Franco Corelli & Renata Tebaldi
The Voice of Firestone

Renata Tebaldi & Franco Corelli
Concerts: The Voice of Firestone (1959/ 1963)
Label: KULTUR DVD 02434

Title: Renata Tebaldi & Franco Corelli 
Voice of Firestone CLASSIC PERFORMANCES
Year of release: March 2006 
Duration: 55' minutes
Color: Black & white
Performance: 10 (FC), 8 (RT) | Sound: 10 | Picture Quality: 6 | Importance: 8/10 (FC), 10 (RT)/

Performers: Renata Tebaldi & The Voice of Firestone Orchestra, conductor: Erich Leinsdorf.
Date: February 2, 1959.
Program:
 Introduction. 
Giacomo Puccini: Madama Butterfly "Orchestral excerpt Act II," 
"Un bel dì vedremo;" Tosca "Orchestral excerpts," "Vissi d'arte," La Bohème "Prelude Act III," "Donde lieta uscì." 
Ida Firestone: "In my garden."

Performers: Franco Corelli & The Voice of Firestone Orchestra, conductor: Erich Leinsdorf.
Date: June 6, 1963
Program: Introduction. 

Pietro Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana "Intanto amici qua... viva il vino spummefiante," "Mamma, quel vino e generoso..." 
Wolf-Ferrari: I gioielli della Madonna "Orchestral Dance of the Camorristi." 
Di Capua: "I'te vurria vasà." 
Giacomo Puccini: Turandot "Non piangere Liù."
D'Annibale: "O paese d' 'o sole."
Ida Firestone: "In my garden."

Franco Corelli & Renata Tebaldi | The Voice of Firestone

The Voice of Firestone telecast of June 2, 1963 is a true winner. Corelli appears in great voice and sings a varied, interesting program. All starts with the original introductory commercial, presenting Firestone as a company producing materials for your house and your car (or your tractor!), and these people, who manufactor all the nice products, proudly present you The Voice of Firestone! Followed by a lovely American kitch chorus that serves as the upbeat for the introduction of tonight's guest: "The world thrills to the brilliant ring of his voice, thrills to the exciting swining of his acting, his name is Franco Corelli! In the brief span of a decade he has brought new glamour to the art of the Italian tenor, received cheers from audiences the world over, . . . and installed his own name amidst this glittering firmament." The narrator is so enthusiastic that he in fact continues speaking after Franco starts his ringing "Intanto amici qua"! And what lovely singing comes from the stereo-set there and onwards in the (we assume) lyp-synched operatic arias: vibrant, luscious tones, passionate phrasing, and cardboard acting within a picturesque, traditional setting. Unfortunately, the only one who seems to be on stage without a proper costume is our hero, who looks every bit as if he arrived too late to the scene to slip into his proper outfit. The "Addio alla madre" (we assume his EMI version) significantly gains from the staged environment, where one actually sees this charismatic Turridu. The singing is glorious, full of drama and what the Italians call the tear within. And here, where he has to express grief and ill fated foreboding, he also gets the message across more easily with expressions and gestures. All in all, those two magnificently lyp-synched Cavalleria Rusticana fragments from this June 6, 1963 telecast, give us a fine idea of what Metropolitan Opera House tour audiences witnessed when he sang his first ever Turiddus on stage in Minneapolis (May 17, 1963) and Detroit (May 25, 1963)! 

By 1963, "I'te vurria vasà" was rapidly becoming a schlager in his repertoire, and here, in his second filmed excerpt (he sang it earlier on the Ed Sullivan Show as well), we can see & hear that it fit his voice like a glove, as does the lyp-synched "Non piangere Liù" from Puccini's Turandot – a filmed setting that I always preferred to the earlier rendition of this piece in the complete, 1958 telecast of it in the complete opera. Here the role has grown on him, while the EMI recording is better than than the earlier Italian soundtrack. And whereas the Voice of Firestone's cardboard set isn't any better than the oneused for the Italian movie, the costume used in this Firestone telecast is very convincing.

D'Annibale's lovelorn Italian song "O paese d' 'o Sole" is another dropped as if it had come from a shell on the beach; he tosses it out in a seemingly effortless fashion, accompanied by The Voice of Firestone's chorus of lovely girls & handsome guys, who sing along in the best American Broadway–musical tradition. Once again, the choral style is pure kitch, and this Music for the Millions approach is quintessentially what The Voice of Firestone was all about, but I believe we aren't any the lesser for it: somehow it brought out the best in many opera singers appearing on the show, most notably our hero here, whose only misstep comes while concluding with a song composed by Ida Firestone, "In my garden." The chorus seems to have a better knowledge of text and tune than the largely miming tenor, who does his best to survive the 30 obligatory seconds. Here Franco followed in the firmly established tradition for all guest artists to perform "In my garden" with the Firestone chorus as the show concluded each week.

***

The DVD also contains Renata Tebaldi's all-Puccini concert of February 2, 1959, featuring arias from Madama Butterfly, Tosca and La Bohème. Even for a Corelli fan buying the DVD for the tenor, Renata's performance is a fine filler (honesty requires us to admit that it comes before the Corelli concert!), showing the diva in her late prime, and with a lot of her early fifties brio intact. Concerning Tebaldi, we gladly quote the established critic Ira Siff here, who gave a fine decription of this concert elsewhere: "Tebaldi had opened the Met season in Tosca that season (and made the cover of TIME), and here she is in full costume, perched on the edge of a couch, singing 'Vissi d'arte' beautifully, as she always did in performances of this opera. Don't look for a Callas-like culmination of Tosca's intense suffering; rather, she offers a simple, beautifully vocalized prayer. Likewise, Mimì's 'Donde lieta uscì' is deeply touching; Tebaldi simply is Mimì even though she may not penetrate music and text with the layered psychological insight of a Scotto. Erich Leinsdorf was brought in to conduct for the diva, and between arias he leads the orchestra in snippets of Puccini's orchestral music from these three operas."

And, in between arias and intermezzos, aren't we happy to learn all about the new Dry-Store batteries that do not deterioriate while being stored, because acid is not added until it is installed in your car – thanks to Firestone! Well, I'd like to say that we need companies like the Firestone of old today, promoting arts and trying to sell good batteries along with it: Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! But... where are the other Corelli Voice of Firestone appearances on this 55 minute DVD? If there is any point of criticism here, it is that not all his material has been released on this dvd – RS.

TECHNICAL NOTE

Compared with what we had for this particular Corelli Firestone Concert in the video era, this Kulturhaus dvd is a splendid piece of work when it comes to remastering and picture quality, although this is of course not up to today's HD-standards. But those interested in either Corelli, Tebaldi or both, will enjoy this without a doubt, as I did: enchanting! – RS.

***

For streaming sample clippings we refer you to the Filmography page.

Upcoming and past bookpresentations

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  • April 10, 2012 UK - London (Hotel)
  • March 19, 2008 The Netherlands, Amsterdam - Weteringschans 29