2 CD Decca Eloquence 480 7268

With this release (2015) all of Mario Del Monaco’s commercially recorded opera recordings have finally been re-issued on CD.  Chronologically the Pagliacci was recorded one year (1953) before the Cavalleria and both also have different conductors and orchestras.  Pagliacci was his second complete opera recording for the Decca company, Aida from 1952 was his very first.
While Turiddu was the opera he made his debut in (Cagli 1940) it would be as Canio -and strangely enough not as Otello- he finished his career in 1975.  Del Monaco first sang Canio in 1946 at Covent Garden and the part would become one of his most performed roles. He would also record a stereo version of Pagliacci in 1959. Both the 1953 and the 1959 LP versions were completed with a recital by the star tenor, not included on this CD release. He sings Canio as to the manner born; the  rather central tessitura of the role fits him to the glove.  In 1959 the tenor displays perhaps some greater sensitivity to the part but vocally he was in his absolute prime in 1953.  The prologue is sung not by the Tonio (Afro Poli) but by the excellent Aldo Protti (the Silvio) who obviously at that time was vocally more equipped to the piece than the veteran Poli. The underrated Clara Petrella sings a full-blooded Nedda. Alberto Erede conducts the  Santa Cecilia less impressively than Molinari-Pradelli in 1959 though.  

click here to see the earliest filmed recording of Del Monaco in Vesti la giubba

De Monaco sang Turiddu only at the beginning of his career and mainly in Italy. The only non-Italian appearances were all in the US. He sang it at the Met in 1951 opposite the Santuzzas of Zinka Milanov and Astrid Varnay. It was according to Raymond Ericson in Musical America “ a vigorous, vivid and vocally effective performance”. Further appearances included Boston and Houston. In 1942 (Florence) he had the legendary Lina Bruna-Rasa as Santuzza (la voce più spettacolare e sensuale che abbia mai sentito*) and the composer himself was the conductor.
Del Monaco recorded three complete versions of the role of which the 1967 version can be dismissed completely. The 1960 version has the asset of the heavenly Simionato and McNeil equals Protti as Alfio.  Ghione conducts the Scala orchestra as well as Serafin the Santa Cecilia. Del Monaco is at his best in the ‘Addio alla madre” which he always sang gloriously. He is least successful in the Siciliana where his voice stiffens and sounds inflexible but that’s also due to Mascagni’s vocal writing only few tenors can bring off this piece successfully. In fact Del Monaco’s best version is his 1952 recording for La voce del Padrone.

(courtesy Charles Mintzer collection)

Remains the vocal atomic bomb of the Bulgarian mezzo soprano Elena Nicolai as Santuzza. Her voice isn’t intrinsically beautiful and she may sound a bit too stentorian, too matronly for some tastes but it’s obvious a voice to be reckoned with and which the microphones were unable to fully capture. A welcome release.

Rudi van den Bulck, November 2015

*MDM in discussing sopranos he sang with