Lebendige Vergangenheit - Petre Munteanu (Vol.2)

Artist Petre Munteanu
Title Lebendige Vergangenheit - Petre Munteanu (Vol.2)
Release Date Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Genre Classical > Choro
Composers Robert Schumann, Friedrich von Flotow, Francesco Cilea, Georges Bizet, Gaetano Donizetti, Christoph Willibald Gluck, Giacomo Puccini, Arrigo Boito, Jules Massenet, Riccardo Zandonai, Charles Gounod, Otto Nicolai, Carl Maria von Weber
Songwriter Diverse
Copyright © Preiser Records

Promotion Text

Lebendige Vergangenheit

Tenore di Grazia from Romania - Petre Munteanu. Asked about Romanian singers who have established a reputation beyond the borders of their home country, even well-versed singing experts will find it difficult to come up with more than a handful of names. They would mention the sopranos Stella Roman, Virginia Zeani and Ileana Cotrubas, the baritones Nicolae Herlea and David Ohanesian and the tenor Petre Munteanu, to whom the description also applies. After the Second World War, together with his Italian colleagues Cesare Valletti, Giacinto Prandelli, Nicola Monti and Ferruccio Tagliavini, the Romanian singer continued a grand tradition of lyric, flexible tenor voices that are especially at home in the operas of Mozart and Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti. The name that has been given to this “family” of tenors is, at the same time, our subject: tenore di grazia. The term means that vocal grace and stylistic elegance take precedent over powerful volume and compelling force; vocal refinement and coloratura virtuosity over ostentatious emotionalism and boastful stentorian impact. These tenors are masters of musical and vocal detail, which they are able to offer in a myriad of different forms thanks to their highly nuanced phrasing, sublime control of dynamic shading, richly varied tone production, complete mastery of legato phrasing and highly developed pianissimo skills. Between the First and the Second World War it was primarily the southern Italian tenor Tito Schipa who embodied such vocal perfection. Thus it is no coincidence that Schipa was the deeply admired model for Petre Munteanu’s singing. More than that, it was Tito Schipa’s records that originally motivated the Romanian artist to acquiesce to his musician friends and teachers who were urging him to become a singer. Born on 26 November 1916 at Campina near Bucharest, Petre Munteanu received piano and violin lessons as a child. He entered the conservatoire of the Romanian capital at the age of 17 with the goal of becoming a violin virtuoso. His vocal talent was unmistakable, but he long paid no attention to it. And then came his fateful encounter with the recordings of Tito Schipa. What the young singer found particularly fascinating was the effortlessly instrumental use of the voice that distinguished Schipa’s vocal artistry. Munteanu decided to study singing but found himself less satisfied than his teacher with the progress he was making. In 1940, when he was asked to make his singing debut at the Bucharest Opera in the role of Conte Almaviva in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, he decided he was not yet mature enough. Instead, he chose a role he considered to be less problematic: Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca. Munteanu hoped to study singing with Tito Schipa himself. When this proved impossible, he took the advice of his teacher in Bucharest and went to Berlin to study with Günter Weissenborn at the Musikhochschule there. In his luggage he had Tito Schipa’s recording of Almaviva’s aria “Ecco ridente il cielo” and was determined not to set foot on stage again until he could sing the aria with the style and vocal perfection of Schipa. And indeed, he was persuaded to relaunch his career at Berlin’s Volksoper only after he had recorded Almaviva’s aria for Radio Berlin: he invited his teacher to come to the studio and listen to both recordings one after the other. It was only after Weissenborn had sworn on his word of honour that the ambitious young singer had achieved his first goal and was at least close to singing as well as his idol that Munteanu accepted the Volksoper’s offer. In 1943 the young tenor began his second career at Berlin’s Theater des Westens. His debut there was in the role of Filipeto in Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s comic opera I quattro rusteghi. Soon he was singing Ernesto in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, Pedrillo in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Châteauneuf in Lortzing’s Zar und Zimmermann. Towards the end of his first season, Munteanu was also allowed to sing Cavaradossi, the role in which he had made his debut in Bucharest four years earlier. “Who would have thought that the Volksoper could celebrate such great success with the young Romanian Petre Munteanu”, wrote one Berlin newspaper. The critic continued: “Certainly no one could have expected this promising lyric tenor to develop so quickly. Here, apparently, is a vocal artist who could grow up to become the successor of Tito Schipa.” The Volksoper management was also aware of the precious talent they had secured for their ensemble and gave him the one thing that such a talent needs the most: time to mature. Initially Munteanu was primarily assigned to sing lighter roles, and only gradually was he entrusted with more difficult tasks, such as the role of Alfredo in Verdi’s La traviata. This turned out to be the final role in Berlin for the 27-year-old singer. On 1 September 1944 all the German stages were closed in order to free their personnel for participation in “total war”. Thus German theatre life ended for a long period. Munteanu continued to be hired for radio recordings of opera and lieder, but that soon became impossible as well. He left Germany but did not return home to Romania. Instead, he found a new home in Italy. In 1947 Petre Munteanu launched his career for a third time, as Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni in Rome. On 17 April of that year he sang his debut at La Scala in Milan in the role of Ferrando in Così fan tutte with Suzanne Danco as Fiordiligi and Giulietta Simionato as Dorabella in a performance conducted by his Romanian compatriot Jonel Perlea. At that time Munteanu’s idol, Tito Schipa, was also appearing on the stage of La Scala, where in December 1947 he sang Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the ripe old age of 58. ...