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Neapolitan Songs
see end of review for track details
Giuseppe Di Stefano (tenor)
Orchestra/Dino Olivieri
rec. Milan, April 1953 - May 1957
NAXOS 8.111340 [78:56]
Experience Classicsonline

I remember strolling through a lantern-lit park in the town of Garda at the head of the lake one warm summer evening in 1986. I heard a tenor singing one of the most famous Neapolitan songs, Di Capua’s ’O sole mio, before noticing a crowded outdoor auditorium. The singer was Giuseppe Di Stefano, no less, then some 75 years old, the voice now a little strained but still remarkable and so very musical. He made his final appearance as the Emperor Altoum in Puccini’s Turandot in 1992 in Rome.

Giuseppe Di Stefano was, for me, one of the greatest tenor voices of the twentieth century. He was renowned as an intensely passionate opera singer, often partnering the equally fiery soprano, Maria Callas, particularly in Tosca. But he was equally at home in operetta and was an accomplished singer of lighter music bringing the same ardency and highly sensitive expressiveness into his singing of little gems such as the 21 songs on this album as to his roles at La Scala, Covent Garden and the Metropolitan.

The typical Neapolitan song is given to the male voice and is usually a love song - joyful or sad. Many are world-famous having been taken abroad by emigrants from Naples and southern Italy. All seem to reflect the warmth and bright sunshine of that area. Indeed, they seem to have a heightened significance and emotional appeal when heard in the cafés and theatres around the Bay of Naples in, for instance, Sorrento. All the songs are written and sung in the Neapolitan dialect. This collection includes many favourites including: ’O sole mio; Core ’ngrato; Torna a Surriento; Santa Lucia; Maria Marì and Passione. But there are others, maybe less well-known, that also tug at the heart-strings like: Silenzio catatore, Chiove and Autunno. In Santa Lucia luntana it is a boatman who is inspired to sing proudly and lovingly of the moon reflected on the waters of the bay. But it is not all sentimentality; one senses an angered lover in the tango-like rhythms of ’Na sera ’e maggio and ’O paese d’ ’o sole.

Dino Olivieri’s Orchestra provides bright and evocatively romantic accompaniments.

The six-page booklet has useful notes by David Patmore but it would have been helpful to have had the texts of the songs in Italian and English to appreciate just how beguilingly Di Stefano coloured his voice according to the sentiments of these lovely songs. Surely Naxos could have pointed us to a page of these texts on their web site?

The incomparable voice of Di Stefano - a wonderful nostalgic wallow and a memorable souvenir of the Bay of Naples.

Ian Lace

Naxos Historical review pages

Track details
Eduardo DI CAPUA (1864-1917)
O solo mio [3:39]; I’ te vurria vasà [3:48]; Maria, Marì [3:57]
Francesco Paolo TOSTI (1846-1916)
Marechiare [3:34].
Rodolfo FALVO (1874-1936)
Dicitencello vuie [3:34]
Ernesto De CURTIS (1875-1937)
Tu, ca nun chiagne! [3:07]; Torna a Surriento [3:23]; Voce ’e notte [3:32];
Autunno [4:34]; Senza nisciuno [3:00]
Salvatore CARDILLO (1874-1947)
Core ’ngrato [3:45]
Gaetano LAMA (1886-1950)
Silenzio cantatore [3:22]
Evemero NARDELLA (1879-1950)
Chiove [4:32]
Vincenzo D’ANNIBALE (1949- 1950)
’O paese d’ ’o sole [3:48]
E. A. MARIO (Giovanni Ermete GAETA, 1894-1950)
Santa Lucia luntana [3:50]
Mario PERSICO (1892-1977)
’E palumme [2:59]
Giuseppe CIOFFI (1907-1976)
’Na sera ’e maggio [3:24]
Teodoro COTTRAU (1827-1879)
Santa Lucia [4:45]
Ernesto TAGLIAFERRI * (1889-1937)/Nicola VALENTE (1853-1939)
Passione [4:44] Piscatore ’e pusilleco* [3:41]
Anonymous (att. Vincenzo BELLINI, 1801-1835)
Fenesta che lucive [3:57]

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