Episode 32. Fedora Barbieri (Mezzo Madness III)

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Episode 32. Fedora Barbieri (Mezzo Madness III)



The Italian mezzo-soprano Fedora Barbieri (1920-2003) was never a great favorite of mine. That is, until I recently came across her rare 1953 recording entitled Fedora Barbieri Sings Old Italian Songs and Airs, accompanied by Dick Marzollo, an assistant of Toscanini’s and one of the principal coaches at the Met in the 1950s.Though possessed of an extraordinary voice, Barbieri’s vocal problems prevented her from making her full mark in much of the dramatic mezzo-soprano repertoire in which her compatriot and arch-rival Giulietta Simionato excelled. However, in this recording of songs by Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Paisiello, Cherubini, Scarlatti, and others, recorded in New York for the Vox label, Barbieri reveals herself as that true rara avis, a classicist with guts. The episode also includes recordings from either end of Barbieri’s five-decade-long career and begins with a tribute to the great American jugendlich dramatisch Sopran Arlene Saunders, who died last week at the age of 89.


Arlene Saunders (1930-2020)

Richard Strauss: Nimm denn Gold von mir (Die Liebe der Danae) Arlene Saunders (Danae), Charles Mackerras, BBC Symphony Orchestra [20 April 1980]

Fedora Barbieri (1920-2003)

Amilcare Ponchielli: Voce di donna o d’angelo (La Gioconda). Fedora Barbieri (La Cieca), Argeo Quadri, Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano [rec. 1949]

This week’s featured recording (1953)

Fedora Barbieri Sings Old Italian Songs and Airs. Dick Marzollo, piano. Vox Records PL 7980 (recorded 1953):

Antonio Vivaldi: Un certo non so che

Giacomo Carissimi: Piangete, ohimè

George Frideric Handel: Lascia ch’io pianga (Rinaldo)

Francesco Cavalli: Affè! Affé! mi fate ridere (Serse)

Alessandro Parisotti: Se tu m’ami (formerly attributed Giovanni Battista Pergolesi)

Giovanni Paisiello: Nel cor più non mi sento (La molinara)

Claudio Monteverdi: Lasciatemi morire [Lamento d’Arianna] (Arianna)

Antonio Caldara: Come raggio di sol

Luigi Cherubini: Ahi! che forse ai miei dì (Demofonte)

Alessandro Scarlatti: Le violette (Pirro e Demetrio)

Francesco Conti: Il mio bel foco… Quella fiamma (formerly attributed Benedetto Marcello)

Giovanni Paisiello: Chi vuol la zingarella? (I zingari n fiera)e

Teresa Żylis-Gara

Giacomo Puccini: Il Principe Gualtiero, vostro padre (Suor Angelica). Teresa Żylis-Gara (Angelica); Fedora Barbieri (La Zia Principessa) [26 February 1977]

Barbieri and Italo Tajo featured on the cover of Opera News at the time of Barbieri’s final Met appearances

A Fedora Barbieri photo gallery

Two of Dick Marzollo’s recordings. I hope to feature the companion album of Arie antiche starring the charming Italian tenor Giacinto Prandelli on a future episode.

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