Episode 180. Anna Moffo Reappraised

Episode 180. Anna Moffo Reappraised



The Italian-American lyric coloratura soprano Anna Moffo (1932-2006) is, for many, one of the great singers of the past century. My first exposure to this artist was one of two, frankly, disastrous recordings released in the mid-1970s, in which the voice was a mere shadow of its former self, and in which her vocal defects and mannerisms had overtaken the intrinsic beauty of her voice. But there are so many exceptional qualities to Moffo as an artist, musician, and media star, that I felt compelled to do a frank reappraisal of her contribution to the lyric art. And am I glad that I did! I discovered an artist of great integrity who, in her best work, attained a similar level to any of the other great singers performing during that period. Unlike any other opera singer that I can think of, she conquered three distinct markets with equal success: first in Italy (where she rose to overnight stardom in the late 1950s and went on in the 1960s to become the star of her own eponymous television series); then in the United States throughout the 1960s; and finally, in the late 1960s and 70s, in Germany. But hers is also a cautionary tale of “too much, too soon” and the potentially destructive power of the media which has significance also in today’s opera world. Throughout the episode, live and studio examples of Moffo’s work, both bad and (mostly) good over the course of more than twenty years, are offered to support my discussion of her importance and influence as an artist, one that continues to this day. Vocal guest stars include tenors Carlo Bergonzi, Rudolf Schock, Giuseppe di Stefano, and Sergio Franchi, and musical collaborators include Tullio Serafin, Gerald Moore, Lorin Maazel, Hans Rosbaud, Fernando Previtali, Lehman Engel, Oliviero de Fabritiis, René Leibowitz, Kurt Eichhorn, Berislav Klobučar, and Franco Ferrara. For those who love Moffo, for those who hate her, and for those who find themselves somewhere in between, this episode is (dare I say it?) required listening.

For those who want to read a heartfelt appraisal of Moffo’s significance from someone who knew her, here is a blogpost by the late Albert Innaurato, who was not only a fan, but a friend of the soprano: http://mrsjohnclaggartssadlife.blogspot.com/2014/05/anna-moffo.html

Here’s an interview with Moffo from 1990 by the always fabulous and erudice Bruce Duffie: http://www.bruceduffie.com/moffo.html

And here is Moffo interviewed (in German) in 1990 by August Everding for his German television program Da Capo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOolPbocY6M


The record that ruined Anna Moffo for me.

Charles Gounod, Jules Barbier, Michel Carré [after William Shakespeare]: Je veux vivre dans le rêve (Roméo et Juliette). Anna Moffo, Peter Maag, New Philharmonia Orchestra [1975]

Anna Moffo, Anton Guadagno, Connecticut Opera Orchestra [live Hartford CT 15.XII.67]

Richard Strauss, Adolf von Schack: Breit’ über mein Haupt, Op. 19/2. Anna Moffo, Gerald Moore [1972]

Georges Bizet, Henri Meilhac, Ludovic Halévy [after Prosper Mérimée]: En vain pour éviter (Carmen). Anna Moffo, Arleen Augér, Jane Berbié, Lorin Maazel, Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin [1970]

Giacomo Puccini, Giuseppe Giacosa, Luigi Illica [after Victorien Sardou]: Il tuo sangue o il mio amore (Tosca). Anna Moffo, Anton Coppola, St. Petersburg Orchestra [live Tampa 1977]

Giacomo Puccini, Giuseppe Giacosa, Luigi Illica: Ancora un passo or via (Madama Butterfly). Anna Moffo, Erich Leinsdorf, Orchestra e Coro dell’Opera di Roma [1958]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Lorenzo da Ponte: Vedrai, carino (Don Giovanni). Anna Moffo, Hans Rosbaud, Orchestre de la Société des Concerts Lamoureux [live Aix 1956]

Giuseppe Verdi, Arrigo Boito [after William Shakespeare]: Sul fil d’un soffio etesio (Falstaff). Anna Moffo, Tullio Serafin, Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro di Milano della RAI [RAI telecast 1956]

Gaetano Donizetti, Salvadore Cammarano [after Walter Scott]: Spargi d’amaro pianto (Lucia di Lammermoor). Anna Moffo, Fernando Previtali, Orchestra di Milano della RAI [telecast 1959]

Vincenzo Bellini, Carlo Pepoli: Vien, diletto (I puritani). Anna Moffo, Mario Rossi, Orchestra di Milano della RAI [telecast 1959]

George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin: The Man I Love. Anna Moffo, Piero Umiliani e il suo complesso [Piero Umiliani, Gino Marinacci, Berto Pisano, Giuseppe Conte, Livio Cervellieri] [1960]

Anna Moffo, Mario Lanfranchi: Ombre. Anna Moffo, Billy Smith e la sua Orchestra [1964]

Piero Piccioni, Antonio Amurri: Dipenderà da te. Anna Moffo, Orchestra conducted by Gianni Ferrio [1968]

Rudolf Friml, Otto Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II: Indian Love Call [When I’m Calling You] (Rose Marie). Anna Moffo, Richard Fredericks, Lehman Engel, RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra [1962]

Victor Herbert, Henry Blossom: Kiss Me Again (Mlle. Modiste). Anna Moffo, Skitch Henderson, RCA Victor Orchestra [1965]

Oscar Straus, Rudolf Bernauer, Leopold Jacobson [English translation by Stanislaus Stange] [after George Bernard Shaw]: My Hero [Mein Held] (The Chocolate Soldier [Der tapfere Soldat]). Anna Moffo, Sergio Franchi, Orchestra arranged and conducted by Henri René [1963]

Franz Lehár, Paul Knepler, Fritz Löhner-Beda: Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß (Giuditta). Anna Moffo, Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Hans Carste [ca. 1969]

Emmerich Kálmán, Julius Brammer, Alfred Grünwald: Sag’ ja, mein Lieb, sag’ ja… Einmal möcht’ ich wieder tanzen (Gräfin Mariza). Anna Moffo, Rudolf Schock, Werner Schmidt-Boelcke, Berliner Symphoniker [1971]

Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Paul Schott [pseudonym of Erich Korngold and Julius Korngold, after Georges Rodenbach]: Glück, das mir verblieb [Mariettas Lied] (Die tote Stadt). Anna Moffo, Bruno Canino [live Wien 1971]

Anna Moffo and Maria Callas at the La Boheme recording sessions, summer 1956

Gian Francesco Malipiero, Jacopone da Todi: O uibilo del core, che fai cantar d’amore! (Dialoghi con Jacopone da Todi). Anna Moffo, Gino Gorini, Sergio Lorenzi [1959]

Richard Hundley, John Orrick: Wild Plum. Anna Moffo, unknown pianist [live Philadelphia 1967]

Gerald Moore and Anna Moffo

Richard Strauss, Heinrich Hart: Cäcilie, Op. 27/2. Anna Moffo, Gerald Moore [1972]

Giacomo Puccini, Luigi Illica, Giuseppe Giacosa: Tu, Suzuki, che sei tanto buona (Madama Butterfly). Anna Moffo, Miti Truccato Pace, Afro Poli, Lelia Dori, Oliviero de Fabritiis, Orchestra di Milano della RAI [1956 telecast]

Vogliatemi bene (Madama Butterfly). Anna Moffo, James King, Kurt Eichhorn, Rundfunkorchester München [1973]

Gaetano Donizetti, Salvadore Cammarano [after Walter Scott]: Veranno a te sull’aure (Lucia di Lammermoor). Anna Moffo, Carlo Bergonzi, Georges Prêtre, RCA Italiana Opera Orchestra [1965]

Tu che vedi il pianto mio (Lucia di Lammermoor). Anna Moffo, Giulio Fioravanti, Carlo Felice Cillario, Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma [1971]

Giacomo Puccini, Giuseppe Adami, Renato Simoni [after Carlo Gozzi]: Tanto amore segreto (Turandot). Anna Moffo, Leopold Stokowski, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra [live 04.III.61]

Giacomo Puccini, Giuseppe Adami [after Alfred Maria Willner, Heinz Reichert]: Ore dolci e divine (La Rondine). Anna Moffo, Francesco Molinari-Pradelli, RCA Italiana Opera Orchestra [1966]

Jules Massenet, Henri Meilhac, Philippe Gille [after Abbé Prévost]: N’est-ce plus ma main? (Manon). Anna Moffo, Giuseppe di Stefano, René Leibowitz, RCA Italiana Opera Orchestra [1964]

Giuseppe Verdi, Francesco Maria Piave [after Alexandre Dumas]: Teneste la promessa… Addio del passato (La traviata). Anna Moffo, Berislav Klobučar, Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper [live Wien 27.X.64]

Follie, follie!… Sempre libera (La traviata). Anna Moffo, Kurt Eichhorn, Rundfunkorchester des Bayersichen Rundfunks [ca. 1972]

Giuseppe Verdi, Temistocle Solera [after Friedrich Schiller]: Sempre all’alba ed alla sera (Giovanna d’Arco). Anna Moffo, Franco Ferrara, RCA Italiana Orchestra [1962]

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