A Celebration of Graziella Sciutti

L’Elisir d’Amore – Prendi, per me sei libero
Don Pasquale – Cheti, cheti immantinente
Siete Canciones populares españolas – Nana; Jota
Roméo et Juliette – Que fais-tu, blanche tourterelle
Dinorah – Villanelle des Deux Pâtres
Hasta la guitarra llora
Cinque, dieci … Se a caso madama … Se vuol ballare
Le nozze di Figaro – Crudel perchè finora
Balada para un Loco
Il barbiere di Siviglia – Largo al factotum
Falstaff – È sogno realtà?

Teresa Berganza (mezzo-soprano)
Luigi Alva (tenor)
Natasha Marsh (soprano)
Anna Maria Panzarella (soprano)
Mauro Buda (baritone)
Richard Morrison (baritone)
John Constable (piano)

Reviewed by: John T. Hughes

Reviewed: 7 April, 2006
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Yes, it was a concert, but perhaps the main purpose was to commemorate the life and career of Graziella Sciutti (1927-2001), the eximious Italian soprano leggiero who charmed opera-goers the world over in her long career.

Sciutti was a delightful exponent of such Mozart roles as Susanna, Zerlina and Despina, but if I were forced to choose just one Sciutti role it might be Carolina in Cimarosa’s “Il Matrimonio Segreto”, in which she was joined by Luigi Alva, her favourite partner, on stage and record.

Four of her pupils performed operatic excerpts at this Wigmore Hall recital, with John Constable accompanying.

Not surprisingly, Mozart came first, with Anna Maria Panzarella and Mauro Buda singing the opening scene of “Le nozze di Figaro”, with both artists reacting to each other as the situation demanded and Buda pacing across the stage as if measuring the characters’ room. Panzarella’s warm tone has always struck me as a ‘soprano mezzo’, if such a vocal category existed, and it made an effective contrast to Buda’s baritone and its slight cutting edge.

He was back later in the first half for a strongly voiced reading of Ford’s monologue from “Falstaff”, lacking, perhaps, the last touch in rounded tone. Panzarella returned for an unusual but welcome selection: the duet from Meyerbeer’s rarely encountered “Dinorah”, a lovely piece for two female voices twining around each other. Natasha Marsh’s high soprano almost rested on the soft cushion of sound provided by her colleague: a very pleasing rendition. Marsh had earlier given us a neatly, brightly sung “Prendi per me”. Finally in this half, Richard Morrison introduced himself with “Largo al factotum”; well in character, comfortably within his range and not too overdone.

We were back with Susanna, this time Marsh, to begin the second half, though Buda had metamorphosed from Figaro to Count Almaviva. I think Buda is vocally better suited to the former. Marsh’s perky Susanna contrasted well. Panzarella gave a winning performance of Stephano’s lovely song about the white dove, which she has sung at Covent Garden. It sits well in her voice, benefiting from her smooth delivery.

The last offering on the programme from the pupils was the Malatesta/Pasquale buffo duet. I thought Morrison, with his lighter, softer tone, would assume Malatesta. I was wrong. Perhaps that role is in Buda’s repertoire. They worked well together, and enough contrast existed in the respective voice to ‘separate’ the characters.

One member of the audience told me beforehand that he was looking forward to seeing and hearing the remaining two singers, as he had never done so in live performance. On came Luigi Alva to sing the song by Rosa Ayarza de Morales (1881-1969). When I interviewed Sciutti for my article “The Art of Graziella Sciutti” in Classic Record Collector (Spring 1997), she was so full of praise and affection for Alva (“we worked so well together on stage that everybody thought we had an affair”) that it was right and proper that he was paying a vocal tribute. At 79 this year, Alva produced supported and focussed tone in what was not the simplest song that he could have found. I doubt if I am the only person who would have liked another contribution from him.

Teresa Berganza was next, to sing the two Falla songs. (She added an unlisted item: the Piazzolla number.) Some intonation problems and a rather hard tone did not dampen the audience’s enthusiasm. The applause for both these respected artists was very much by way of expressing thanks for the great pleasure both have given over the years.

John Constable brought experience and support to the six singers. It must have been 30 years ago that I first saw him. He played an important part in this celebration.

A book has been published, “Graziella Sciutti by her friends”, which contains tributes from, among many othera, Hugues Cuenod (now 103), Christa Ludwig, Rolando Panerai (whom she described to me as “great fun”), Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Giuseppe Taddei. Also included are a chronology, discography and a list of broadcasts. There are some lovely photographs, as there were (in clearer definition) in the programme. Edited by Cecilia Viola, the book is available from Susan Sturrock, Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, London, SW7 2BS (e-mail: sstrurrock@rcm.ac.uk) at £15.00 (postage may be extra). The proceeds will go to the Graziella Sciutti Scholarship Fund at the RCM.

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