GHCD 2234/35 – L’AMORE DIE TRE RE – Montemezzi – 1941

Met, Montemezzi Italo – Conductor, Pinza, Moore, Kullman, Bonelli

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The Record Collector September 2003 – Volume 48 No. 3

The was once one of the most widely admired Operas of the past Century but time has not been kind to Montemezzi’s masterpiece. Its last performance at the Metropolitan was in the 1948/9 season, since when it seems to have vanished from the repertoire of all the major opera houses.

Listening to this fine performance again merely serves to increase puzzlement over the work’s long neglect. The musical idiom owes something to both Debussy and Wagner but is unlike either. It is accessible continuously melodic and superbly orchestrated; the libretto by Benelli, distinguished and the story fascinating. The four major roles are splendidly characterised and a gift to singing actors. Additionally Montemezzi avoids the inflated timescale of a Wagner or Berlioz, despatching the whole opera in little over two hours.

This particular performance has been around in various pirated versions on LP and even on, now unavailable, CDs. However, it can surely never have been heard as well as on this most excellent transfer. Of course the sound is not up to current standards but the voices and orchestra emerge cleanly in good monaural format, with relatively few blemishes to spoil enjoyment. It is a great credit to the engineers.

Although the excellent sleeve notes by Richard Caniell deal rather disparagingly with both Moore and Kullman, they nevertheless emerge with some honour. For me, the soprano’s voice is an attractive instrument. In this instance her knowing, sophisticated style is well suited to the wholly immoral and hard-hearted Fiora, whose failure even to wave farewell to a departing, over-loving husband, is largely instrumental in bringing about the final tradedy. One can imagine how dirrerently the role must have sounded when Lucrezia Bori sant at the American Première, early in 1914. Nevertheless, Moore brings her own validity to the part.

It would be pleasant to have had a juicier, more Italianate tenor sound for her unfortunate lover, but Kullman sings well and conveys some of the poetry of this role. Bonelli brings his attractive, well-focused voice to convey the humanity of Manfredo. This role is the least well characterised by the composer and deserved to have had more to sing in the final act.

However, it is Ezio Pinza who walks away easily with the vocal honours. As the blind Archibaldo, his magnificent voice radiates majesty and authority. It is unlikely that the role has ever been better sung, and contemporary reports suggest that his acting was on a similarly high level. It is he who thrillingly ende each act. Pinza’s tall figure, easily carrying the dead body of Fiora over his shoulder at the end of the second act, must have made a tremendous impression, on to which Montimezzi’s  musical genius greatly contributed. Five rarely heard arias, taken from broadcasts by the bass, are a bonus especially as three of these were not recorded commercially and all find him in great voice.

An LP recording, starring Anna Moffo, Placido Domingo and Cesare Siepi conducted by Nello Santi, was once available but does not appear to have been transferred to CD. Except for the modern sound, it is a workmanlike performance, which simply does not compare with this blazing account under the composer’s baton.
Vivian Liff

International Record Review July/August 2003

Four ladies and three kings

The three kings are not following a star, unless it be Grace Moore in ltalo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre re at the Met in 1941 under the composer’s direction. Actually, the star was probably Ezio Pinza, whose King Archibaldo tends to dominate proceedings both vocally and histrionically. The other members of the quartet are not ciphers. Richard Bonelli, though not the greatest interpreter among baritones, produces elegant singing. Charles Kullman warms to his task, the tone becoming freer during the afternoon, and Moore finds Fiora, our fourth lady, much to her liking, though Richard Caniell’s interesting comments refer to a lack of subtlety. Contemporary critics mentioned artificiality.

Südwestfunk Baden Baden

SWR2 CD-Tipp von Reinhard Ermen am 16. 07. 03:
Italo Montemezzi’s “L’Amore Dei Tre Re“. Metropolitan Opera New York 15. Februar 1941 mit dem Komponisten am Pult. GUILD GHCD2234/35

Signet CD-Tipp

Das Label Guild veröffentlicht regelmäßig historische Aufnahmen aus der New Yorker Metropolitan Opera. In eine dieser Produktionen hören wir heute hinein. Am 15. Februar 1941 wurde Italo Montemezzis Erfolgsoper “L’Amore Dei Tre Re“ gegeben. Am Pult steht der Komponist, die Besetzung ist excellent. Hauptfigur der Vorstellung an diesem Samstagnachmittag ist der italienische Bassist Ezio Pinza. Das ist eine der großen Stimmen des 20. Jahrhunderts.

“L’Amore Dei Tre Re”, Archibaldo 1. Akt

CD 1, take 5 – 3’28
Neben dieser Paraderolle Ezio Pinzas erinnert die CD an ein vergessenes Erfolgsstück, das 1913 in Mailand uraufgeführt wurde und ein Jahr später seine Premiere in der Met hatte. Dort erzielte es bis in die vierziger Jahre große Wirkungen “Die Liebe der drei Könige“ ist ein musikdramatischer Hexenkessel, der die veristische Finaldramaturgie in drei wirkungsvollen Akten auskostet, dabei gelegentlich mit impressionistischen Farben aufwartet und den überbordenden Gefühlshaushalt der Protagonisten mit spätromantischer Wahrhaftigkeit bedient. Montemezzi war ein Profi, nicht nur als Komponist sondern auch als Dirigent, wie die Aufnahme v 1941 schlagend belegt.

Wir blenden uns nochmals in das Stück ein. Es treten auf, Avito und Fiora. Avito ist der, den Fiora wirklich liebt, denn verheiratet ist sie mit einem anderen. Beide werden die Tragödie nicht überleben, Fiora wird bereits im Finale zweiten Aktes von Archibaldo erdrosselt, der Liebhaber stirbt einen Akt später, als er die vergifteten Lippen der Toten küsst. Mehr Details würden in unserem kurzen CD-Tipp jetzt nur Verwirrung stiften, aber sie merken schon, dass in diesem Opernthriller mit Effekten nicht gegeizt wird, und wirklich ergreifen tut das Stück vielleicht nur noch durch die gegebene Distanz des historischen Klangbilds mit seiner knisternden LIVE-Athmosphäre. Zwei weitere Stars der Metropolitan Opera sind jetzt zu hören: Charles Kullman und Grace Moore; gewichtiger kernige Stimmen, die emotional und hochmusikalisch ihre Parts erfüllen.

“L’Amore Dei Tre Re“, Archibaldo 2. Akt

CD 1, take 19 – 4’13
Schweren Herzens verabschieden wir uns aus dem zweiten Akt von Italo Montemezzis Oper “L’Amore Dei Tre Re“. Die historische Aufnahme von 1941 aus der Metropolitan Opera ist bei dem Schweizer Label, GUILD erschienen. Am Pult steht der Komponist; in den Hauptrollen: Ezio Pinza, Grace Moore, Charles Kullman und Richard Bonelli. Die Doppel CD ist sorgfältig ediert und remastert. Als Zugabe hält sie Raritäten mit Ezio Pinza bereit, darunter auch der Ausschnitt aus einem Interview mit dem Jahrhundertsänger. Schade, dass die Zeit zu kurz dafür ist, sonst würde ich Ihnen das noch vorspielen, denn Pinza erzählt dort sehr anschaulich, wie er, der eigentlich Radrennfahrer werden wollte, vom Vater gezwungen wurde, Sänger zu werden. Soviel für heute, am Mikrophon war.
Dr. Reinhard Ermen

Musicweb Friday February 14, 03

This performance has appeared in various guises since the days of LP. Some years ago I tried to listen to an earlier manifestation and gave it up, impatient of the poor sound. So the first good news here is that I was able to listen right through and with considerable enjoyment. Yes, the orchestra is a bit tinny at times and there is the odd bit of grit, but the voices are clearly heard and the dynamic variety wrought by the composer as conductor is there to be heard and enjoyed. It is, however, the singing of Ezio Pinza as the blind King Archibaldo that makes this performance a must for lovers of Italian opera. There is also the bonus of five arias, from various sources, sung by the great basso cantante.

The opera was first performed, to mixed reviews, at La Scala on April 10th 1913. However, it really took off the following year at the ‘Met’ under Toscanini’s baton. The story concerns Fiora (sop) who, for political reasons, has been forced to marry Manfredo (bar), the son of the blind King Archibaldo (bass). Whilst her husband is away fighting a campaign on behalf of his father, Fiora takes a lover (ten). She refuses to reveal the identity of her lover when caught unawares by her blind father-in-law and he strangles her (CD2 tr2). Knowing her lover will return to her he smears poison on her dead lips. His plan succeeds, not only for her lover, but also his son, as both kiss her lips in farewell.

Whilst it is the presence and singing of Pinza that is the great calling card of this performance, the others in the cast do not let the side down. Grace Moore, also known as a sexually alluring film star, is reputed to have got her Met contract as a consequence of her impact on Otto Kahn, President of the Met Board. I was pleasantly surprised at the fullness of her tone and range of expression, whilst Kullman’s plangent, but not very individual voice, and the strong toned baritone, fulfils what is required adequately, albeit with no special distinction. It is distinction that Pinza brings to his interpretation. He is full toned, powerful, smooth of legato and without any spread of tone as the voice rises to dramatic climax (CD 1 tr5). His ability to convey the many emotions of the King, frustration, rage, despair, by vocal nuance, phrasing and colour is a pleasure to listen to. It is also the rich nut-brown centre of the voice, and its smooth mellifluous tone that so seduces my ear.

The bonus tracks, titled ‘Pinza Rarities’, include a short interview with the singer from 1947, and range over a twenty-year period of the singer’s career. They cover a variety of genre and illustrate the qualities referred to as well as an amazing consistency of singing quality. Pinza’s Fiesco of 1947 (CD2 tr 17) is fiercely implacable; the concluding note set the (remaining) hair of this cool critic on end! In contrast his ‘Ombra mai fu’ of 1944, is smooth and serene.

This is as good as it gets with recordings from this source and period. Restorer Richard Caniell, who is also the author of the informative booklet notes, artist profiles, track related synopsis etc. is to be congratulated. Caniell also indicates that more performances featuring Pinza will follow. I for one cannot wait.
Robert J Farr