The Emperor Tibbett

Author: 
Alan Blyth

The Emperor Tibbett

  • (The) Emperor Jones
  • (The) King's Henchman
  • Rigoletto, ~, Cortigiani, vil razza dannata
  • (Un) ballo in maschera, '(A) masked ball', ~, Eri tu che macchiavi
  • Falstaff, ~, È sogno? o realtà
  • (Il) trovatore, ~, Il balen del suo sorriso
  • Simon Boccanegra, Suona ogni labbro il mio nome
  • Simon Boccanegra, Oh de' Fieschi implacata
  • Simon Boccanegra, Plebe! Patrizi!
  • Simon Boccanegra, ~, M'ardon le tempia
  • Simon Boccanegra, ~, Come un fantasima
  • Otello, ~, Non ti crucciar
  • Otello, ~, Vanne! la tua meta
  • Otello, ~, Credo in un Dio crudel
  • Otello, ~, Ciò m'accora...
  • Otello, ~, Tu?! Indietro! fuggi!
  • Otello, ~, Ora e per sempre
  • Otello, Era la notte (Dream)
  • Otello, ~, Oh! mostruosa colpa!
  • Otello, ~, Ah! mille vite
  • Otello, ~, Si, pel ciel (Oath Duet)
  • Tosca, Tre sbirri (Te Deum)
  • Tosca, ~, Già, mi dicon venal
  • (Il) Tabarro, '(The) Cloak', ~, Scorri, fiume eterno (original version of Michele
  • Pagliacci, 'Players', Si può? (Prologue)
  • Andrea Chénier, ~, Nemico della Patria?
  • Hérodiade, ~, Vision fugitive
  • Faust, ~, O sainte médaille
  • Faust, ~, Avant de quitter ces lieux
  • Tannhäuser, ~, Wie Todesahnung
  • Tannhäuser, ~, O du mein holder Abendstern
  • (The) Rogue Song, The white dove

To hear the voices of five of the most distinguished Verdians of any age, Rethberg, Martinelli, Tibbett, Warren and Pinza, at one and the same time, in very reasonable sound, is a treat indeed. That's what you can enjoy here in the Act 1 finale, the Council Chamber scene, from the live, 1939 broadcast of Simon Boccanegra taken from a Metropolitan opera staging. That, and the duets between Tibbett's Boccanegra and Pinza's Fiesco make one keen to hear the performance complete. Indeed, as the rest of this issue is a bit of a curate's egg, it might have been more worthwhile for Pearl to have issued that famous broadcast in its entirety (perhaps they can still be urged to do so). In the meantime enjoy Tibbett's deeply moving, patricianly sung Boccanegra, Pinza's nonpareil of a Fiesco and glimpses of Rethberg's sovereign style as Amelia and Martinelli's intensity as Gabriele.
The extracts from Act 2 of a 1941 Met performance of Otello are also compelling. Both these sets of excerpts appeared on Pearl's two-LP issue devoted to Tibbett, and the whole of Otello is also available on CD ((CD) GEMMCD9267). Now I have heard the even more notable 1938 Met Otello on a recent CD reissue (Music and Arts/Harmonia Mundi—to be reviewed later), which shows that both Martinelli and Tibbett (particularly the tenor) had vocally deteriorated in the three years intervening between the two accounts. None the less, the 1941 reading catches much of the concentration and subtlety in both singers' interpretations.
The rest is a bit of a rag-bag in varying sound. It's ingenuous of Pearl to imply some of their tracks have only just come to light as all are listed in the 1977-8 Record Collector discography and have been heard before. Of the Verdi items the most important, the unpublished Victor ''Cortigiani'' of 1936 has, unfortunately, been rendered worthless by being transferred a tone too high. The broadcast of Ford's Monologue (Falstaff) would be more valuable if we hadn't been given the previously unpublished 1926 performance by RCA on a comparatively recent CD (3/90), in superior sound. That disc also has a better transfer of Tibbett's finely phrased and moving ''Eri tu?''.
Tibbett created the title-role in The Emperor Jones. To judge from the finale at the start of the first CD and the studio-made extract on the RCA disc it must have been a stupendously histrionic achievement, but the piece itself is not up to much musically. He also created King Eadgar in The King's Henchman; again, the music hardly seems worth remembering: it's rather like Delius with water. The off-the-air performances of Scarpia's ''Gia! mi dicon venal'', Michele's discarded aria from Il tabarro and ''Nemico della patria'' are significant additions to the Tibbett CD discography but more important than these are his classic versions of Valentin's aria and Wolfram's hymn to the evening star: they were basic elements in my original 78 collection and their attraction, as examples of smooth, golden tone poised on a perfect line, hasn't staled with the years.
The final item, ''The white dove'' by Lehar, demonstrates Tibbett's soft-grained voice and control of dynamics at their most beguiling when he was at the peak of his career: here Victor caught his voice to perfection. Inevitably there is some overlap with the RCA disc, where the transfers are more smoothly done. Tibbett admirers will want both—and perhaps Pearl's earlier disc ((CD) GEMMCD9307). Anyone who starts to listen to his records will surely not be content with one disc, but will want much more, he was undoubtedly one of the century's greatest baritones.'

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