Fernando Corena : "Sings Il Maestro di Cappella and Mozart Concert Arias"
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Fernando Corena: "Sings Il Maestro di Cappella and Mozart Concert Arias"

spacer Orchestra dell’Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Roma, Erede; L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Maag; Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Quadri; Orchestra dei Pomeriggi Musicali di Milano, Amaducci. No texts or translations. Decca 480 8146


Despite a long, illustrious career onstage and on records, Fernando Corena (1916–84) does not seem to be as widely remembered today as he should be. Originally hailed as the successor to the great basso buffo Salvatore Baccaloni, he was a mainstay at the Met from 1954 to 1978, singing 725 performances of such key buffo roles as Falstaff, Melitone, Don Pasquale, Sulpice, Gianni Schicchi, and both the Mozart and Rossini Dr. Bartolos. The Turkish–Italian bass was born and raised in Geneva and had a Swiss facility for languages; although noted for his Italian roles, he left a few recordings in idiomatic French that show him equally proficient in that repertoire. 

Corena did not have the biggest, most melliflous voice, but he wielded a charismatic stage personality and sang with a handsome timbre. His excellent diction and ability to race through rapid-fire patter numbers made him ideal for comic repertoire, although he began his career singing darker roles such as Sparafucile and Scarpia. This entry in Decca’s “Most Wanted Recitals” series draws from several LPs in the London/Decca vault to show him in Mozart opera and concert arias, as well as a relative rarity, Cimarosa’s Il Maestro di Cappella. The Cimarosa is a delightful twenty-minute showcase for basso and chamber orchestra starring Corena as the title character, who is guiding a rehearsal and pompously advising his musicians every step of the way. As a kind of meta-musical piece, it’s a small jewel, and Corena is perfectly cast. While emphasizing the maestro’s pretentious veneer, he nonetheless humanizes him. Bruno Amaducci, conducting the Orchestra dei Pomeriggi Musicali di Milano, is perfectly attuned to the work’s gentle comic nuances. This version, which originally filled out the 1954 Don Pasquale Corena recorded with Sciutti, Oncina and Krause, was one of two that he committed to disc. 

The eight familiar Mozart opera excerpts, recorded in 1952 with the Orchestra dell’Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Roma, conducted by Alberto Erede and L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande led by Peter Maag, include “Aprite un po’quegli occhi,” with its introductory section delivered with a real sense of anger and poignance, and a “Madamina, il catalogo è questo” that makes the time-worn risqué gags sound fresh again. For “In diesen heil’gen Hallen” Corena does not have quite enough access to his chest register; the low stretches emerge a bit weakly. The six concert arias show a somewhat different side of Corena; many of these are quite dramatic, including “Così dunque tradisci…. Aspri rimorsi atroci,” with text by Metastasio, which Corena begins with angry reproachfulness and ends with a sense of guilty torment. Also notable is “Un bacio di mano,” in which a father says farewell before leaving his loving daughter. Corena makes the man’s doubts and fears palpable. These arias are sensitively conducted by Argeo Quadri, with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. 

Decca’s presentation is strictly bare-bones, with little more than track listings, recording dates and a barely legible repro of the back cover — the notes — of the original concert-aria LP. The text of Il Maestro di Cappella can be found  easily on the internet and downloaded. spacer 


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