Leoncavallo/Mascagni

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COMPOSERS: Leoncavallo/Mascagni
LABELS: Nimbus Prima Voce
WORKS: Pagliacci
PERFORMER: Beniamino Gigli, Iva Pacetti, Mario Basiola, Giuseppe Nessi, Leone Paci; Gigli, Lina Bruna Rasa, Maria Marucci, Gino Bechi, Giulietta SimionatoLa Scala Chorus & Orchestra/Franco Ghione, Pietro Mascagni
CATALOGUE NO: NI 7843/4 ADD mono Reissue
I’ve known both these recordings since die 78rpm days of my childhood: Pagv/zs issued first, in 1934; Gzz/followed in 1940. Now, as dien, dieir chief interest lies in Gigli’s performances in two roles suited to his golden voice and occasionally lachrymose style.

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Gigli is at his best as Turiddu in a Cavalleria rusticana conducted by Mascagni himself (whose somewhat deliberate tempi are presumably to be accepted as authoritative). His Santuzza is Lina Bruna Rasa, a soprano whom Mascagni greatly admired, and who gives an exciting, if not always accurate, performance.

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The ever-present sob in Gigli’s vocal style is, of course, very much to die fore in Pagliacci, which is splendidly conducted by Ghione. Some may think Canio should have rather more steel in the last scene, but there is no doubt that Gigli has the role under his skin. Iva Pacetti is a competent Nedda, and Mario Basiola, a baritone of great presence, is superb as Tonio. Both recordings show their age, and favour the voices to a wildly unrealistic extent. Charles Osborne