Episode 48. Cesare Siepi (Crossover Classics IV)

Episode 48. Cesare Siepi: Easy to Love (Crossover Classics IV)



Last month marked the tenth anniversary of the death of the great Italian basso Cesare Siepi, one of the most important basses of the twentieth century, after such figures as Nazzareno de Angelis, Tancredi Pasero, and, particularly, Ezio Pinza, the latter, like Siepi, particularly associated with the title role of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. His dashing good looks, solid technique, sonorous voice and appealing artistry, placed him in the forefront of the opera world, particularly in the 1950s through the 1970s. In this episode, rather than his celebrated Mozart and Verdi portrayals, however, we will focus primarily on his 1958 Decca/London album, Easy to Love: The Songs of Cole Porter. Siepi also made two appearances on Broadway, including 1962’s nearly-forgotten Bravo, Giovanni, from which we hear two excerpts. Other musical selections in this episode include two operatic arias, several favorites from the Neapolitan song repertoire, and live and television performances from Brahms to Sigmund Romberg. Revisiting this artist, and particularly his spot-on Cole Porter performances, is a nostalgic journey for me, and I hope to convey to you his enormous appeal.


All Cole Porter songs heard in this episode are from the album pictured above, Easy to Love: The Songs of Cole Porter, in which Cesare Siepi is accompanied by The Roland Shaw Orchestra.

Virginia Bruce

Cole Porter: I’ve Got You under My Skin (Born to Dance). This song was introduced in the 1936 Eleanor Powell film Born to Dance, in which it was sung by Virginia Bruce (pictured above).

Janet Blair

Cole Porter: You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To (Something to Shout About). This song was introduced in the 1943 film, Something to Shout About, in which it was sung by Don Ameche and Janet Blair (pictured above).

Ezio Pinza

Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II: Some Enchanted Evening (South Pacific).  Television appearance, 1957. This song, of course, was introduced by Siepi’s forerunner and compatriot, the great Ezio Pinza.

Paolo Tosti: Non t’amo più. Orchestra conducted by Cesare Galliano [1948 recording]

Renato Brogi: Visione veneziana. Orchestra conducted by Cesare Galliano [1948 recording]

With Eugenia Fernandi and Rosalind Elias in Nabucco, Metropolitan Opera 1960

Giuseppe Verdi: Tu sul labbro (Nabucco). Alberto Erede, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia [1954 recording]

Vincenzo Bellini: Vi ravviso… Tu non sai (La sonnambula). Franco Capuana, Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI, Coro Cetra [1952 recording]

Luigi Denza: Funiculi, funicula. Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Dino di Stefano [1962 recording]

Eduardo di Capua, Alfredo Mazzucchi: I’te vurria vasà. Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Dino di Stefano [1962 recording]

Nelson Eddy

Cole Porter: In the Still of the Night (Rosalie). This perennial favorite was introduced by Nelson Eddy in the 1937 film Rosalie.

Ethel Merman (What? You didn’t recognize her? Look again!)

Cole Porter: I Get a Kick out of You (Anything Goes). This song was introduced by the one, the only, Ethel Merman.

Cole Porter: Easy to Love (cut from Anything Goes; inserted into Born to Dance). The song was originally written for William Gaxton, who was unhappy with the song’s wide range. Cut from that musical, it resurfaced in the aforementioned Born to Dance where it was introduced by Frances Langford and the always effervescent Eleanor Powell. (Also by some character named James Stewart, but (don’t hate me!) I’m not a fan.)

Alfred Drake and Patricia Morison.

Cole Porter: Wunderbar (Kiss Me, Kate). Alfred Drake and the recently departed Patricia Morison originally introduced this deliciously ersatz Viennese number in Kiss Me, Kate (which in fact is one of the top three favorite US-American musicals in Germany).

Cesare Siepi in recital.

Johannes Brahms: Vergebliches Ständchen, Op. 84/4. Leo Taubman, piano (live, Salzburg, 27 July 1956)

Siepi in a still from the 1952 Voice of Firestone telecast.

Sigmund Romberg, Oscar Hammerstein II: One Alone (The Desert Song). The Voice of Firestone telecast, 20 October 1952

Milton Schafer, Ronnie Graham: The Argument (Bravo, Giovanni). George S. Irving; Orchestra conducted by Anton Coppola

Milton Schafer, Ronnie Graham: We Won’t Discuss It (Bravo, Giovanni). David Opatoshu; Orchestra conducted by Anton Coppola

Cole Porter: Night and Day (Gay Divorce). The song was introduced by Fred Astaire in the 1932 musical Gay Divorce (renamed The Gay Divorcee for the 1934 film version co-starring Ginger Rogers.

Cole Porter: So In Love (Kiss Me, Kate)

Nan Wynn

Cole Porter: Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye (Seven Lively Arts). The song was introduced by Nan Wynn (pictured above) and Jere McMahon in Billy Rose’s 1943 revue Seven Lively Arts.

Cesare Siepi as Arrigo Boito’s Mefistofele.
Surely one of the campiest record covers ever.

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