Last month we reviewed the 1954 Rigoletto, not an opera one normally associates with the thrilling tenor, but this recording of Verdi’s Otello from the same year on Decca’s budget Eloquence label features Mario del Monaco in a role which fits him like a glove and which he made very much his own in the 1950s and ‘60s. And it pairs him with Tebaldi as Desdemona.
You can tell straight away, despite the obvious drawbacks of a mono recording, exactly why this partnership set the opera world alight for two decades. Their musical chemistry is still potent 60 years on. Alberto Erede conducts the magnificent Accademia di Santa Cecilia with dramatic verve and gusto. Italian baritone Aldo Protti, so compelling as Rigoletto on the companion disc, is equally impressive as the wilily conniving Iago, while tenor Piero de Palma (Cassio) and mezzo Luisa Ribachi (Emilia) give great support.
But this is all about Tebaldi and Del Monaco. They had recorded Aida two years earlier so their partnership was well established, but the Decca executives must have been rubbing their hands with glee to have found such a magnificent double act whose true worth would flower with the emergence of stereo recording. This is definitely a collector’s item.