Corelli, Gordoni

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Franco Corelli Tosca
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(Parma, Jan. 21, 1967, live). Corelli, Gordoni, D'Orazi, Carbonari, Maionica; Morelli; Chor. and Orch. of the Teatro Regio di Parma.

"Cavaradossi? This one's my best!"--Franco Corelli

This "E lucevan le stelle" is the most sensual of all live tenor recordings of the 20th century. Corelli considered this one of his three greatest performances of anything.--Stefan Zucker

Kenneth Meltzer, writing in Classical CD Review:

"If you love Franco Corelli, and don't already own this set, you will definitely want to acquire it at once. For those who have yet to become acquainted with the magic of this great, if controversial, tenor, I truly cannot think of a better place to start."

"The booklet cover of this CD issue from Bel Canto Society says it all, with 'CORELLI' emblazoned at the very top. During the course of a long and brilliant career, Franco Corelli sent audiences into frenzies with his matinee-idol looks, golden tenor voice, and atomic high notes, often held for what seemed an eternity. Many critics found Corelli's style extraordinarily self-indulgent, but few denied his unique magnetism.

"This Tosca was recorded in performance at Parma's Teatro Regio on January 21, 1967. On the booklet cover, the tenor is quoted as saying: 'Cavaradossi? This one's my best!' And indeed, it would be hard to disagree. On this occasion, Corelli is in absolutely spectacular voice, and he knows it. Cavaradossi's opening aria, 'Recondita armonia,' is taken quite broadly, allowing Corelli to caress the vocal line and to deliver a stunning (and prolonged) B-flat at its climax.

"Corelli's performance is brimming with such moments. Perhaps the most spectacular occurs in Act II, after Cavaradossi has been returned from Scarpia's torture chamber. When Cavaradossi learns of Napoleon's victory, he leaps to his feet and sings 'Vittoria!' The second 'Vittoria' is sung on an A-sharp that Puccini directs be delivered allargando molto (very broadly). But even Puccini could not have dreamed of the twelve(!)-second elongation Corelli accords this high note, driving the Parma audience into an absolute frenzy.

"The love affair between Corelli and the Parma audience continues into the opera's final act. As in his first-act aria, Corelli takes 'E lucevan le stelle' at a markedly slow tempo. The opening of the aria is notable for its hushed beauty. And then, Corelli arrives at the sequence beginning 'O dolci baci, o languide carezze' (Oh sweet kisses, languorous caresses). At the high A on the word 'disciogliea,' Corelli sings a protracted and beautiful diminuendo, continuing on the same breath to the conclusion of the phrase. The stunned audience responds with a collective, audible gasp. Corelli then delivers the final climax of the aria with almost superhuman strength.

"At this point, the Parma audience breaks into sustained cheers, applause, and finally, rhythmic clapping, as they beg Corelli for an encore. It is not forthcoming--at least not immediately. But after the conclusion of the opera, an upright piano is wheeled on stage to accompany Corelli in a stunning rendition of the Neapolitan song 'Core 'ngrato.'

"I doubt that we will ever again hear a performance like this. First, it is unlikely that a tenor with Corelli's remarkable gifts will come this way again. Second, even if he did, I can't imagine any of today's conductors allowing the kinds of freedoms Corelli takes with the score. Many will view that as a positive development--I do not.

"The remainder of the cast is fine, although certainly not on Corelli's level. Virginia Gordoni is a vibrant, fiery Tosca who has occasional difficulty with her upper register. Attilio D'Orazi is a firm-voiced and malevolent Baron Scarpia. Through all of Corelli's liberties and audience participation, conductor Giuseppe Morelli does an admirable job of holding the performance together.

"The booklet cover states that the recording is in stereo. I don't believe that to be the case, but in any event, the sonics are quite clear, generally with minimal distortion in climactic passages. [The stereo spread is minimal.--BCS]

"The CDs contain more index numbers than typical for issues of this opera, with many Corelli highlight moments isolated for easy access and repeated pleasure. If you love Franco Corelli, and don't already own this set, you will definitely want to acquire it at once. For those who have yet to become acquainted with the magic of this great, if controversial, tenor, I truly cannot think of a better place to start."

Go to additional reviews, by Alan Blyth in Gramophone and John T. Hughes in Classic Record Collector

Go to additional reviews of this and other Corelli titles by Richard Fawkes in Opera Now.

Comments From Our Customers

"I've listened to this Tosca more times than I can recall, but it is twice as enjoyable now that I have your CDs, which sound far better than the old version.

"My first encounter with this performance was, in one word, incredible. I was eager to hear what was to be my latest Corelli experience. As I began listening to my favorite opera, I settled in on the sofa and began thumbing through Opera News. Soon came 'Recondita armonia,' and I could hear that Franco was in excellent voice. As the aria drew to a close I did not recognize that Franco was surpassing himself. At the end of the aria, he began to sing 'Tosca, sei tu.' The 'To' went on, to the point that I thought the CD had gotten stuck. I headed toward the CD player and was about to stop the disk when he finally sang the 'sca.' I froze in my tracks, astounded at this feat. The Parma audience went wild. Quickly, I played the aria again, this time listening very intently to every word and every nuance of each phrase.

"For the remainder of the opera I listened to every note Franco sang as if the Lord himself was speaking to me! Then, listening to the 'Vittoria! Vittoria!' which also went on endlessly, I was in seventh heaven. Again, the audience was in a frenzy.

"In 'E lucevan le stelle,' the phrase 'disciogliea dai veli' was sung with the most gorgeous diminuendo, with such control as I had never heard, in a breath that lasted 22 seconds! (I timed it later.) You actually hear the audience gasp. When he finished the aria, people screamed 'bravo!' and chanted 'bis, Franco' over and over again. The conductor tried in vain to continue, but the audience wouldn't let him. Finally Gordoni made her entrance. Povera Virginia--she didn't stand a chance!

"After the opera ended, pandemonium reigned until they wheeled a piano onstage and Franco sang 'Core 'ngrato,' which was received with equal enthusiasm.

"By this time I was totally drained!

"Of course, I now know what to expect when I listen to this Tosca, but that in no way diminishes the thrill of hearing Franco sing it. For Corelli worshipers this is a MUST HAVE.

"For those of you who have never heard Corelli, listening to this performance will, I'm sure, transform you into a 'Francophile.' It is as exciting as any you will ever hear from any singer.

"I treasure all the Corelli performances I have collected over the years, but this, without question, is number one."--Diana Mastroni, Bridgeport, CT

"I want to thank Bel Canto Society for two wonderful CDs. They are better than any other remastered versions I have ever heard. Franco Corelli in both Tosca and Il trovatore is fabulous.

"A reviewer had mentioned in your catalog that Corelli's 'Vittoria!' in the VHS [Videos #453 or #540] was outstanding--it's a mere whisper compared to the 'Vittoria!' on the Tosca CD.

"Mr. Zucker and Mr. Corelli should be sainted for setting up this treasure trove."--A. M., Del Mar, CA

Franco Corelli Photos