a study of classic singing traditions remaining in Italy
Stephen Hastings, Opera News, 28 March 1998 [excerpt]
[...] Other singers, however, have improved or perfected their technique in the course of their careers. One outstanding example is lyric tenor Giuseppe Sabbatini, who -- with the help of soprano Nancy Gustafson -- has freed his middle register of its bottled-up quality, becoming a supreme stylist. Yet he claims to feel isolated, with little sense of working within a tradition. He is grateful to his original teacher above all for "not ruining" his voice, rightly resentful of inconsiderate conductors (Bruno Campanella is a rare exception) who fail to take the greater power of twentieth-century instruments into account when translating nineteenth-century scores into sound, and justly infuriated with designers who impede tone projection and rebound with scrims and deep, anti-acoustic sets.
Sabbatini has found no one in Italy capable of matching the inspired role coaching offered by Janine Reiss in the French repertory. And he feels unhappy about standards of phrasing among his fellow tenors: "So many phrases are just thrown away. Many colleagues are not only reluctant to sing piano when indicated, but fail to realize that a note sung piano can have an enormous variety of meanings -- secret happiness or love, thoughtfulness, sadness, even hatred. Each role should have its own distinctive color. Alfredo must not have the same color as the Duke of Mantua, even though both parts were written for the same kind of voice, for the former is in love with one woman, while the latter wants to possess all women. We singers should try to use the whole range of colors available to us -- just as Callas did -- blending them continually. Only in this way can a technique truly evolve."
Sabbatini, with his exquisitely modulated line, expressively colored diction and spectacular messa di voce in the highest register (all recently demonstrated in La Scala performances of Faust, Lucia and La Traviata), is a rare singer by the standards of any age or country. Yet in his strong musical training (before becoming a singer, he was a professional double-bassist) and historical awareness (he has clearly listened carefully to the records of Gigli, Pertile and Bonci, and claims Mario as a model), he is nevertheless representative -- albeit at an exceptionally high level -- of the younger generation of Italian singers. [...]
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