Le Voci di Lecce
Cantanti leccesi del ‘900
CD Nireo 2008


I visited the beautiful town of Lecce only once and that was when I attended the Martina Franca Festival many  years ago. Lecce, the Florence of rococo with its beautiful Dome and square. One can absorb the city in a few hours but you’ll never ever forget what you’ve seen. And of course Lecce is the city where that tenor miracle Tito Schipa was born.  The release of this CD reveals that Lecce is not only linked to the person of Tito Schipa alone but also to other great voices such as Cloe Elmo or Gustavo Gallo. The recordings sampled on this CD are rare, even very rare and in many cases previously unpublished and we have to be grateful to the Nireo association for this very welcome, interesting and historically important  release. Cloe Elmo is represented by five recordings perhaps a bit too many as all of her recorded input is available elsewhere such as on the preiser label. Much more welcome are the recordings of Franco Perulli. Perulli (1899-1989) made his debut in 1923 and moved to the US where he had a considerable career even singing a duet with Frank Sinatra in 1944. Here we can hear him in a duet from Linda di Chamonix (1930 rec.) with Lina Pagliughi and in three ‘Lecce songs’. It sounds as a cliché but it is a sad truth we don’t have any Italian tenor at the moment equalling Perulli’s vocal talent.
And that cliché may even apply more to the other tenor on the compilation Gustavo Gallo (why only one aria ?) who in his early days was put on the same par as Binci or Infantino. Gallo (1904-1992) who can also be heard on the “Corelli-Bastianini Guerre e Pace” sings here La mia letizia, a recording made in 1951 and accompanied by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari.
Niceto Rizzo(1910-1982) is the third tenor represented in this issue. Rizzo had a career on the Italian peninsular only. He didn’t make any commercial recordings at all. The duke’s aria and o sole mio were recorded on reel to reel  in 1959 during an open air concert and he is accompanied by the local banda which adds the necessary local flavour of a period when Italy still sang. And singing is exactly what Rizzo does in a tradition that’s gone with the wind. Franco Tafuro (1888-1943) is the fourth and last tenor on the CD, he’s also the oldest singer represented with Des Grieux’s passionate ‘pazzo son’ outburst which was recorded in 1930.
Soprano Vanna Camassa  (today 95) is represented by two acetates only : il dolce suono from Lucia and Violetta’s aria are accompanied by piano  and go back to the early forties and baritone Luigi Demitry (1898-1981) was passed his prime when he recorded the two church arias after his retirement  though you still hear the remnants of a sturdy, healthy baritone who also had a major international career including appearances in South America, France and the Netherlands. There is an Italian-English language booklet included with several photographs. The CD can easily be ordered through the website mentioned above. Glad to see Italy occasionally still honours its wonderful vocal past.

Lecce2 (Franco Perulli)
PS Readers can also see and hear Eraldo Martucci (author of the booklet of the CD) speak about Franco Perulli in youtube.

Rudi v.d.Bulck