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Lebendige Vergangenheit - Licia Albanese (Vol.2)

Artist Licia Albanese
Title Lebendige Vergangenheit - Licia Albanese (Vol.2)
Release Date 2006-10-19
Genre Classical > Choro
Copyright © Preiser Records
Country AUSTRIA

Promotion Text

Lebendige Vergangenheit

Artistic significance and lasting renown are not always found in a balanced relationship in the singing world. This observation is particularly evident in the case of Licia Albanese. Her singing career could hardly have been more brilliant: for many years the Italian artist sang leading roles at the world’s most important opera houses. And yet she always stood in the shadow of more luminous names and is given only marginal attention in some encyclopaedias of singers. One might well conclude that solid skill, reliability and artistic constancy are sometimes seen as almost negative criteria. But on the other hand, such a competent judge as the great tenor Giacomo Lauri Volpi devotes an outstanding chapter to the artist in his book on singers, Voci parallele, in which he honours her expressive powers and vocal ability with enthusiastic words. There was nothing greatly distincitive about Licia Albanese’s career, but it took her in a straightforward manner to her highest goals. Following studies at the conservatory in the city of her birth, Bari, she received additional instruction from the opera singer Giuseppina Baldassari Tedeschi. In 1933 she won first prize in Bologna in a singing competition organised by the government. She sang her stage debut at the opera house in Bari in the role of Mimi in La Bohème in 1934, the same year she sang Micaëla in Carmen and Pamina in Mozart’s Magic Flute at the Rome Opera. In 1935 she appeared at the festival in the Arena of Verona in the role of Anna in Catalani’s Loreley, debuting in the same year at Milan’s La Scala, where she mostly sang Puccini roles (Mimi, Butterfly, Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, Liù in Turandot). There she often performed with the celebrated Beniamino Gigli, who was later to become her tenor partner in recordings and also actively promoted her career. Licia Albanese sang at the Teatro Lirico in Milan, in Parma, in Rome (Suzel in Mascagni’s L’Amico Fritz and Sophie in Massenet’s Werther) and at the Maggio Musicale in Florence. In 1937 she launched her international career with a performance at Covent Garden in London. On 9 February 1940, she sang her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and remained a member there for no fewer than 26 seasons. Her first Met role was Madame Butterfly, which had been one of her finest characters from the beginning of her career. She portrayed the tragic Puccini figure no fewer than 72 times at the Met alone. Albanese was considered an ideal interpreter of Puccini’s roles (Manon Lescaut, Tosca and Giorgetta in Il Tabarro in addition to those already mentioned), and she was also successful in the operas of Puccini’s contemporaries (Nedda in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, Adriana in Cilea’s Adriana Levouvreur). She was also an important interpreter of French roles, in particular Micaëla in Carmen, but also Marguerite in Faust and Manon in Massenet’s eponymous opera. Among her Verdi roles was Desdemona in Otello and Nannetta in Falstaff, but her most celebrated Verdi portrayal was Violetta in La Traviata, which she sang for the first time in a matinee performance on 5 December 1942 (with Charles Kullman and Lawrence Tibbett as a partner). She sang the role in 87 Met performances. After the war years, she often performed in North and South America. She returned once to La Scala (1951) and participated in numerous radio concerts and films. In 1970 she sang her farewell concert at Carnegie Hall New York. Most of Albanese’s recordings were made during the time she was a member of the Metropolitan Opera, particularly under the baton of Arturo Toscanini, and she was one of his favourite singers. In the complete recordings of La Bohème and La Traviata (both 1946), made with the NBC Orchestra under Toscanini, she sang Mimi and Violetta. Other opera recordings with Licia Albanese that have retained their validity over the years and decades are La Bohème with Beniamino Gigli (1938) under Umberto Berettoni, Carmen under Fritz Reiner with Jan Peerce as Don José (1951) and Manon Lescaut with Jussi Björling under Ionel Perlea (1954). Remarkably, no proper recordings were produced of her most successful opera role, Madame Butterfly, but she does sing the role on an operatic potpourri. She sang on several occasions for such fragmentary recordings of operatic works. Fortunately, her portrayal of Madame Butterfly has been preserved on a live recording of a Metropolitan Opera performance in 1941, and there are also recorded performances of Albanese in other operas at the Met (Manon, Manon Lescaut, Gianni Schicchi, La Traviata, Otello, Falstaff).