Monday, January 14, 2013

Ruggiero Leoncavallo - I Pagliacci, Gigli, Pacetti, Basiola, Teatro Alla Scala, Ghione (Seraphim - IB-6009)

This is one of the records I have bought from Kontra Plak. It was surprising to find this original piece dating from 1954 lying there in the new arrivals box. I directly checked the quality which was also stunning as can be seen from the picture. We have to thank at least 1 generation of a record collector for this. I love it when I find a gem in a record store.

I Pagliacci is the sad story of a clown (Pagliacci) which is not one of today's most revered operas in the repertoire, however it was quite popular in the early 1900s. One of the reasons would be that those days were more theatrical compared to today and I Pagliacci is an opera which requires some theatrical performance along the real thing. It is a two act opera with a longer Act I and a shorter Act II. However, the most important thing here is not the opera itself, but rather the performance of Beniamino Gigli. It is simply breathtaking. One of Gigli's most famous arias (At the end of Act I) already belongs to this very performance dating from July, 1934 in Teatro Alla Scala. The opera was conducted by Franco Ghione and it was during the time when Gigli was at his best. Interestingly, though this opera requires theatrical tendencies as well, this was obviously not the strong point of Gigli.

The opera takes 3 sides of the 2 record box set. The remaining part was filled with Gigli's performances of old Italian Songs including the likes of "O Sole Mio", "Senta Ze" and "Ritorna Amore". Even though Gigli is famous for the classical repertoire in general, his performances in these songs are also eye catching. I was honestly not expecting this from him.

The sound quality is of course not as clear as today's recordings, though I can honestly say that it beats many of the recordings from that era. Listening it in a modest level of sound is adequate, but when you go higher, there are some distortions which keeps you from it. Still, it can take you to the seats of Teatro Alla Scala to dream of Gigli standing there with his clown costume on, feeling betrayed, angry and raged because of his unfaithful wife. It would have been such a beautiful show then.

To buy this box set:

@ Ebay (Didn't turn out any result, but you can remain faithful)
@ Discogs (The release does not exist)
@ Overstock (CD version, better than nothing)

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