Iva Pacetti (1898-1981)
Among collectors, Pacetti’s name is hardly one to conjure with. Apart from her Nedda in the complete Gigli Pagliacci (HMV, 12/34) from which there are two samples here (plus Gigli’s irreplaceable account of Arlecchino’s Serenade, issued separately), her representation on record was hardly generous. A singer who included Donna Anna, Leonore, Norma, Imogene, Aida, Minnie, Turandot, Louise, Thais, Zaza, Kundry, Isolde and the Marschallin among her 62 roles is one to be reckoned with. So is a soprano who sings with such extraordinary conviction in such strong, spinto tones. Here, in her Norma, which she sang at the Maggio Musicale in Florence in 1935, one catches the Muzio-like conviction and vulnerability of her voice and manner, the opening phrase “Deh! non volerli vittime” tells us almost as much of Norma’s predicament as does Callas in the same passage, and in Verdi, notably “Pace, pace”, she is no less appealing, but her technique isn’t quite equal to the other Leonora’s Act 4 aria. Unfortunately these 1928 Columbias don’t flatter her vibrant, exciting voice.
In verismo, she deploys her excitingly individual tone to moving effect. When preparing my chapter for Opera on Record 3 (Hutchinson: 1984) on La Gioconda I failed to locate either her “Suicidio!” or final scene with the estimable Luigi Montesanto: hearing them now I realize the oversight was indeed regrettable. Pacetti, who must have been a moving actress on stage, makes Gioconda’s outburst as desperate as almost any of her rivals and she effectively fakes seductiveness in the opera’s denouement with the despicable Barnaba. She is equally involving in La Wally’s “Ebben?” No wonder she was so much admired in Italy in the late 1920s and 1930s when she frequently appeared at La Scala. What a pity illness prevented her accepting an invitation (sent at the insistence of Bruno Walter and Vittorio Gui) to sing Lady Macbeth at Glyndebourne in 1938.
In some ways the most important item here is the last. Pacetti sang the Dyer’s Wife at the first Italian/La Scala performance of