Piero Cappuccilli: Recital

Not him again, I thought,
as during the early sixties he was a regular of bel canto concerts at Flemish
Public Radio where I worked. Well, I softened somewhat during the performance
as he was in terrific form and had to encore ìIl balenî (so did Bergonzi
with ìDi quella piraî).

Still, in retrospect, I donít think my reaction was one of
pure conceit as this magnificent CD proves so amply. All of the items derive
from RAI concerts or RAI performances and, I presume, Myto got the original
tapes as the sound is exemplary. For almost 80 minutes one gets a stream of
that kind of beautiful dark sound which we all associate with the Italian
baritone voice. And yet, after half an hour a little bit of tiredness sets in
as a few things are lacking. There is no mellowness, no ìmorbidezzaî in
the voice which makes it less suited for Donizetti (as amply proved by his
complete Lucia recording). The sound too is a bit
rigid and not very supple. No one knew it better than Cappuccilli himself.
After a tour of Germany in his early years, where he sang a lot of Figaros,
he refused to sing another performance of Il
during the rest of his career. His use of dynamics is
limited: forte and mezzo-forte but seldom a fine pianissimo. His phrasing,
especially in Verdi, is almost perfect but there is rarely an unexpected
insight which gives a small ëfrissoní. Introspection is not
Cappuccilliís forte and one sometimes longs for Gobbiís far smaller voice
and snarling but more interesting interpretations.

But a magnificent voice it is,
homogeneous from the bottom to the high B-flat. Some tenors envied him. The
CD starts with four arias from 1962. In Cascartís ìZaz‡, piccolo
zingaraî the strength and weakness is immediately clear. The voice gleams
with beauty and power but this is not the love song of an old man for a young
girl like Gobbi so well suggests. The next four items date from four years
later and here he is at his best: the strong and noble man in difficult
circumstances, be it Nabucco, Trovatore or Forza. One hears the
evolution of the voice: some of the shine is gone but the voice itself has
become broader and more voluminous. A concert of 1967 reveals him in
unexpected repertoire. His longing for SalomÈ in Massenetís HÈrodiade has little in common with the
sick lovelorn uncertainty of the king the best of French baritones put in it.
Cappuccilli sings straight on and thereís no doubt heíll get the girl.
In Ernani he misses the
smoothness and introspection the very great like Battistini and Stracciari
could put in Don Carloís abjuring his wild years. Cappuccilliís
contemporary Mario Sereni got those feelings far better.

On the other hand Cappuccilli has magnificent breath
controlóas a young man diving was his favourite sport and he attributed his
long power to itóand sails up to a full and splendid high A; a feat those
legendary baritones too did though nobody else in Cappuccilliís generation.
As an angry older Foscari he is at his very best while the duet from Pearl Fishers was probably just a courteous gesture towards
his partner, Margherita Rinaldi. Myto added two bonuses: one is the last duet
from Forza with Bergonzi, culled from a magnificent
RAI performance that even surpasses the two gentlemenís official Forza on EMI (though that set has the third tenor-baritone
duet lacking in the RAI-concert). The last filler consists of two Don Carlo scenes with Bruno Prevedi. As Posa his breath
control is ideal for the long drawn out phrases of the death scene. In short,
this is Cappuccilli at his very best, surpassing his only solo album on
Bongiovanni. That was a recording of a 1984 live recital and is not to be
dismissed as he was a careful singer. He waited 15 and 18 years before
singing Boccanegra and Macbeth. But of course the voice sounds less fresh
than on this Myto.

Recently I listened to new recitals by
nowadays baritones as Lado Atanelli and Carlos Alvarez, two singers lacking a
bit of imagination too but proof that, as to pure vocal beauty and strength,
nobody nowadays comes even close to the baritone from Trieste.

Jan Neckers

image_description=Piero Cappuccilli: Recital
product_title=Piero Cappuccilli: Recital
product_by=Arias from Pagliacci, Zaza, Rigoletto, Andrea ChÈnier, Nabucco, Il Trovatore, La forza del destino, Roberto Devereux, HÈrodiade, Ernani, I Due Foscari, Les pÍcheurs de perles, Don Carlo.
product_id=MYTO 055321 [CD]