MARIA FARNETI nel cielo di Puccini e Mascagni by Roberta Paganelli


235 pp   25 Euro

Maria Farneti anyone? Except for a few diehard 78rpm collectors completely but totally and unjustly neglected and forgotten soprano. She’s ignored by Steane in his ‘Grand tradition’ and surprisingly even by Michael Scott in his Record of Singing. Yet Puccini called her ‘una cantante fine e aristocrata”, and Mascagni had her create Isabeau. In 1914 Umberto Giordano invited her to sing the première of Madame Sans-Gene. So this first-ever biography more than 63 years after her death is more than overdue.  Maria Farneti (1877-1955) emerges in all her greatness from the well-researched pages of this marvelous volume, which offers readers a colourful mirror of the rewarding life of the Forli-born soprano.

In eight chapters starting with “an intense and gratifying life” to a chronology  the author recreates the climate in which the Forli-born soprano lived and appeared as mainly a torch bearer of the ‘giovane scuola’. All of Farneti’s professional and personal life is well-documented by Paganelli including her long personal relationship with Mascagni. While the book is in Italian there are nevertheless many redeeming factors for non-Italian speakers with above all the more than 100 stupendous, high quality photos.  

And although it is sort of impossible to summon a voice from a picture, the portraits of Maria Farneti seem to possess their own “stamp”. The 80 pages comprehensive chronology which was compiled with care and precision is another reason to possess the book. 

The biography is complimented with two appendices. The first has examples of letters sent to Farneti by Puccini (7), Gabriel Dupont, Leopoldo Mugnone, Umberto Giordano (2), Arturo Toscanini, Paolo Tosti, Giuseppe Antonicelli, Ruggiero Leoncavallo (2) and Franco Fano (2) amongst others. Missing is Pietro Mascagni as Farneti had her correspondence with the composer destroyed. In the second appendix Giancarlo Landini discusses Farneti’s voice and art.

 A voice which can best be (re)discovered by purchasing the CD issued by Christian Zwarg in his Truesound series (TT-3076) which has the best sound transfers available.  Get the Cd and you’ll admit she easily stands her equal to Pampanini, Bruna Rasa, Dalla Rizza, Cobelli, Oltrabella, Favero, Gavazzi, Adami-Corradetti or Petrella in the ‘verismo pantheon’.

There’s also an index but only of singers’ names and a full discography is regrettably lacking as well though there is a chapter discussing a selection of her recordings and a survey of her published recordings.

For only 25 euros this state of the art publication can’t be recommended enough.

Rudi van den Bulck, May 2018