent on imparting a lesson in true style. The title-role was sung by Leyla Gencer but, to tell the truth, this nobly-endowed and intelligent artist did not seem entirely right for the difficult part which perhaps demands greater versatility than she displayed or the conductor allowed her. Still, a memorable interpretation, even though disappointing occasionally to lovers of Bellini's be! canto. Certainly, at her every appearance, Giulietta Simionato (Adalgisa) dispensed a lesson in singing and style to all, colleagues and audience alike. Bruno Prevedi tried his best to match the achievement of the two ladies but his Pollione is too immature dramatically—and perhaps in vocal technique too — for a theatre like La Scala. CLAUDIO SARTORI
Page 40, December 1965
Naples, Tentro San Carlo
Season opens December 11 and continues until the end of May. Dates given below are first nights and are subject to alteration. Works marked * are receiving first local performances. Guillaume Tell. With Leyla Gencer, Anna Maria Rota, Gianni Raimondi, Giangiacomo Guelfi, Paolo Washington, c. Fernando Previtali, p. Sandro Bolchi (December 11) Clitennestra (Pizzetti). With Clara Petrella, Luisa Malagrida, Floriana Cavalli, Nicola Tagger, c. Oliviero De Fabritiis, p. Mario Frigcrio (December 26)
Lucrezia Borgia. With Gencer, Rota, Giacomo Aragall, Mario Petri, c. Carlo Franci, p. Margherita Wallmann (January 29)
Roberto Devereux (Donizetti) With Leyla Gencer, Giulietta Simionato, Ruggero Bondino, Piero Cappuccilli, Franco Bonanome. c. Mario Rossi, p. Margherita Wallmann, d. Attilio Colonello (February 22, 24, 27, March 1)
Page 26, December 1956
San Fracisco. When Kurt Herbert Adler became artistic director of the company three years ago he retrieved it from the pit of needless conservatism into which it had fallen and added a modern work to each season's repertory. The first of these was Honegger's Jeanne au Bficher and the second William Walton's Troilus and Cressida. This year the modern work, if it can be called that, was Riccardo Zandonai's forty-two-year-old Francesca da Rimini. According to Adler's original plans, Renata Tebaldi should have been the star of this production, but Mme Tebaldi decided, quite late in the day, not to learn the role of Francesca, and so Leyla Gencer, a Turkish soprano who has been active at the San Carlo and other Italian theatres, was hastily imported for it. Mme Gencer did quite well, and so did her collaborators of the cast, Richard Martell (Paolo), Anselmo Colzani (Gianciotto), Cesare Curzi (Malatestino), and others, but the music seemed spineless and derivative. It might have scored more heavily if Oliviero de Fabritiis, who was brought over as chief Italian conductor this year, had not been more concerned with colour than with dramatic character, if Kerz's setting had not been accomplished with an eye to economy, and if Carlo Maestrini's stage direction, with its posing, simpering handmaidens, had not seemed absurdly old-fashioned.
Page 33, December 1958
in return for Don Carlos, Chicago had the San Francisco sets and costumes for Turandot. The Don Carlos settings were properly regal, but also properly keyed to the sombre black of Spanish court dress at the time of Philip II. The cast had great glamour, power. and style, thanks to Giorgio Tozzi, who sang King Philip, Irene Dabs as Princess Eboli, Piero Miranda Ferraro as Don Carlos, Frank Guarrera as Rodrigo. and Leyla Gencer as Elizabeth. Georges Sebastian conducted a superlatively rich and dramatic performance.
Interspersed between new productions in the early part of the season were a mediocre Barber of Seville; an excellent Rigoletto starring Robert Weede, Miss Gencer, and Gianni Raimondi.
Page 40, January 1964
Continental Opera House Plans, Season 1963-4
Milan, Teatro alla Scala. Don Carlos. With Leyla Gencer, Fiorenza Cossotto, Bruno Prevedi, Ettore Bastianini, Nicolai Giaurov. c. Gabriela Santini; p. Margherita Wallmann; d. Georges Wakhevitch (December 11)
Venice, Teatro La Fenice. Beatrice di Terida, Bellini. With Leyla Gencer (January 9, 12, 15)
Page 45, December 1972
Milan. April 2 Un Ballo in Maschera. With Leyla Gencer, Lazzarini / Anghelakova, Santelli / Elvina Ramella, Giorgio Merighi, Cappuccilli/ Fioravanti, c. Nino Verchi.
Naples. The 1972-3 season at the TEATRO DI SAN CARLO December 26/29, January 3/7. Belisario. With Leyla Gencer, Bianca Maria Casoni, Ottavio Garaventa, Giuseppe Taddei, Silvano Pagliuca, c. Carlo Franci, p. Alberto Fassini, d. Pier Luigi Pizzi.
Rome. The 1972-3 season at the TEATRO DELL'OPERA opened on November 23 with I Masnadieri followed by Lucia di Lammermoor on November 27. The repertory and casts for the rest of the season are as follows : April 14 La Vestale. With Leyla Gencer, Bianca Maria Casoni, Umberto Grilli, Carlo Cava, Mario Petri, c. Carlo Franci, p. Mauro Bolognini, d. Pier-Luigi Samaritani.
Page 67, January 1971
Italy 'Belisario' revived
Italy 'Belisario' revived
Bergamo. After the break with tradition in 1969 with La Favorite, the TEATRO DONIZETTI has resumed the special and honourable task of making known its favourite composer's less popular operas. The current autumn season opened (on October 7, although I saw the performance on the 9) with an excellent production of Belisario. Together with Anna Bolena and Roberto Devereux, this opera is surely one of the most valid of all the 'serious' Donizetti that has been dug up in the past 20 years. The production has a good deal in common with the one mounted last year in Venice: the effective production of Alberto Fassini and the much-discussed sets of Pier Luigi Pizzi. Also in the cast, as in Venice, were Leyla Gencer,
for whom the inexorable passage of time may well cloud the vocal gloss but most certainly not the fervour of her commitment to a part; Mirna Pecile, so accurately capturing the vocal ambiguity of Irene; Umberto Grilli, who would seem to have improved in power and accent more than in his understanding of the true Donizetti style; and, finally, Nicola Zaccaria, repeating his essentially weak Fenice performance of Giustiniano. But there were two innovations. First, the baton passed from an inflamed and passionate Gavazzeni to a composed and traditional Adolfo Camozzo, who is also this short season's competent and diligent artistic director. The second innovation is in the main part, played here not by the veteran Taddei, but by the young Renato Bruson, who was the surprise and delight of the production. A good actor and subtle interpreter, Bruson possesses a limpid baritone voice particularly suited to the relaxed, smooth singing, so sad and touching at one and the same time, of certain Donizetti characters. Moreover, he knows how to use his voice, intelligently grading the colours to give particular expressiveness to his phrasing. If he continues to study, and to perfect his means, resisting the temptation to sing too often and in too many important parts in too short a time, Bruson is most certainly destined to be much talked about over the next decade. GIORGIO GUALERZI
Page 44, June 1967
Summer Festivals, 1967
Bregenz, July 21 to August 20
Verona Arena, July 16 to August 15 La Forza del Destino. With Leyla Gencer, Adriana Lazzarini, Gianfranco Cecchele, Piero Cappuccilli, Ivo Vince, Renato Capecchi, c. Franco Capuana, p. Herbert Graf, d. Attilio Colonnello. July 15, 20, 23, 30, August 3, 6, 10
Page 66, August 1960
Third Programme. Anna Bolena (May 28)
Anna Bolena, Donizetti's first great success, must be reckoned an early work, although it had nearly three dozen predecessors. It was produced at Milan in December 1830, ten weeks before Bellini's Sonnambula came out at the same theatre. Anna Bolena, though inferior in melody, is far stronger in dramatic power and more enterprising in orchestration. Bellini was to regain some of this ground in I Puritani, while Donizetti later threw off melodies nearly as beautiful as Bellini's and much more varied and rhythmically vital. Yet neither quite fulfilled his potentialities, Bellini because he died too soon, Donizetti because he wrote too much and too uncritically. During the decade 1825-35, which embraces Bellini's entire output of ten operas, Donizetti uttered no fewer than thirty-three. Had he taken more pains, he might have left masterpieces of the quality of Rigoletto. As it is, his tragic operas contain a great deal of splendid music, though it is unevenly distributed and marred by lapses into triviality.
The libretto of Anna Bolena, by Felice Romani, is an excellent piece of work. The characters deviate less from history than was usual at that period, and their behaviour is consistent and convincing. Two of them at least come to life in the music. Ann herself, to whom all the best solos fall, is a sympathetic figure and not just the suffering soprano of convention. Henry VIII has no aria, but his cruel and suspicious nature emerges vividly from the ensembles, especially the trio with Ann and Percy in the second scene of Act 2 (Act 3 as broadcast), and in his recitatives. Jane Seymour — whom friend and foe alike insist on addressing by her surname throughout — is less successful. Donizetti evidently had in mind a sort of Eboli; but her initial cavatina fails to suggest her feelings of guilt, and the big aria in Act 2, an appeal to Henry for Ann's life, scarcely rises to the occasion. Smeton, the travesti page, and the tenor Percy are conventional types. It is however in the ensembles, not the arias, that the best music is concentrated. Donizetti seems to have been stirred by the conflict of emotions, while unable to' invest the solo music with more than a routine grace. The opera has little to offer till the big quintet at the end of the second scene, in which Ann, despite the warnings of her brother, reveals her love for Percy while Henry orders Hervey to spy on them. There is a forecast of the Lucia sextet here, especially in the beautiful slow section in A flat. The finale of the act, where Henry, his suspicions confirmed by Smeton's well-meant intrusion, has Ann and her party arrested, also contains some splendid music, far more
dramatic than anything Bellini was writing at this stage — or indeed later. Act 2 preserves a higher average level, and strikes a note of tragic grandeur at the opening of the scene in the Tower. The women's chorus 'Chi puO vederla' is a fine piece, most imaginatively scored: it is time our superior persons ceased to repeat the twaddle they learned in the nursery about Donizetti's feeble orchestration. Ann's recitative opens with a lovely orchestral phrase of a markedly Verdian flavour with a span of an eleventh, and presently throws up the seed and half the flower of a famous passage in Macbeth— and in the same key. Until quite late in his life Verdi was continually echoing Donizetti's serious operas. The ensuing aria has an expressive part for solo cor anglais and a dramatic interruption by the side-drum introducing the march that is to take Ann to the scaffold. Her final outburst, though less distinguished, might be a first shot at Queen Elizabeth's superb aria at the end of Roberto Devereux, likewise inspired by an execution in the Tower.
The performance under Gavazzeni was adequate; but this opera requires something more to carry full conviction. Leyla Gencer sang Ann's music in an erratic and breathless manner, but did project the pathos of the character, at moments very movingly. This no doubt is the legacy of Callas. Plinio Clabassi's dark voice suited Henry's music, and Giulietta Simionato sang well without being able to find much individuality in the part of Jane. Incidentally, this was written for a soprano; the choice of a mezzo perhaps accentuated its deficiencies. There were a great many cuts, often justified; but it seemed a pity to remove so much of the choral background to the second act, as well as the whole penultimate scene. Winton Dean
Page 65, June 2005
The 2004 season at the TEATRO MASSIMO BELLINI ended with a rarity never seen here before, Donizetti's Ugo, Conte di Parigi. Felice Romani's libretto tells the tangled story of the love of two sisters for the same man (the character who gives his name to the opera), resulting in the suicide of one, Bianca, and a happy ending for the other, Adelia, with whom Ugo is in love. This was a co-production between the Bellini and the Accademia della Scala, and was first seen in 2003 in Bergamo before going on to the Teatro degli Arcimboldi in Milan. The young members of the international cast all came from the Accademia della Scala, directed by Leyla Gencer, and their singing was the best aspect of the production. The demanding part of Bianca was sung with sure technique and fine expressivity by the Russian soprano Irina Lungu. Carmen Giannattasio sang Adelia with a full-bodied sound, although her voice tended to harden on occasion. The Korean Kim Ki Hyun sang the role of Ugo with a robust tone and clear diction, while the Turkish contralto Sim Tokyurek (Louis V) displayed a powerful voice that was not always technically in order. Pulling all the musical threads together was the conductor Fabrizio M. Carminati, who sometimes brought the orchestra up too loud, but made much of the mosaic-like overture, with its Rossinian echoes, and he kept the orchestral accompaniment moving swiftly and surely. Angelo Sala's simple, monumental sets, with their effective perspectives, provided little for Guido De Monticelli's production to work with, and the characters were left to express themselves in gestures that sometimes became too emphatic. GIAMPAOLO DE FERRA
Page 39, September 1974
Los Angeles. The newly-formed LOS ANGELES OPERA COMPANY, under the direction of Hugh Weathersby, opens its 1974-75 season on September 27 with Lucrezia Borgia. Leyla Gencer will sing the title-role, and the cast also includes Huguette Tourangeau, Giacomo Aragall, and Vladimiro Ganzarolli ; c. Richard Bonynge, p. Beppe De Tomasi.
Page 40, January 1971
Milan. Full casts for the current season at LA SCALA have now been announced, and are as follows: Les Vepres Siciliennes. With Renata Scotto/Leyla Gencer, Gianni Raimondi/ Giorgio Casellato Lamberti, Piero Cappuccilli/Lorenzo Saccomani/Licinio Montefusco, Ruggero Raimondi/Carlo Cava/Paolo Washington, c. Gianandrea Gavazzeni, p. Giorgio Di Lullo, d. Pier Luigi Pizzi
TEATRO LA FENICE: December 11, 13, 14, 17, 19 La Gioconda. With Leyla Gencer, Luisa Bordin Nave, Mirna Pecile, Umberto Grilli, Mario Zanasi, Ruggero Raimondi, c. Antonin° Votto, p. Carlo Maestrini, d. Veniero Colasanti and John Moore.
Page 38, September 1972
Our Critics Abroad
Milan. Alceste returned to LA SCALA on April 20 after 18 years in the Florence Festival version of 1968, arranged originally by Vittorio Gui, but now with Gianandrea Gavazzeni at the desk. Gluck is not an easy composer and the halfempty houses proved this once again. Pure line, controlled emotion and perfect balance are difficult things to accept when the palate responds to Traviata, Boheme and Butterfly — and this applies not only to the ears of the listeners, but also to the performers, singers and orchestra alike. Gianandrea Gavazzeni, though highly articulate and a theoretician of repute, simply has not the capacity to force an orchestra into producing the crystal clear and almost ethereal sound the score requires. The noise is always treacle and never honey. The same applies to the singers. The old English oratorio school failed in producing singers capable of singing Verdi, but they certainly supplied dozens of excellent interpreters of this kind of music. The modern Italian bel-canto singer is rarely capable of adapting himself. Giorgio Casellati Lamberti, a perfectly reasonable tenor, is at home as Rodolfo or Alvaro but his Admetus lacked all the qualities the part required. Rallentando and accelerando in odd places, not following a line, full of false pathos and rhetoric, he transposed the part a hundred years ahead with obvious results to the whole. Leyla Gencer sang Alcestis, as she had done in Florence. She had the right ideas, but the night I saw her she was not in her best voice and her undoubted musicianship was not enough to see her through. Only Josella Ligi as Ismene had the necessary style. She was the surprise of the evening and the mainstay of the performance. Giorgio De Lullo's production and Pier Luigi Pizzi's scenery were effective if not overwhelming.
Page 40, November 1964
Continental Opera House Plans, 1964-5
Naples, Teatro San Carlo. Norma. With Leyla Gencer, Fiorenza Cossotto, Cecchele, Ivo Vinci); c. Hermann Scherchen, p. Carlo Maestrini, d. Camillo Parravacini
Rome, Teatro dell'Opera New productions: / Vespri Siciliani, with Leyla Gencer, Gastone Limarilli, Giangiacomo Guelfi, Boris Christoff, c. Gianandrea Gavazzeni, p. Franco Enriquez, d. Polidori;
Page 30, June 1957
San Francisco. The 1957 season will open on September 17 with Turandot, and continue until October 24. Besides the American premiere of Poulenc's Les Dialogues des Carmelites and the revival of Macbeth for Callas, already announced, the repertory will include the first production by the company of Ariadne auf Naxos, which will be sung in German, with the prologue in English, and performances of Lucia di Lammermoor, Cosi fan tutte, La Traviata, Un Ballo in Ma.schera, Aida, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and Der Rosenkavalier.
Besides Callas, newcomers to the company are Rita Streich, Eugene Tobin, Gianni Raimondi, Umberto Borghi, and Giuseppe Taddei, all making American debuts. and Antonietta Stella, Nan Merriman, Leontyne Price, Helen George, Jon Crain and Robert Merrill, making San Francisco debuts. Other singers engaged include Licia Albanese, Frances Bible, Leyla Gencer, Dorothy Kirsten. Leonie Rysanek. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Blanche Thebom. Claramae Turner; Lorenzo Al\ ar■„. Virginio Assandri, Otto Edelmann. Heinz Blankenburg, Richard Lewis, Ralph Herbert, Nicola Moscona and Jan Peerce. Conductors will be Erich Leinsdorf, Francesco Molinari-Pradelli (making his American debut). William Steinberg, Glauco Curiel and Karl Kritz. Paul Hager and Carlo Piccinato are the producers.
Page 44, April 1959
The other January production at the San Carlo was a successful revival of La Sonnambula, starring Virginia Zeani, Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, and Nicola Monti. I went to the last performance of this production, and by that time the original trio had been substituted by the Turkish soprano Leyla Gencer, the tenor Agostino Lazzari, and the young bass who recently scored a hit in Simone Boccanegra, Ferruccio Mazzoli. Molinari-Pradelli conducted, and again, his reading was notable for the slow tempi and for his indulgence to the singers—especially the tenor—who tended to indulge in excessive rubati and fermate. Miss Gencer is a good musician and when she sings at mezza voce has a warm tone. Unfortunately, when she moves up to the upper register, and when she sings forte, the sound becomes pinched and harsh. In any case, she is not the ideal Amina. In this performance, she also had the unhappy idea of imitating the gestures of Maria Callas (in the first act, she also wore the same costume Miss Callas had worn in this opera at La Scala). But where Miss Callas's movements—the extended hands, imploring; the way of touching her throat, as if to suppress an access of emotion—are a part of her interpretation, with Miss Gencer they seemed something rehearsed, but not assimilated. Agostino Lazzari's acting, on the other hand, was of the familiar kind; his singing was adequate, but uninspired. Only Mazzoli—called in at the last moment — sang with real artistry and taste and, despite lack of rehearsal, acted with dignity. Cristini's sets were appropriately rustic and autumnal; he hasn't solved the problem of how to fit an opera chorus into the Count's hotel room. but I have yet to see this problem satisfactorily dealt with. Enrico Colosimo's staging was tricky at times, but it showed some care, and the handling of the lights was particularly effective
Page 24, January 1965
From Chicago to New Orleans
Lyric Opera, Chicago
Reri Grist, Erich Kunz, as Zerbinetta and Harlequin in `Ariadne auf Naxos'
From Chicago to New Orleans
Don Carlos on the following night was sadly mangled. One expected no Fontainebleau scene, but the wholesale excision of Count Lerma's part and much of the music of the auto-da-fe and several other cuts were inexcusable. Richard Tucker sang the title-role, and the voice was as fresh and youthful as ever — a true golden Italian tenor sound. If his acting was rudimentary he at least never offended. Tito Gobbi repeated his well-known Posa, and, as always, one saw new subtleties in his interpretation. With the exception of his Farewell to Carlos, which lies terribly high for his voice, he was in good vocal form. So was Nicolai Giaurov, whose Philip was little short of magnificent. This must truly be the greatest vocal talent to be heard today. His interpretation of the role has also deepened since we heard it at Covent Garden a couple of seasons ago. So has Grace Bumbry's Eboli (Fiorenza Cozzotto sang the role at the first two of the season's four performances), and she was in far better vocal condition than she had been in Carmen. Leyla Gencer was a regal Elisabeth, producing some of her exquisite piano tones, but also forcing her voice in the more dramatic passages. Bruno Marangoni's Grand Inquisitor was good, but paled besides Giaurov's Philip. Bruno Bartoletti confirmed that he is one of the outstanding young Italian conductors of the day and he directed with a real sweep and feeling for this miraculous score. Christopher West, who produced, could do little more than bring on his principals and arrange the chorus. He was fortunate to have a cast that had sung the opera so often.
The 1964 New Orleans autumn season comprised five operas, each given twice Otello, La Sonnambula. Werther, 11 Trovatore, and Madama Butterfly. I saw the second of the two Trovatore performances, or rather three of the four acts, for a combination of heat, humidity and something eaten on the plane, made me leave the theatre at the third interval.
The title-role was sung with little finesse and much noise and off-key singing by Giovanni Consiglio, whose only attribute I could see, was that he looked rather like Gigli. Leyla Gencer looked magnificent as Leonora, and did some nice things in the aria and trio. Richard Torigi was an unsubtle Count of Luna in all respects, and Irene Kramarich, who obviously possesses wonderful vocal potential as yet unrealized, was the Azucena. The veteran bass, Nicola Moscona, was what I believe one best describes as an 'authoritative' Ferrando.
Knud Andersson, who worked in Germany until 1953, got some crisp playing from his orchestra, and held the often precarious ensemble together in a miraculous manner. Tito Capobianco likewise succeeded in imposing some semblance of order on the stage, though the sword and anvil play would not have deceived a child.
Page 25, June 1966
Mozart and Verdi at La Scala
It was good to be back at La Scala at the end of April after two seasons' absence. This was the period of the Milan Fair and showed the Scala at its best in Don Giovanni and its worst in Aida, with a generally enjoyable, if not outstanding, La Forza del Destino in between. During the month of April, La Scala, generally regarded now as a stagione theatre. was able to put on six different operas in the true repertory manner: Simon Boccanegra, I Capuleti e i Montecchi, L'Albergo dei Poveri (Testi), La Forza del Destino, Don Giovanni, and Aida, as well as a fulllength ballet, Cinderella. Some of the best of today's singers were in Milan, and so, on consecutive evenings one was able to hear Joan Sutherland, Filar Lorengar, Mirella Freni, Ilva Ligabue, Leyla Gencer, Fiorenza Cossotto, Carlo Bergonzi, Luigi Alva, Nicolai Giaurov, Piero Cappuccilli and several others. ........................ Aida on April 22 had been a great disappointment. I have rarely heard so bad a performance of this work in a major house, and for this Gianandrea Gavazenni's unidiomatic and wayward conducting was mostly to blame. He pulled the music out of shape so badly that some of it was barely recognizable, and he was rewarded by a volley of hisses from all parts of the house for his pains. Leyla Gencer was miscast as Aida. Only in the Nile scene, with its long lyrical passages, could she use her beautiful soft notes — elsewhere she had to force her voice ; and her interpretation was cool and reserved. Fiorenza Cossotto walked through the part of Amneris, and had not one seen her excellent performance of this part elsewhere, one would never have believed her to be the outstanding artist she is. The young tenor, Gianfranco Cecchele, was making his Scala debut as Radames. He looked and sounded scared out of his wits. In any case he is a light-lyric tenor — or at least that is what he sounded like — and if he continues to sing heroic roles as he is at the moment, I cannot imagine how he can stay the course. Giangiacomo Guelfi being ill, the reliable but uninspiring Carlo Meliciani was pressed into service as Amonasro. Antonio Zerbini was a less than regal King, and Agostino Ferrin a minor canon rather than a High Priest. The famous Zeffirelli production looked magnificent ; and the Triumph Scene, with several hundred people on the stage and with Arab steeds charging down to the footlights as if they were about to leap over the orchestra pit into the stalls, was visually the most exciting I have ever seen
Page 43, January 1969
Turin. The season at the TEATRO NUOVO will last from January 2 to May 13. The operas and casts are as follows: Alceste. With Leyla Gencer, Mirto Picchi, Attilio D'Orazi, c. Franco Capuana, p. Alessandro Brissoni. March 4, 6, 9
The 1968-9 season at the TEATRO LA FEN ICE Belisario (Donizetti). With Leyla Gencer, Umberto Grilli, Taddei, Nicola Zaccaria, c. Gianandrea Gavazzeni, p. Alberto Fassmi. May 6, 9, 11, 14, 17
Page 43, January 1969
Page 46, December 1970
1970-71 season at the TEATRO SAN CARLO are as follows: February 13 Cavalleria Rusticana. With Leyla Gencer, Amedeo Zambon, Giulio Fioravanti and Gianni Schicchi. With Elvidia Ferracuti, Carlo Frantini, Rolando Panerai, c. and p. to be announced.
1970-71 season at the TEATRO DELL' OPERA, are as follows: February 22 La Gioconda. With Leyla Gencer, Mattiucci, Gianni Raimondi, Giangiacomo Guelfi, Ruggero Raimondi, c. Nino Sanzogno, p. Gianrico Becher, d. Veniero Colosanti and John Moore.
Page 33, May 1962
ITALY A Comic Double
Genoa. On March 8 the Teatro Carlo Felice—or what was left of the beautiful house after it was partially destroyed by the bombardment of 1942 — reopened its doors on an extremely interesting season of opera, the preparation of which does great credit to Signora Celeste Lanfranco, who has been directing the Genoese theatre for some years. The main interest of the inaugural opera, Otello (of which I attended the second performance on March 11), centred on the tenor Dimiter Uzunov, whose presence in the principal role introduced an undeniably foreign note into this production of Verdi's masterpiece. Uzunov is already known in Italy for having taken part in Boris at the Scala in 1960 and, in the summer of the same year, in some performances of Otello in the courtyard of the Ducal Palace in Venice. He is the third Bulgarian tenor, after Mazarov and Nikolov, to appear on the Italian stage during the last quarter of a century, confirming the excellent tradition of tenorsinging which his country boasts. One cannot say, however, that his is an ideal Otello, lacking, as he does,
both the indispensable vocal means (colour, volume and compass) and the necessary gift for ringing martial rhetoric. Still, for the present, he brings considerable skill and good taste to bear on both counts, attaining results by no means to be despised—indeed, in the last act, decidedly worth while. The cast included Leyla Gencer, a sweet and resigned Desdemona of ample vocal means, and Mario Zanasi, already an Iago of fine calibre (a performance which will unquestionably gain in depth and characterization with repetition), Nello Romano (Cassio), Anna Di Stasio (Emilia), Valiano Natali (Roderigo) and Agostino Ferrin (Lodovico). Franco Capuana conducted with his customary sensibility, whilst Carlo Maestrini produced the spectacle very adequately in Veniero Colasanti's and John Moore's excellent sets.
Naples. Following on a not absolutely indispensable revival of Pizzetti's II Calzare d'argento (The Silver Slipper), presented on January 27 in La Scala's production with beautiful sets and costumes by Lorenzo Ghiglia and the original excellent lead (Giuseppe Di Stefano), the Neapolitan audience was regaled at the TEATRO SAN CARLO with a much-applauded version of Puccini's Turandot on January 13. It was ably and affectionately conducted by Oliviero De Fabritiis, with a trio of uncommon quality in the leads—Lucille Udovic, one of the few sopranos of the iequisite stature to confront the murderous difficulties of the title-role, Franco Corelli and Leyla Gencer —as always, intelligent and musical, though not an obvious choice for Liu, which role demands the mellow middle register of the soprano of the verisnio school. rather than the sophisticated and calculated vocal equipment of a Callas-type virtuoso. The effective sets were by Cesare Mario Cristini.
Page 47, June 1974
Florence, May 9 to July 25 The festival opened on May 9 with Spontini's Agnese di Hohenstaufen with Leyla Gencer, Beverly Wolff, Veriano Luchetti, Mario Petri, Walter Alberti, Ferruccio Mazzoli, c. Riccardo Muti, p. Franco Enriquez, d. Corrado Cagli,
Page 90, January 1988
Italy Less than a festival
Bergamo. After the artistic level reached by the sixth Donizetti Festival, called `Donizetti and his Time', I do not feel it can reasonably be said to have successfully followed the Rossini celebration at Pesaro. The very term 'festival' entails something more than mere variants in 'Una furtiva lagrima' or Adina's final aria, which Alberto Zedda discovered in Paris for L 'elisir d'amore. It was given three performances, the third of which I attended on September 20. Nemorino was William Matteuzzi, a Rossinian tenor, and therefore not entirely comfortable with Donizetti's vocal line. Denia Mazzola, a rising soprano among quality singers, was disappointing as Adina because of being severely taxed by the virtuoso finale, which requires a technique that this artist does not yet possess. The idea of exchanging roles between Angelo Romero and Domenico Trimarchi, respectively an acceptable Dulcamara and a mediocre Belcore, proved to be nothing more than an eccentric ploy. Antonella Muscente was an immature but promising Giannetta. The production by Giulio Chazalettes, with sets by Ulisse Santicchi, was made deplorably second-rate by frequent lapses into farce. Fortunately, Bruno Campanella in a state of grace managed to save the situation by giving a superb reading of Donizetti, and in spite of obvious shortcomings the performance was warmly received by the audience. But observations concerning the Bergamo Donizetti Festival do not stop here. I maintain, for instance, that it does not make much sense to give a concert performance on a single evening (September 21) of Fausta with a less than first-rate cast (Hayashi, Bertocchi, Montefusco; conductor Latham-Koenig), when it was put on a few years ago at the Teatro dell ' Opera with a far better cast. The same more or less applies to Gemma di Vergy, which followed on October 7. On the whole it is an interesting opera with some lovely pages, such as the entire last half of Act 1, and is well worth reviving. But I do question the decision to awaken it from a long period of oblivion in a largely unsatisfactory production which did Donizetti little service. Ottavio Garaventa, Luigi De Corato, Nucci Conda and Agostino Ferrin did their best with limited resources. Adriana Maliponte, too, intelligent and skilful professional as she is, acquitted herself commendably, though the challenge of tackling a part written for the great Giuseppina Ronzi de Begnis demanded a quite different voice and style. The conductor was a certain Gert Meditz, a last-minute replacement for Peter Maag, and I must confess that I have no great desire to hear him again.
The spirit of Leyla Gencer was in the air for a week before she personally received an official tribute, as an exceptionally gifted interpreter of Donizetti, by the presentation of the first International Prize named after the great Bergamo composer. Donizetti now waits for the city to do its duty and establish a really first-class festival. Of course, as we say in Italy, you cannot celebrate a marriage with dried figs. GIORGIO GUALERZI
Page 53, February 1983
Venice. The 1983 season at the TEATRO LA FENICE: La prova di un'opera seria (np) (Gnecco). With Leyla Gencer, Patrizia Dordi, Luigi Alva, Giancarlo Luccardi, Francesco Signor, Mario Bolognesi, c. John Fisher, p. and d. Pizzi.
Page 46, June 1968
Summer Festivals, 1968
Verona Arena: July 20, 25, 28, August 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16 II Trovatore. With Leyla Gencer, Adriana Lazzarini, Carlo Bergonzi, Piero Cappuccilli, Paolo Washington, c. Franco Capuana.
Page 38, July 1963
Trieste. Events during the latter part of the season at the TEATRO GIUSEPPE VERDI included La Battaglia di Legnano with Leyla Gencer, Joao Gibin, Ugo Savarese, Marco Stefanoni, Silvio Maionica, c. Francesco Molinari-Pradelli; Andrea Chenier with Luisa Maragliano, Rosa Lagh,,•zza, Umberto Borso, Piero Cappuccilli, Mario Guggia, c. Franco Patane; Der Rosenkavarier (Liane Synek, Gisela Litz. Liselotte Hammes. Georg Schnapka, Albrecht Peter, c. Meinhard von Zallinger, p. Karlheinz Haberland) and La Belle Helene (Gianna Galli. Marina Cucchio, Alvinio Misciano, Mario Basiola Jr and Paolo Montarsolo, c. Mario Bugamelli, p. Alessandro Brissoni).
Page 45, December 1976
At the Piccola Scala Petleas et Melisande. With Maria Ewing, Anna Reynolds, Nesterenko and others to be announced, c. Pretre, p. and d. Ponnelle. April 30 Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny. With Olivia Stapp, Sergio Tedesco, Dino Dondi, Giulio Fioravanti, Tadeo, c. Gary Bertini, p. Giorgio Strehler, d. Luciano Damiani. June 3 at the Teatro Lirico Other artists engaged whose names are not mentioned above include: Maria Grazia Allegri, Margherita Benetti, Laura Bocca, Lelia Cuberli, Anna Di Stasio, Franca Fabbri, Mirella Fiorentini, Jone Joni, Stefania Malaga, Jeda Valtriani, Laura Zannini; Carlo Bini, Otello Borgonovo, Federico Davia, Carlo Del Bosco, Giovanni Foiani, Alfredo Giacomotti, Walter Guilin°, Carlo Meliciani, Regolo Romani, Lorenzo Saccomani During the season there will be a series of recitals by Hermann Prey (December 20), Montserrat Caballe (January 10), Alfredo Kraus (February 7), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (February 28), Eugeni Nesterneko (March 7), Gwyneth Jones (March 21), Marilyn Horne (March 28), Nicolai Gedda (April 26), Evelyn Lear and Thomas Stewart (May 2), Leyla Gencer (May 23)
Page 64, December 1975
Italy Donizetti Conference
Bergamo. On 22 September 1975, 27 years after the centenary of Donizetti's death, his native city celebrated another great day. In the afternoon there was the inauguration of the first International Conference of Donizetti Studies — the idea and wish of Bindo Missiroli, and brought about through the generosity and organizing ability of Bergamo's Tourist Board. Through five crammed days, some 30 Italian, German, and English specialists (including the all-important delegates from the Donizetti Society of London) discussed for the first time the many complex problems attached to the composer. The result was most certainly productive, and should help to disperse the mythological fog surrounding Donizetti and so free him from the multiple encrustations of pseudo-criticism that have accumulated over the years. If this good work is kept up, it should, as that great lover of Donizetti Guglielmo Barblan hoped for in his opening speech, 'reveal the composer's true spirit — not the false and indeed offensive picture of a talented but crafty musician seeking only applause and money, going not a step in his work beyond the conflict between the tyranny of the craft and the genius of the moments of inspiration, careless of any moral involvement which is the hallmark of a great artist. The Conference was looking to discover the spirit which mirrors and celebrates the freedom and creative responsibility of the European artist which Donizetti most certainly had within him.' In the evening, at the TEATRO DONIZETTI, there followed the first Italian
performance of one of the composer's last operas, Les Martyrs — that is the French version of Poliuto first performed at the Paris Opera in 1840, after its Italian production two years earlier had been censored in Naples on the grounds that it was a sacred drama. It is in fact a melodrama very much like its predecessors, but with important changes from the threeact Italian version to the four-act French one. Apart from the inevitable dances, obligatory for a grand-opera production and here very sensibly omitted, these changes affect the story fairly substantially. Entirely gone is the emotive theme of Poliuto's jealousy of the Proconsul Severo (Poliuto is the Roman magistrate, married to Paolina and newly converted to Christianity), and accentuated instead are the religious and political elements which not coincidentally provoked the contemptuous criticism of Berlioz, who dubbed Les Martyrs a 'creed in four acts'. These particular themes culminate in two scenes which clearly anticipate Verdi — the one in the Temple in Act 3 (the best of the whole opera), which is much like the Triumphal scene in Aida; the other in the celebrated final duet 'Al suon dell'arpe angeliche', which reappears 20 years later as the Alvaro-Leonora duet in La forza del destino. To appreciate fully an opera like Les Martyrs, one requires, of course, the kind of undertaking that frankly was only momentary in this approximation of a production — a pastiche of Paris and Brussels — and lacking sets for understandable economic reasons. Alfredo Camozzo strove valiantly to maintain a decorous standard to the end, but both orchestra and chorus did not seem sufficiently in tune with his intentions. Also out of tune with the studious atmosphere of the Conference were the abundant cuts. The best moments of the performance were afforded by the artistry of Leyla Gencer at her most eligiac and moving. She fully confirmed her stature as a true Donizetti prima donna both vocally and temperamentally; also excellent for nobility of timbre and accent was Renato Bruson. Mario Di Felici as the hero was only mediocre, but Luigi Roni was a more than adequate Felice. The performance was greeted with tumultuous applause, but further proof of the validity of the opera is required. GIORGIO GUALERZI Castelfranco Vento. A pretty town in the region of Marca Trevigiana, this is already known as the birthplace of Giorgione, but since September 20 it can boast another famous name, that of the 18th-century composer, Agostino Steffani. A native of Castelfranco, his Tassilone received its first Italian performance on the occasion of the reopening of the TEATRO ACCADEMICO. A jewel of 18th-century architecture, the theatre was designed by Francesco Maria Preti in 1745. but building did not start till nine years later. Its restoration, at the relatively modest cost of 365 million lire (about £245,000), is rightly the pride of Mayor Bruno Brunello. Instead of the announced two performances, there were three completely sold-out ones of Tassilone by the virtually unknown Steffani, whose busy diplomatic work on behalf of the Vatican had, up till now, obscured his qualities as an operatic composer. He was obscure to most, that is, but not to that cultivated and enthusiastic American musician. Newell Jenkins, who has believed in the work since November 1973, when he presented it in concert form at the Lincoln Centre (see OPERA, March 1974, p.236). Jenkins was right. because Steffani was clearly a composer of some stature certainly to judge from this opera, with its immensely intricate libretto, where the music reveals flights of considerable inspiration and imagination for example the female arias with instrumental obbligato, a brilliant duet between the two castrati, and finally the death of the heroine a stupendous moment, worthy of comparison with Dido's 'When I am laid in earth'.
An opera so far removed from today's repertory requires the presence of a highly specialized group of artists, and just such was the Clarion Opera Group brought to Castelfranco by Jenkins himself. Special mention must be made first of all of the harpsichord-playing of Kenneth Cooper, quite formidable at improvisation; then of the tenor Robert White, who displayed notable resources in bel canto, and finally of the two counter-tenors John Angelo Messana and Daniel Collins. These two, and the first in particular, caused great excitement and interest in all those concerned with the history of bel canto singing. The production, set not in the time of Charlemagne in which the action takes place but in the 18th-century of Steffani himself, was by Clayton Garrison, and was entirely worthy of the restoration of this beautiful theatre to musical culture. GIORGIO GUALERZI
Page 46, December 1974
Trieste. La Falena (Smareglia). With Leyla Gencer, Rita Lantieri, Ruggero Bondino, Aurio Tomicich, Mario D'Anna, c. Gianandrea Gavazzeni, p. Filippo Crivelli, d. Pierluigi Samaritani. March 18, 21, 23, 26
Page 71, December 1963
Italian Opera House Plans, 1963-4
Roberto Devereux, Donizetti. Leyla Gencer, Anna Maria Rota, Renato Cioni; c. Mario Rossi; p. Margherita Wallmann (May 2, 6, 10)
Page 47, December 1968
Macbeth. With Leyla Gencer, Giorgio Casellato Lamberti, Iacopucci, Mario Zanasi, Lotenzo Gaetani, Colella, c. Bruno Barcoletti, p. Giorgio De Lullo, d. Pier Luigi Pizzi. April 2, 5, 8, 10, 13, 16
Page 42, August 1968
Miami. The OPERA GUILD OF GREATER MIAMI La Forza del Destino with Leyla Gencer, Jane Berbie, Bruno Prevedi, Manuel Ausensi, Ruggero Raimondi, Andrew Foldi, and Voketaitis on March 17, 19, 22. Emerson Buckley will conduct all three operas and the producer will be Anthony Stivanello.
Page 35, November 1962
The third and last opera of the season was Un Ballo in Maschera, conducted in an opulent fashion by Gavazzeni. Carlo Bergonzi was musically and dramatically effective as Riccardo. He was ably supported by Leyla Gencer, who has now become a very fine artist, and her interpretation of Amelia's role was first-class. Mario Zanasi gave a polished performance as Renato, Maria Manni Jottini was a pert Oscar, and Adriana Lazzarini was careful not to play Ulrica as a latter-day Azucena. Antonio Cassinelli and Alessandro Maddalena were the effective Sam and Tom. Maestrini was again the producer and Colonello the designer. LIBERA DANIELIS
Page 49, May 1961
Summer Festivals, 196I—Further Details
Salzburg July 27, August 3, 12. 18, 25, 30 Simone Boccanegra. Leyla Gencer; Giuseppe Zampieri, Tito Gobbi, Giorgio Tozzi, Panerai. Conductor, Gianandrea Gavazzeni; producer, Herbert Graf.
Page 37, October 1964
Rio de Janeiro. La Traviata. on August 7, came near to disaster. Leyla Gencer's debut as Violetta could hardly have been more unfortunate, and she was unwise to sing immediately after her appearances in Norma and Simone Boccanegra in Buenos Aires. The voice sounded particularly heavy and tired at the top, her breath control was virtually non-existent and her breathing so loud that it became part of the music. The first act was so bad that the audience voiced their displeasure; but she improved after the coloratura passages were over and ended by giving a passable performance. She overdoes her pianissimo. however, and not always to good effect. The two Germonts were sung in truly Verdian fashion by Labe and Cappuccilli, both in fine form, with a masterful command of voice and style. Nicola Rescigno conducted with plenty of feeling and attack, but Maestrini's production was poor and routine.
Page 46, June 1959
Genoa. Teatro Carlo Felice. II Trovatore (Leyla Gencer, Barbieri, Franco Corelli, Anselmo Colzani; conductor Oliviero de Fabritiis, producer Franco Zeffirelli);
Page 53, May 1959
Summer Festivals, 1959
La Battaglia di Legnano (Verdi). May 10, 12. 17 Leyla Gencer, Gastone Limarelli. Giuseppe Taddei. Conductor Vittorio Gui; producer Franco Enriquez. Don Giovanni. May 14, 19, 23. 26
Page 43, May 1966
Florence, May 21, 24, 26 Alceste. With Leyla Gencer; c. Vittorio Gui. May 27, 29, June 3
Page 57, October 1969
BRIEF CHRONICLES Some recent overseas performances are noted in alphabetical
ITALY Naples, Teatro San Carlo. Aida with Leyla Gencer, Biserka Cvejic, Flaviano Labe, Giampiero Mastromei, c. Alberto Erode, p. Hans Busch;
Page 50, July 1964
ITALY Rare Donizetti
Naples. Donizetti's Roberto Devereux was first performed in 1837, at the TEATRO SAN CARLO. It was a considerable success and enjoyed a number of productions in Italian theatres and in others outside Italy. Then, like so many other Donizetti works, it disappeared from the stage. Its revival, again at the San Carlo, on May 2, was apparently the first professional production in this century. All the 'rare' Donizetti operas I have seen in recent years have had something to recommend them, but often one could understand the reasons for their neglect. In the case of Roberto Devereux the oblivion is harder to comprehend, because this is really a beautiful and coherent work, certainly as fine as Anna Bolena, almost on a level with Lucia.
This impression was formed despite a rather inadequate cast of singers. As Queen Elizabeth of England Leyla Gencer was in poor form, and could give only an indication of the richness of the role. As Essex, the tenor Ruggero Bondino was sorely miscast: his voice lacks the suppleness and the sheer force for such a part. Only Anna Maria Rota (as the Duchess of Nottingham) and the baritone Piero Cappuccilli (as her husband) sang with assurance. Miss Rota was particularly sweet and touching; Cappuccilli tended to bawl, and the long lines of his main air were chopped or blurred, but he was at least secure.
Mario Rossi conducted well. This is an opera in which the orchestra has a special importance. In addition to the lively overture there is a lovely orchestral prelude (to Act 3, scene 2) and some complex and fascinating accompanied recitatives. All these were well done. At times, especially in the first act, Rossi had to slow down the cabalettas to help the singers, and some of the dramatic contrasts were lost. But still his was the most musical performance of the evening. Margherita Wallmann's staging was tactful and unobtrusive, against the elegant background of Attilio Colonello's grey Gothic arches and colonnades. All in all, a happy evening, with an enthusiastic audience. WILLIAM WEAVER
There were further performances of Don Carlos, 11 Barbiere di Siviglia and Macbeth (in which Leyla Gencer replaced Birgit Nilsson).
Page 53, July 2011
Palermo At the TEArno MASSIMO on February 24, Ponchielli's La Gioconda was on the playbill for the first time in more than 40 years. The 1970 production starred Leyla Gencer (Gioconda), Oralia Dominguez (Laura) and Piero Cappuccilli (Barnaba);
Page 36, June 1964
Rio de Janeiro. The 1964 season at the Municil al Theatre Otello with Leyla Gencer, Del Monaco, Cappuccilli, Zaccaria, c. Molinari-Pradelli);
Page 56, February 1965
ITALY Traviata Disappoints
Rome. It is a practice of the new management of the TEATRO DELL'OPERA to open each season (whether in the theatre itself or at the Terme di Caracalla, in summer) with an opera by Verdi. and this year the choice was I Vespri siciliani, which has been heard in Rome only twice in the last quarter-century.
The opening performance, delayed by a national orchestra-and-chorus strike, took place on December 5. In some ways, it was a disappointment. Visually, the new production — producer Franco Enriquez, designer Gianni Polidori — was simply ugly. The stage was bounded by black velvet curtains against which, from scene to scene, semi-abstract pictures were hung; platforms and steps also framed the action. Enriquez also moved chorus and principals in a confused and confusing fashion, halfway between realism and abstraction, vitiating the drama of the music and overlooking the libretto.
And the casting also was unfortunate. In the all-important role of Elena, Leyla Gencer sounded tired, and even her convinced acting could not make up for her vocal weaknesses. Opposite her, Gastone Limarilli was a ringing, effective Arrigo; and, except for occasional trouble with pitch, Giangiacomo Guelfi was an imposing Monforte. Replacing Boris Christoff in the role of Procida, Nicola Rossi-Lemeni proved in better voice than in recent seasons, and his '0 tu Palermo' was movingly sung, though the voice is not what it once was. Of Attilia Radice's choreography, the less said the better.
Gianandrea Gavazenni conducted with spirit and musical insight, opening a number of cuts, giving a shape to the otherwise sprawling production. And, a feature of the new Rome artistic direction, the smaller roles were strongly cast, including a promising young bass, Franco Pugliese, as Bethune. On December 14, I returned to I Vespri siciliani to hear a new tenor, Giorgio Casellato, as Arrigo. It was worth the trip. Making what was virtually his first performance in an important theatre, and having learned the role in only ten days, Casellato was understandably insecure; but the voice is a beautiful one, generous and ringing, the voice of a future Manrico. He also has a pleasant stage presence and, in time, could become an acceptable actor. After the traditional evening of ballet, the second operatic production of the season was Rossini's Otello, a revival of last year's edition which was such a deserved success. This year the cast has been improved by a new Emilia, the musical and warm-voiced Anna Reynolds, and one suddenly realized the importance of what had seemed a minor role. Carlo Franci had become more relaxed with the work, and his conducting was much more supple than last year. (I attended the opening night, December 12.)
Page 46, June 1957
Palermo. The season at the Teatro Massimo continued with performances of Les Contes d'Hoffmann with Antonietta Pastori, Franca Duval, Leyla Gencer, Adrianna Lazzarini, Nicola Filacuridi, Corena, Guido Madzini, Ferdinando Lidonni, conductor Thomas Schippers. Ravello.
Page 30, January 1959
San Francisco. Leyla Gencer, who began the season as a dramatic soprano in Don Carlos and went on to be a coloratura in Rigoletto, ended her work for the year as a lyric soprano in Manon. She was neither remarkable nor unsuccessful in all these assignments.
Page 61, August 1969
Venice. Belisario, composed by Donizetti for LA FENICE in 1836 and last given there in 1841, returned to the same theatre on May 6 after an interval of 128 years. In the operatic world revivals of forgotten works have their champions and their opponents. An example of the latter is Massimo Mila who maintains that it is sufficient to play an opera through on the piano to decide whether it should be permanently shelved or given a new lease of life in the theatre. Personally, I must admit that I am or, the side of the 'revivalists'. I not only consider it necessary to judge an opera in performance but also hold that revivals of long-forgotten operas have in fact produced first-rate results—especially in the case of Verdi and sometimes Donizetti too. The latter's tragic operas Anna Bolena and Robert Devereux, for instance, contain many inspired pages such as Ann's mad scene and Elisabeth's final grand aria. That is not to say that the same applies to all neglected operas. Some are a combination of extremely interesting and mediocre music while others suffer from a preponderance of frankly dull passages—Maria Stuarda, Parisina d'Este, Mann Faliero.
I should be inclined to rank Belisario in the second category. There are plenty of reasons a libretto like the one for Belisario could not possibly appeal to the composer. It lacks a more or less unjustly harassed heroine seeking refuge in a nostalgic dream world of lost love and delirious recollections of past happiness. There is also no love element, the driving force of the typical Donizetti opera, Here the victim is not Antonina but Belisario himself.
cruelly persecuted by his wife who blames him for the murder of their son. But this switch fails to work and Belisario does not in any way rise to the heights of Lucia or Anna since his sufferings lead not to delirium but to a sentimentality that wells up in the second act. In the third act, the first scene, in which Beslisario recognizes his son whom he believed dead is completely devoid of interest but the second which, I consider, has the best music in the opera, riveted the attention—especially the finale. Antonina's lament when she learns of her husband's innocence and death.
The title-role in the Venice production was taken by Giuseppe Taddei, a master of phrasing, an excellent stylist and a fine interpreter whose task was rendered difficult if not impossible by his vocal decline which seriously affected both his line and intonation. The principal soprano had to be Leyla Gencer, a regular participant in revivals about whom I have only one reservation, the excessively dramatic excitement that she brings to all her roles. The tenor Umberto Grilli acquitted himself well, singing with technical skill and musical precision. Mirna Pecile, a last-minute replacement for Biserka C ejic, provided a correct Irene though the voice seemed thin and too soprano-like. Gianandrea Gavazzeni, another veteran of Donizetti revivals, gave a poised and exact reading of the score. A characteristic of this conductor is the power to communicate a rhythmic excitement and dramatic tension which however are more akin to early Verdi than to Donizetti. Pier Luigi Pizzi's extremely stylized and sumptuous costumes, as usual with this designer, created fine stage pictures. Alberto Fassini matched his production to the designer's conception. ALESSANDRO CAMUTO
Page 44, May 1960
Rome, Teatro dell'Opera. Recent performances have included La Forza del Destino, with Floriana Cavalli, Miriam Pirazzini, Carlo Bergonzi, Giangiacomo Guelfi, Ivo Vince and Saturno Meletti, conductor Gabriele Santini; Don Giovanni, with Gladys Kuchta, Leyla Gencer, Elena Rizzieri, Tito Gobbi, Luigi Alva, Italo Tajo, Leonardo Monreale, conductor Vittorio Gui; II Barbiere di Siviglia, with Anna Mon, Alva, Giuseppe Taddei, Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, Vito de Taranto, conductor Oliviero de Fabritiis; Tonnhauser, with Christel Goltz, Margareta Kenney, Hans Hopf, Waechter. Greindl, conductor Heinz Wallberg; and a double bill comprising Respighi's Lucrezia (Anna de Cavalieri, Pirazzini, Giacinto Prandelli) and Honegger's Judith (Anna Maria Rota, Plinio Clabassi, Bruno Sbalchiero), which was conducted by Fernando Previtali.
Page 22, September 1964
Venice. Verdi's Gerusalemme with Leyla Gencer and Giacomo Aragall.
Page 53, March 1962
London Opera Diary
Don Carlos. Covent Garden, January 30
Gre Brouwenstijn finally succumbed to the indisposition against which she had obviously been fighting on the first night of Don Carlos. The Turkish soprano, Leyla Gencer, who had arrived in London to rehearse as Donna Anna (a role also originally intended for Miss Brouwenstijn), gallantly consented to sing this performance of Elisabeth de Valois. Although Miss Gencer knew the Fontainebleau scene, it was thought best to omit it, for she had no chance of any rehearsal, and had not sung the role on the stage since last winter at La Scala. It was hardly surprising that in her first scene with Carlos she was visibly nervous, and she received little help on the stage from Ernst Kozub. By the time she reached the Queen's sad little farewell to the Countess of Aremberg she began to strike form and let us hear some very beautiful soft singing. In the bed chamber scene she was much better, and she gave a most musical and exciting account of Tu che le vanita', apart from a moment of uncertainty in the middle. She is obviously a highly intelligent artist, she looks well on the stage and made a most sympathetic figure. One looked forward to hearing her Donna Anna, and, at Glyndebourne, her Countess Almaviva. The rest of the cast was as on the first night. Mention must be made again of John Shaw's fine Posa and Gorr's overwhelming Eboli. Siepi made much more of Philip on this occasion than at the earlier performance, and he was in superb voice. I trust that before the work is again revived Visconti can be persuaded to redesign the auto-da-fe scene. It lacks grandeur ; and until the extra chorus can, for this production, be doubled in numbers, Madrid will continue to look very under-populated. To see a handful of choristers acting their heads off as if they were unable to see the various processions because of supposedly large crowds looks at the moment merely ludicrous. H.D.R.
Don Giovanni. Covent Garden, February 9
These are only first brief impressions which will be expanded next month, when we will publish a long and detailed review of this important new production together with photographs. After the many disappointments of the season it was a pleasure to experience a performance in which the stage picture and production were in accord with the musical conception, even if one did not agree with this conception (I did), which stressed the dramma almost at the expense of the giocoso.
Some people found Franco Zeffirelli's production fussy, but only at one or two points, at the most, did it get in the way of the music—and then only slightly ; others complained about the waits between scenes despite the use of a front curtain—but how lovely to see solid, real scenery, in the grand manner. This seemed to me how Don Giovanni should look in a large opera house—rich, sumptuous, sensuous. Georg Solti's Mozart, likewise, may not be to all tastes, but again I liked his conception, which was serious, dramatic, and tense. And as usual the orchestra played extremely well for him. Leyla Gencer has not a big dramatic voice, but she is a sensitive musician, and sang Anna rather in the manner that one imagines Callas might sing the part: Non mi dir' was beautifully done. Sena Jurinac, indisposed, was still an Elvira to reckon with ; and Mirella Freni's Zerlina was irresistible. Cesare Siepi's young-looking Don was all quicksilver and charm—not quite demoniac enough perhaps, but extremely well sung. Geraint Evans's Leporello was keyed in a lower pitch than usual, but this was in accord with the Zeffirelli-Solti approach. Richard Lewis, ever the stylist, was a fine Ottavio ; Robert Savoie an excellent Masetto ; and David Ward completely magnificent in the closing scene as the Corn mendatore. H.D.R
Page 41, February 1961
Dalals. Madama Butterfly rewarded its audiences with the unleashed potency of -Gianni Raimondi's Pinkerton, a most auspicious American debut by the suavely elegant Spanish baritone Manuel Ausensi as Sharpless, and one of the most effective total delineations of Suzuki in memory by Regina Sarfaty. Splendid too were Hizi Koyke's loving production, Trew Hocker's sensibly atmospheric settings, Yugi Ito's costumes and the expert Bonze of Nicola Zaccaria. Definitely disappointing to this viewer, and a subject for controversy for most others, was the Cio-Cio-San of the Turkish soprano Leyla Gencer. In her own contralto-ish way. Miss Gencer made an impact, but it was often in the direction of Katisha rather than of Puccini's doll-like geisha. Nor were Nicola Rescigno's overtones of Wagner and Verdi in dynamics and phrasing justifiable, for all their surface effects. Here, though, as in Alcina, the chorus, trained by Roberto Benaglio, did its finest work to date.
Page 34, November 1960
Dallas. Full casts of the season that opens on November 4 and continues until November 23 are now available. In La Fille du Regiment, Eugenia Ratti sings Marie, Luigi Alva Tonie, and Giuseppe Taddei Sulpice; the production is that seen last season at the Teatro Massimo, Palermo. In Madama Butterfly, the title role will be sung by Leyla Gencer, with Gianni Raimondi as Pinkerton and Regina Sarfaty as Suzuki; Hizi Koyke will be the producer. Alcina, in Zeffirelli's production from the Fenice Theatre, will have Joan Sutherland in the title role. Blanche Thebom as Ruggiero, Monica Sinclair as Bradamante. Luigi Alva as Oronte, and Nicola Zaccaria as Melisso. Don Giovanni, in a new production by Zeffirelli, will have Sutherland as Donna Anna, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf as Donna Elvira, Ratti as Zerlina, Eberhard Waechter as the Don, Taddei as Leporello, Alva as Ottavio, Zaccaria as the Commendatore, and John Reardon as Masetto. Nicola Rescigno is the musical director and conductor for the season, and Roberto Benaglio the chorus master.
Fort Worth. Three operas have been announced for the 1960-61 season: La Boheme, Un Ballo in Maschera and Samson and Delilah. Rudolf Kruger is the musical director and conductor, and Glynn Ross the producer.
Page 49, November 1957
Köln. And so the Cologne audience enjoyed the pleasures of fine music on the one hand and effective theatre on the other: their hesitant applause was an indication of this and enthusiastic approval was lacking. Technically the performance left nothing to be desired; the production was by Bormann, the decor by Gondolf and there was imaginative and sympathetic conducting by Wolfgang von der Nahmers. As the high spot of the festival performances on the occasion of the dedication of the new Opera House there was given, for the first time for twenty years in Germany, an entire guest artist production from La Scala of Milan. Following Nino Sanzogno's indisposition, within twelve hours Verdi's La Forza del Destino was performed in place of Puccini's Manon Lescaut. The solo parts were perhaps not filled in as distinguished a manner as befits a festival performance from La Scala, but provided nevertheless a performance of first-class quality. Leyla Gencer sang and acted as Leonora with strongly marked moments of climax in the closing scene of the second act, where she made use of an exquisite pianissimo, intensely moving and charged with emotion, and in the last scene of all, which offered her the fullest dramatic possibilities. Aldo Protti as Carlos showed there is fine stuff in him, but he is mentally insufficiently mature for the role. Giuseppe di Stefano was obliged to force his tone now and then, for the part is over-dramatic for his voice, but he revealed throughout his admirable intellectual and musical mastery, and the limitless noblesse of an outstanding artist. Siepi was a magnificent Padre Guardiano, and Campi an animated Melitone; Gabriella Carturan sang Preziosilla. The real stars of the evening were the chorus under Noberto Mola and the orchestra conducted by Antonino Votto. All the miraculous charm of the score (which incidentally was given with no cuts) was fully displayed, and met with the enthusiastic approval of a deeply appreciative audience and press.
Page 76, May 1971
Venice. Following shortly after The Love of Three Oranges, the TEATRO LA FENICE presented La Gioconda (January 7), last seen on this stage a good 20 years ago. This opera is not a particular favourite of the critics but is on the other hand always well received by the public. Despite Boito's abominable verses, the libretto presents situations that are immediately appreciated. There is in Ponchielli a thorough understanding, if not of the finer aspects of operatic composition (around the same time Verdi was writing quite different stuff), certainly of the common melodramatic denominators. To compare it — since I have recently had occasion to hear this work also — with Mercadante's Le Due Illustri Rivali, the difference in sheer musical expertise and dexterity is enormous. But whereas Mercadante's opera makes little or no contact with the audience, Ponchielli's has immediate appeal, entrancing even the most knowledgeable of spectators.
Leyla Gencer, a splendid singer and actress, was Gioconda. She portrayed the intensely dramatic character with a perfect sense of style, never once degenerating into verismo-type clichés, reaching a peak of expressiveness and tension in the last act. More than the famous aria, most beautifully rendered of course, one recalls the repeat of 'a te questo rosario', delivered with so telling a mezza-voce that it really did seem an echo of the soul. The voice, however, did seem a little drier than hitherto.
Mario Zanasi, in splendid form, was most impressive as Barnaba, surely one of the more onerous baritone parts in the operatic repertory. Zanasi is not an outstanding interpreter, but his phrasing is correct, his acting confident and uninhibited, and he moves well, often with considerable elegance. His voice is really a little too light, but it has good range and a pleasing timbre. Rodolfo Celletti would have him the most noteworthy baritone today and he justifies the tenor-like colour of the voice by identifying it with the mezzi tenon i of the last century. This surely is too high a claim, especially in the light of current taste — evolved through half a century of performance — which demands a clearly differentiated voice from that of a tenor's, not only in range but also in colour, robustness and fullness of sound. Nevertheless Zanasi does confirm the impression that if opera today could boast a few more singers like him, its fortunes might well improve. Ruggero Raimondi, back from a successful tour in the United States, made a considerable impression as Alvise Badoero. But the part is a very dramatic one whereas again Raimondi's voice is rather light and high, more bassbaritone than true bass. One feels this excellent young singer (he is only 29) would be well advised not to take on too many heavily dramatic roles which could damage a still developing voice and which also require greater maturity and penetration. Umberto Grilli sang the part of Enzo. Although not particularly taxing in the upper register, this role demands a fullness of singing and control of vocal line that Grilli does not quite possess. Laura was sung by Luisa Bordin Nave, a very young, musically immature mezzo with a powerful but as yet not very interesting voice. Mima Pecile (as La Cieca) was good even though the part was clearly beyond her range. The conductor was Oliviero De Fabritiis who kept the proceedings well in hand though in a somewhat monochrome fashion. Also, he seems to be leaning more and more in the direction of realism. Traditional, in the most obsolete sense of the word, was the production by Carlo Maestrini. ALESSANDRO CAMUTO
Page 68, May 1969
Naples. The season at the SAN CARLO continued with Pizzetti's Lo Straniero followed on February 22 to celebrate the first anniversary of the composer's death; Gianandrea Gavazzeni, who is one of the most passionate lovers of Pizzetti's music, put all his enthusiasm and faith into his conducting of this performance. He was well supported by a good cast of singers : Corradi, in the title-role, displayed an interesting voice, with a sweet mezza voce, clear pronunciation and dramatic strength; he needs only more accuracy in his top notes. Leyla Gencer was a tender and moving Maria: her voice sounded as fresh as it was two or three years ago. Carlo Cava (the King) demonstrated once more that he is a very intelligent singer,
and Trimarchi (Scedeur) was also very convincing, his voice always under perfect control. A. Muoio's settings were both austere and idylic, while Enrico Frigerio's production properly spotlighted the simplicity and religiosity of the action. ENRICO TELLIN I
Page 60, June 1968
Venice. For the third time since the end of the war LA FENICE has presented a production of Macbeth; this time it was conducted by Gianandrea Gavazenni who once more seized this opportunity to confirm his great gifts as a discerning interpreter and utterly reliable conductor. The stage was almost entirely dominated by Leyla Gencer who is Lady Macbeth, the best Lady Macbeth Verdi could have wished for. The Turkish soprano, whose real name is Murat, admirably lent her naturally harsh and often smouldering voice to the demonic personality of this character which she portiays with progressive ferocity (the way she emphasizes the repeat of the brindisi is unique and has an utterly electrifying effect) reaching an unforgettable climax in the sleep-walking scene. Beside this great singer and actress all the other interpreters lost some of their impact. Giangiacomo Guelfi sang the title-role with assured vigour in the middle register but had difficulties with intonation at the top; furthermore, he is a rather unconvincing actor. A consistent Banquo (Lorenzo Gaetani), a mediocre Macduff (Giorgio Casellato Lamberti) and a full-blooded Malcolm (Giampaolo Corradi) completed the cast. Adolfo Rott provided a less than satisfactory production; the sets were designed by Luciano Damiani. GIORGIO GUALERZI
Page 34, February 1965
Dallas. The pearly loveliness of sound and affectingly restrained acting of the young Italian soprano Lydia Marimpietri accounted for much of the poignant distinction achieved by the opening production of the Dallas Civic Opera, Madama Butterfly. A revival of its 1960 production, this was infinitely superior to its predecessor, which also utilized the artfully underplayed production by Hizi Koyke, airily realistic sets by the late Trew Hocker (only casually 'adjusted' this time) and the loving support from Nicola Rescigno and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, who only occasionally loosed a Wagnerian blare to unsettle the abiding lyrical fervour of Puccini's score. The difference, of course, was Miss Marimpietri, who more than rectified the colossal casting error of the 1960 staging with Leyla Gencer and who left no doubt that her first Cio-Cio-San on any opera stage is a distinguished characterization which should blossom into a really great one. To see and hear her, one was reminded of both a young and warmer-voiced Licia Albanese and the more reposeful looks of Anna Magnani. Small wonder that capacity audiences on November 13, 15 (student matinee) and 20 (the performance we attended) were enraptured.
Page 18, September 1959
SPOLETO The Angel of Fire
In this country the BBC has broadcast Prokofiev's opera The Angel of Fire in French and in English. At Spoleto it was revived in the Italian translation already staged with success in Venice and Milan. But production (Frank Corsaro) and decors (Paul Sybert) were ill-conceived, so that little service was done to one of the most impressive and beautiful of near-contemporary operas. Moreover the Festival directors decided, 'for artistic reasons' !, to suppress the fourth act in the later performances, so that the musical proportions of the opera, which is planned as an extended 'symphonic' structure, were as fatally damaged as the dramat:cones. An inadequate programme synopsis completed the ruin. The merit of the performance was the vivid orchestral playing under the Hungarian conductor Istvan Kertesz.
Prokofiev's opera, composed in 1918-28, is based on a fin-de-siècle novel of the same title by the Symbolist poet Valery Bryusov. It treats of a real-life affair of the author's with an hysterical, passionate and utterly fascinating woman from whom the narrator, once a man of good sense and still conscious that she is ruining his life, cannot break free. But the tale is retold in a 16th century German setting: obsession, hysteria and neurosis become varying forms of devil-possession, orgies are witches' sabbaths, and social mores are represented by the Church and the Inquisition. Renata, and the author's relations with her, are closely analysed, while the allegorical transposition allows for much picturesque historical detail.
Ideal subject for Prokofiev. Here the 'magic' music of his previous opera, The Love of Three Oranges, can take on darker tones. The lyrical utterances can be fuller, and more eloquent. Though digressions and speculations of a first-person narrative are denied him (opera can only be presented as a series of events), by a most beautiful and effective use of characterizing motifs, in continuous development and interaction, he amplifies the surface event. Rupprecht's 'first subject', for example, is manly and straightforward ; but under the influence of Renata it is tempered by a Rachmaninovian softness of contour. Renata's main theme is ambivalent and capable of taking on many expressive shades ; but when she is in the grip of her obsession we hear a shining, singleminded derivative of this theme. But at Spoleto it was as if the singers performed, the producer produced and the designer designed without really knowing what the
opera was about. The shut-in private world in which Renata and Rupprecht should move was thrown wide, through 'skeletal' sets, to an unchanging backcloth which served for three different cities. Leyla Gencer, the Turkish soprano who took the role of Renata, has basically a warm, attractive tone and a certain dramatic vigour which must account for her reputation ; but at Spoleto she produced very few solid notes. Her phrases were uncontrolled. Rolando Panerai sang better, but presented the sensitive, articulate Rupprecht as a stolid Wozzeck type.
Scene after scene was mishandled. The philosopher Agrippa of Nettesheim, who in Prokofiev is a sinister and powerful figure, became the local witchdoctor. The aloof, exquisite Count Heinrich, who had forsworn the company of women, was host at a garden-party--for all the world like Flammen in Lodoletta, with a girl on his arm. A keypassage, Faust's lyrical outburst on the mysterious powers within man, disappeared, along with Mephistopheles' mockery—for these are in the act that was cut. The finale failed of its effect largely because the stagedirections were ignored. Dramatically The Angel of Fire is a difficult opera, largely because the action is elliptical ; musically it is beautifully consistent. Given a sensitive and intelligent producer and an imaginative designer, who relate the surface excitements to the main theme, it should prove well worth mounting at Covent Garden. Perhaps no other work of its time save Strauss's Frau ohne Schatten has so much of a claim to be seen and
Page 32, July 1977
Our Critics Abroad
Naples. The second new production was of Mayr's Medea in Corinto, presented on March 15 (I am reporting on the March 17 performance). The work, composed in 1813 for the San Carlo and now out of the standard repertory, is certainly interesting — one of the last pre-romantic operas with occasional anticipations of romantic abandon and anxiety. There are also some routine passages, and these make the opera a little discontinuous.
Compared to existing private or commercial recordings, the San Carlo performance was cleaner and more classical, which was perhaps the most notable aspect of the evening. Leyla Gencer, adding a new role to her wide repertory, dominated the performance as Medea. Miss Gencer never ceases to surprise with her unexpected resources: on this occasion she displayed a smooth, controlled bel-canto style perfectly in line with the music itself and with the intentions of both conductor and producer. In spite of such refined singing, her clear diction and ability to change the colour of her tone according to the dramatic situation made her Medea impressive, alive and moving. William Johns supported her well as Jason, with thoughtful phrasing and well handled pianissimi; only some top notes sometimes sounded forced and harsh. Cecilia Fusco was a pleasant and captivating Creusa. Gianfranco Pastine did his best in the difficult coloratura role of Aegeus. Maurizio Arena's conducting was clean, light and elegant, and made Mayr's score sound like Gluck or Spontini. Pier Luigi Samaritani's scenery consisted of a stylised room with late 18th-century decorations and pieces of archaic Greek sculpture here and there. Alberto Fassini's beautiful production caught the elegance and classicism of the work. ENRICO TELLINI
Page 28, September 1957
Cologne. Scala company to Cologne in July, La Forza del Destino was substituted, again conducted by Antonino Votto, produced by Mario Frigerio, with designs by Nicola Benois. The singers included Leyla Gencer, Giuseppe di Stefano, Aldo Protti, Carlo Sieni, Gabriella Carturan and Franco Calabrese. [Ralf Steyer's report will appear next month.]
Ankara. The State Opera opened its 1956-57 season with a repetition of last year's The Bartered Bride, an unsuccessful performance throughout. This was followed by a revival of La Bohetne which has been absent from the repertory for seven years. Nihat Kiziltan, Dogan Onat. and Ismet Kurt were three capable Rodolfos. Sebahat Tekebas and Sadan Candar were the two Mimis of the performances. Fend Alnar conducted. After Millocker's operetta Der Bettelstudent came Carmen, returning to the repertory after six years. All the performances of this entirely new production were disappointing. Militza Milodinivich from the Belgrade Opera was engaged for the title role, but she also could not bring the part its necessary warmth.
The world premiere of Van Gogh, a dramatic opera in five acts by the young Turkish composer, Nevit Kodalli, took place at the State Opera in February. Aydin Gun. Sevda Aydan, Suna Korad, Ayhan Baran, and Azra Giin were the principal characters. In April a revival of La Traviata took place with the same cast of last year. Two performances of this opera are expected to be given by Leyla Gencer when she returns from her engagements at the Scala. The Ankara State Opera has begun to pay regular visits and give subscription series in Istanbul every fortnight. Two performances are given in every visit. Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, and La Traviata, from last year's repertory with the same cast, were welcomed with enthusiasm. Tanju Firat
Page 26, October 1961
Buenos Aires. The revival of I Puritani at the TEATRO COLON (not given here since 1921, with Maria Barrientos, Dino Borgioli, Carlo Galeffi and Adama Didur) was a great success. The laurels of the evening went to Gianni Raimondi, whose Lord Arthur was a superb creation. In the last act, especially, his series of D flats, which were produced with great ease, brought the house down. His singing was marked by an aristocratic style, and his diction was exceptionally clear. Leyla Gencer made a better Elvira than she had a Gilda, and was particularly impressive in 'Qui la voce'. The Spanish baritone, Manuel Ausensi, sang Sir Richard in a restrained manner, and the bass, Ferruccio Mazzoli, revealed a rich and attractive voice as Sir George. Luisa Bartoletti and Mario Verazzi (Lord Walton) also participated. Although the cast gave of their best, and at times sang as if inspired by the music, the conductor, Argeo Quadri, offered a prosaic reading of the score. The adequate if unimaginative producer was Carlo Maestrfni. Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust, last staged here in 1941 under Albert Wolff, has been given in a new production by Maestrini, with unattractive sets by A. Chiesa. Jean Fournet's conducting marked his best achievement this season. The stage was dominated by the Mephistopheles of Raffaele Arie, a splendid basso eantante with a beautiful voice. Richard Martell was a handsome and fine-sounding Faust. and Jane Rhodes was a delightful Marguerite in every way, giving us the finest French female singing since the days of Ninon Vallin. Rigoletto was notable for the firstrate singing and acting of the American baritone. Cornell MacNeil, and for Raimondi's extremely well-sung Duke. Gencer sang unevenly as Gilda: Mazzoli was an impressive Sparafucile; Quadri was the competent conductor. After these three works came L'lialiana in Algeri in a new and amusing production by Tito Capobianco. with sets and costumes by Jose Varona. Oralia Dominguez made her local debut as Isabella. and sang impressively. Juan Oncina proved to be a master of florid singing, and played the role of Lindoro in an appealing manner. Arie, if less impressive than in the Berlioz, was an amusing Mustafa. and Giulio Viamonte created a good impression as Taddeo. Quadri conducted with sparkle, and the evening was a great success. EDUARDO ARNOSI
Page 59, August 1973
Our Critics Abroad
On May 16 the ROME OPERA presented Spontini's La Vestale, in the first performance in Rome since 1942 when Maria Caniglia sang Giulia. Spontini's masterpiece has rarely been mounted this century and only three productions are worthy of recall — at the Scala in 1908 with Ester Mazzolini, Riccardo Stracciari and Nazareno De Angelis; the first Maggio Fiorentino in 1933 with Rosa Ponselle, Tancredi Pasero and Ebe Stignani; and again at the Scala in 1954 with Maria Callas, Franco Corelli, Nicola Rossi-Lemeni and Stignani. The score, which often tends towards oratorio, is influenced by Cherubini and has a neoclassical structure. In its turn, the opera strongly influenced the 19th century and of course Rossini. The orchestration is exemplary, full of surprising and extraordinary solutions. Then there are well-constructed recitatives and a judicious succession of splendidly melodious arias, monologues, duets and ensembles. Such a work requires a first-class production. Although not superlative, this new Rome revival was quite praiseworthy. Carlo Franci, the conductor, strove to enhance the opera's intimate, pre-romantic vein and succeeded in obtaining some good playing from the orchestra. Leyla Gencer, the heroine, was greatly admired, in particular for her mezza voce, and Robleto Merolla as Licinio had a great success. The rest of the cast was adequate, from Bianca Maria Casoni as the Vestal Virgin to Mario Petri (Cinna) and Carlo Cava (the High Priest). The sets by Pier Luigi Sammaritani, and the costumes by Pierre Escoffier, all of which came from Palermo's Teatro Massimo, were very beautiful indeed. Mauro
Bolognini's production, with choreography by Franca Bartolomei, was very efficient. Just a couple of reservations: every single scene had its grand staircase, which became monotonous, particularly in the overall setting which recalled the neo-classical paintings of David. Also there were far too many vestal virgins on stage (at least 20), when history tells us there were only six in ancient Rome!
Page 83, September 1977
After a strike which delayed the first night by five days, Anna Bolena was given for the first time at the TEATRO DELL'OPERA on April 7. The conductor, Gabriele Ferro, re-instated the overture omitted by Gianandrea Gavazzeni at the famous Scala revival in 1957, and also inserted in the first-act finale the duet for Anne and Percy written immediately after the premiere on 26 December 1830. The title-role was sung by Leyla Gencer, who brought long experience to this formidable assignment, even though her voice is now no longer firm and she can scarcely negotiate the trills in the cabalettas. On the other hand, she does command considerable nobility of delivery and a thrilling stage presence. As Henry VIII we heard the ageless Boris Christoff; his voice is still full-bodied and well-produced, and his characterisation almost dominated that of Maria Luisa Nave (Jane), who sang with metallic tone and some veristic quirks of style. As Percy, Pietro Bottazzo tended to
over-use his white tone in the head register. The rest of the cast was Robert Amis El Hage (Rochefort), Anna Di Stasio (Smeton) and Gino Sinimberghi (Hervey). The chorus acquitted itself well enough and Filippo Crivelli's production tried to restore dramatic credibility to Benois' sets, which were borrowed from La Scala, The evening was a splendid success, mainly due to Ferro, who is perhaps the most positive artistic addition to the Teatro dell'Opera this season.
Page 40, October 1963
New York. The FRIENDS OF FRENCH OPERA Will give a concert version of Halevy's La Juive at Carnegie Hall on March 12 next, with a repeat performance at the Brooklyn Academy on March 17. Richard Tucker will be heard as Eleazar, Leyla Gencer as Rachel, Micheline Tessier as Eudoxie, Jean Deis as Leopold and Norman Treigle as Cardinal Brogni (Chester Watson at Brooklyn). Robert Lawrence will be the conductor.
Page 41, September 1955
Trieste, Castello di San Ginsto. For some years now the administrators of the Teatro Comunale Giuseppe Verdi at Trieste have made a practice of presenting, during the month of July, a short open-air seascn of opera at the Castello di San Giusto. The performances take place in what is known as the Militia Court, which—surrounded as it is by enormous bastions—has first-rate acoustical properties, together with a seating capacity for some 10,000 people. With reasonable weather conditions, and some imagination in the choice of operas and artists, the organizers would appear to be on to a good thing, as this is a heavily populated seaside town visited by many tourists, in spite of being a little off the beaten track.
The first opera presented this season was Carmen. The second opera presented was La Traviata. It is a long time since I have seen a Traviata up to this standard, and in this I include Maria Callas's interpretation, which I saw at the Arena of Verona three years ago.
With the exception of the last act, all the sets depicted outdoor scenes, and very beautiful and natural they appeared, too, with a canopy of stars overhead. In the title role, Leyla Gencer, a Turk by nationality and pupil of the late Arangi-Lombardi, sang and acted with outstanding brilliance. She has a voice of limpid quality—all too rare nowadays—and has such an easy control of both volume and register, together with the ability to phrase exquisitely, as to leave one quite astonished. Her portrayal of the dying Violetta in the final act was certainly the most moving interpretation I have ever witnessed.
The Alfredo of Giacinto Prandelli was of the routine order. His vocal ability is too well known to need comment. On this showing, however, his acting was rather stilted and lacked conviction. He did nothing, fortunately, to impede the triumph of Violetta, for which I was duly grateful. Enzo Mascherini is one of the finest baritones of the day. I think he has improved immensely since I heard him at the Arena a few years ago, and his interpretation here of the role of Germont deserves nothing but praise, as his voice and stagecraft combine to make him an outstanding artist. The scene in the house of Flora gave Nives Poli an excellent opportunity to show the ability of her ballet. Indeed, this effort proved a distinct improvement on the choreography seen in Carmen. Pino Trost obtained a very fine performance from the orchestra and was most attentive to the artists. Libera Danielis
Page 32, July 1957
A vigorous production of the Les d'Hoffmann concluded the season, conducted with verve and by Thomas Schippers. The roles of Olympia, Guilietta, Antonia and Stella were sung by Antonietta Pastori, Franca Duval and Leyla Gencer, while Hoffmann was played by Nicola Filacuridi, a tenor of great freshness. Sergio Tedesco
Page 34, October 1972
Our Critics Abroad
Italy The Verdi Congress
Milan. The third International Congress of Verdi Studies was to have been held in New York, but technical difficulties led Sir Rudolf Bing to cancel the invitation. On short notice, the Institute of Verdian Studies arranged for La Scala to play host, and so instead of gathering daily in the Metropolitan's List Hall, the Congressisti were received in the white-and-gold elegance of the Piccola Scala. In spite of the last-minute change of venue, 61 Verdians managed to make the Congress, coming from 12 different countries. At all of the sessions, too, there was an audience of local enthusiasts, who came out in especially large numbers for the 'round-tables' at which popular artists like Giulietta Simionato, Placido Domingo, Claudio Abbado, and Leyla Gencer were present.
On the opening day, there were the usual speeches: Italy's Minister of Tourism ; Milan's member of the city council for culture; Paolo Grassi, the new general manager of La Scala; Professor Bruno Molajoli, president of the Institute for Verdi Studies. And then, the first of the papers to be read: Guglielmo Barblan's analysis of the sentiment of honour in Verdian dramaturgy.
The Congress, like its two predecessors, had an announced theme: 'The theatre and the music of Giuseppe Verdi' —a theme broad enough to comprehend almost anything one wanted to say about the Verdi canon, apart from merely biographical data. Some of the papers, in fact, seemed to have more to do with the music than with the theatre; but departure from the theme did not make these papers the less interesting. In some cases, the papers were, in fact, progress reports on various musicological undertakings. Hans Busch indicated the problems and the hopes involved in his planned complete documentation of the gestation of Aida. David Lawton and David Rosen discussed the revisions and added or substituted arias that Verdi wrote for later performances of some of the early works (eventually these scholars' enquiry will lead, one hopes, to a complete list of Verdi oddments).
Other scholars offered technical examinations of the operas themselves. Roman Vlad — composer as well as scholar — gave some arresting examples of Verdi's free use of tonality. Pierluigi Petrobelli spoke of the use of certain keys associated with certain characters in II Trovatore, and Martin Chusid illustrated the significant use of the key of F major in La Traviata. The librettists and the dramatic sources of the librettos, naturally, also came in for considerable discussion. Two papers centred around the figure of Salvatore Cammarano, and Jose Lopez-Cabo examined Verdi's Spanish sources and, by the way, Verdi's relations with Spain in general.
The history of Verdian performances was enlightened by papers like Leonardo Pinzauti's on Aida and Lohengrin in Florence a century ago, and Giorgio Gualerzi's on the development of Verdian theatre in the post-war period. Other papers revealed recent biographical discoveries. Marcello Conati indicated the problems of establishing a Verdi bibliography, and Ornella Zanuso, editor of the Italian magazine Discoteca, spoke about the Verdian discography of the last decade.
The papers were many: close to 40. They will all eventually be published (along with four papers from Con gressisti unable to attend, who sent copies of their reports) in the Atti, which will make a welcome addition to the shelf of handsome and stimulating publications of the Institute. Naturally, the Congress was not all meetings and papers. La Scala's Museum organized a fascinating display of Verdian documents in the foyer of the theatre. Though the opera season was over, there were concerts which the delegates were invited to attend, and there were also other invitations: a sumptuous lunch given by the city of Milan, a dinner given by La Scala, and a grand buffet-supper party in the home of Ornella Zanuso, where delegates mingled with 'le tout Milan'. Guests of honour were Placido Domingo and Claudio Abbado, who were the recipients of the annual Discoteca prizes for outstanding interpreters. The prizes, gold plaques — were awarded in the course of the evening. WILLIAM WEAVER
Page 21, March 1956
Ankara. The State Opera opened its 1955-56 season on October 2 with a gala performance. The three works performed during October were Rigoletto, Un Ball in Maschera and Lehar's operetta Paganini. Rigoletto again brought Ferhan Onat as Gilda, who sang the part with considerable ease, warmth and beauty. In the title part Orhan Günek had the full power which his part demands. The Duke was sung by Dogan Onat, better than last season. The conductor was Adolfo Camozzo. Paganini is a dull work, and the State Opera unfortunately did not succeed in brining any happiness and life to it. The orchestra was conducted by Karl Oehring. Umur Pars, a tenor with a very small voice, took the title role. Anna Elisa was colourfully sung by Ayhan Aydan, the only Turk who has taken part in the Edinburgh Festival (in 1948 she sang Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro). Ballo returned to the repertory after ten years' absence. There were two casts. In the first the Amelia was Leyla Gencer, who has all the qualities that the part requires—dramatic verve, superb pianissimos, and first-rate acting ability. The Riccardo was Ozcan Sevgen, a young tenor who should have a brilliant future, and the Renato, Orhan Giinek, who sung magnificently. In the second cast Belkis Aran as Amelia, gave a highly dramatic performance. The Riccardo was Aydin Gun, who also stages the opera; his voice was not clear and he sang nasally. The orchestra, conducted by Fetid Alnar, sounded well and the chorus (chorus master Adolfo Camozzo) was in good form. Donizetti's Don Pasquale was given its first performance in December, conducted by Adolfo Camozzo. The star of the performance was Ferhan Onat, a Norina of great charm. Also in December, Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten gave a joint recital at the State Opera. The concert was appreciated by the capacity audience. The programme was repeated to a sold out audience in Istanbul, and was also broadcast. Tanju Firat
Page 24, June 1963
There was a less favourable reception for an opera new to Turin, The Queen of Spades (March 30), in a performance which, despite Franco Capuana's experience and devotion, fell short of the demands of Tchaikovsky's uneven yet fascinating opera. Some of the sets by Enzo Deho (for instance, the ballroom scene, which incidentally was well-managed by the choreographer Alberto Testa) and certain aspects of Carlo Maestrini's production raised justified criticism. Marianna Radev gave a magnificent characterization of the Countess and Leyla Gencer a noble, passionate account of Lisa's music (though her tone was harsher than usual and marred by excessive vibrato). Paolo Washington as Tomsky and Anna Maria Rota as Paulina sang their roles accurately. But this only partly compensated for an indisposed Renato Capecchi (he recovered for the later performances on April 3 and 7 and sang the role of Yeletsky well) and above all for the inadequate Hermann of Giuseppe Campora (his first assumption of the difficult role). Campora is a mere shadow of the fine tenor Turin audiences have admired in the past. GIORGIO GUALERZI
Page 35, September 1956
Ankara. The first performance in Turkey of Don Giovanni was given in the late spring. It was staged by Heinz Arnold from Munich and conducted by Kurt Eichorn. The less said about the scenery, costumes and singing the better. The performance was not far short of a disaster! The revival of The Bartered Bride, first given in Turkey in 1943 under the direction of Carl Ebert, did not fare particularly well on this occasion either. A performance of La Traviata with Leyla Gencer as Violetta and three guests from Italy was far more distinguished. Carlo Zampighi was Alfredo, Remo Ioni Germont, and Arturo Basile the conductor. Tanju Firat
Page 20, July 1960
Turin. The spring season at the Teatro Nuovo opened with a performance of Aida conducted by Gianandrea Gavazzeni, and sung by Mirella Parutto, Dora Minarchi, Luigi Ottolini, Carlo Meliciani, and Antonio Zerbini. This was followed by Carmen, with Fedora Barbieri, Rina Malatrasi, Aldo Bertocci. and Giuseppe Valdengo. conductor Mario Braggio; La Traviata with Leyla Gencer. Alvinio Misciano, Dino Dondi. conductor Oliviero de Fabritiis; and Lohen grin with Onelia Fineschi, Nada Puttar, Sandor Konya, Piero Guelfi, and Giorgio Tadeo, conductor Gabor Ottvos.