Carlo Tagliabue (1898-1978)
Just over 40 years of age in 1939, Tagliabue was one of those singers whose careers were denied their fulfilment on the international scene. He had become one of the most admired baritones in Italy, and so he was to remain for a good many years; but in England and the United States he was just beginning to be accepted as an artist of some distinction when war broke out, and then by the late 1940s he was vocally past his best. ''A good routine Rigoletto'' is how Harold Rosenthal placed his Covent Garden debut in 1938. The earliest of the records included here come from one year after that, and the last of them (chronologically) were made in 1946, when on his post-war return he had been promoted in Rosenthal's estimation, so that he was now ''an extremely effective Rigoletto''.
Judging from the monologue recorded in 1946, 'a good routine Rigoletto' is what he remained. Vocally, he is hampered somewhat by the relative weakness of his lower notes, but the voice is of fine quality in the upper-middle register and his long-held top G at the end rings out excitingly. As to characterization, the record suggests no particular insight or individuality. Indeed, playing a sequence of his recordings, each in a different role, one sees essentially only one face, its expression serious, often severe, but rarely changing from one person to another or even, with any subtlety, in response to changing moods. As a stylist he has the great merit of producing (though not consistently) an even line, as he does in the 'evening star' melody in Tannhauser, yet to the Ernani aria he brings no affectionate or imaginative touch, and in the cadenza of ''Il balen'', so highly praised by Lauri-Volpi, it surely shows little respect for sense when a breath is taken between ''dal'' and ''mio cor''. The best of him, I should say, is found in the Forza del destino excerpts, and throughout the recital it is a pleasure to hear such very clear diction. Transfers are good, though some of the Cetras have poor surfaces. A considerable rarity is the Pecheurs de perles record: more juice in the voice here, with some welcome softening, but again weak in the lower range and not very persuasive dramatically.'