The Unknown Recordings
Artist: Franco Corelli
3. Verdi: Macbeth "O figli, o figli miei!... Ah, la paterna mano"
4. Verdi: Rigoletto "La donna è mobile"
5. Verdi: Ernani "Mercè, diletti amici...Come rugiada al cespite"
9. Catalani: Loreley "Nel verde Maggio"
11. Verdi: Il trovatore "Di quella pira"
Sometimes one has waited so long for a certain hidden treasure that the final result can't possibly meet the heightened expectations. Franco Corelli | The Unknown Recordings is a perfect example. Most titles on this legendary unfinished 1967 album are unique in his studio discography, while some were also available in live recordings as well. An aria from Verdi's Luisa Miller was perhaps not the best choice pick for the opening tune. Corelli is ill at ease in the unfamiliar piece and lisps his way through the aria. This tendency to "lisping" was a general criticism sometimes leveled at Corelli's studio recordings and this recital unfortunately seems to bring the practice to the fore more than usual. Some uneasy moments are perhaps due to the uneven sound balance. The latter problem perhaps serves to show the preliminary state of these arias, who are at best in the phase of sketching.
Still there are some true gems to be found among this album of unfinished cuts, especially the arias from operas that reaped him his greatest stage laurels such as Verdi's La forza del destino and Ernani, or Gounod's Roméo. Perhaps the remake of his Cetra recording of 'La donna è mobile' is somewhat odd, although it was a favored jolly joker at his concerts. In spite of Corelli's affinity with it, the Rigoletto aria is arguably his worst performance on the disc and one of the worst he ever recorded, but he has his revenge in the magnificent recordings of 'Ah, la paterna mano' from Verdi's Macbeth and 'Nel verde maggio' from Catalani's Loreley. Regarding the latter, some close reading of the booklet is required, for it is not completely clear where he sings with which orchestra and where with an orchestral tape from 1958. The asterisks indicate track 10 and 11, but the notes indicate 9 ("Nel verde maggio") and 10. When it comes to the unique Catalani aria this one clearly seems to bring back the fifties, though it is listed as conducted by Ferraris which would place it at a later date. But the only constant factor, the ballo arianr. 10 is not much help in comparison, as Franco's voice doesn't resemble the sound on the Catalani aria in the least. Yet a closer look may help to unrevel things, as Corelli actually seems to have recorded the vocal part of 'Nel verde maggio' in 1964, over the mentioned orchestral tape, which explains the enormous difference in acoustics and volume compared to the remaining recordings on this 1967 recital.
Corelli himself wasn't happy with this unfinished recital. He was audibly not in optima forma and abandoned the project with the intention of redoing some of the aria's later, which never materialized. The preliminary state of things is overly clear when listening to the Bohème aria that is missing the opening measures and begins with the phrase 'In povertà mia lieta'. Oddly enough, he is quoted as declaring himself content with this 2003 release on page 4 of the booklet. Strange as this may sound, there is at least a bit of truth in this quote, as he once proudly presented the Macbeth and Bohème arias from this recital on a radio show as far back as the late seventies. And indeed there are still a few unique Corelli characteristics to be found on this album, although some remain a matter of taste: those who love violent singing will not be disappointed. Basically testing his voice in first takes, Corelli throws in a string of unchained neurotic top notes along with an unbridled masculine approach that will take the breath away of those who love this style of singing. Another bewildering effect is the weight of his voice in 'Nel verde maggio', which sounds as if the Apennines Mountains are floating away on the Adriatic sea in spite of their massive weight - RS.