The 7 Baritones: 7 Decades of Gianni Schicchi Recordings

Giacomo Puccini’s comic opera Gianni Schicchi, although collectively within Il trittico, is now the most performed of the trio. It was first performed within the trio of one-act operas in 1918, at the Metropolitan Opera. Puccini intended for these pieces to be kept in their trilogy form, however after 1921, standalone performances of Gianni Schicchi began to be programmed. The title character is an integral part to any recording of the opera, so we’ll review some of the finest leading men who have sung the part of Gianni Schiccini over the past seven decades. We’ve tried to link excerpts from this famous opera wherever possible, but sometimes, we’ve had to draw on other impressive arias in the canon!

  1. Italo Tajo – Metropolitan Opera – 1949

The first ever recording of Gianni Schicchi was of a live performance at the Met Opera in 1949. The Italian bass, Italo Tajo was the leading man in this production, and after taking on many other leading roles at the Met in the 1940s (including Figaro and Don Pasquale), his speciality became performing roles. His powerful lower range put him at the top of the game in twentieth century opera.

  1. Tito Gobbi – Teatro dell’Opera di Roma – 1958

The title character of Gianni Schicchi is sought after by baritone and bass singers, which is why so many internationally-recognised opera singers have recorded the part. In the 1950s there were four major recordings of Gianni Schicchi, with two of those being in 1958. The second of the two was with the Italian baritone, Tito Gobbi. This recording was taken from a performance at the newly renovated Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. Above is a later version from 1978.

  1. Fernando Corena – Maggio Musicale Fiorentino – 1962

Often regarded as one of the leading operatic bass singers of his time, Fernando Corena recorded Gianni Schicchi two times. The first was in 1958 with at the Met, the second was at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino festival in Florence in 1962. He specialised in opera buffa characters, and he gained international acclaim for his portrayal of characters such as Don Alfonso (Cosí fan tutte), Benoit (La bohéme) and Gianni Schicchi.

  1. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau – Bayerische Staatsoper – 1973

This German baritone recorded many Italian operas in his singing career, including Verdi’s Rigoletto and Don Carlos, Puccini’s Tosca and Gianni Schicchi. His recording of this title role was taken from a live recording of a performance of the opera at the Nationaltheater in Munich, 1973. This was the second recording of this opera to be sung in German.

  1. Rolando Panerai – Muncher Rundfunkorchester – 1986

After the 1970s saw six major recordings of Gianni Schicchi, the 1980s only has two recordings of the opera. In 1986, the Italian bass, Rolando Panerai recorded the title role with the Muncher Rundfunkorchester. Again, Panerai is known for his comic roles, but specifically in Italian opera. Panerai became an exponent of Gianni Schicchi, where he performed this role for many years, even as recent as 2011 at age 87!

  1. José van Dam – London Symphony Orchestra – 1998

In the late 1990s the Belgian bass-baritone José van Dam recorded this title role with the prestigious London Symphony Orchestra. Dam has recorded many operas including Bizet’s Carmen and Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia.

  1. Andrew Slater – English Touring Opera – 2018

You’ll have to hear this one in person to understand how impressive it is! Having sung professionally for over a quarter of a decade, Andrew is at home singing low voice roles of nobility or malevolence which abound in the repertoire. He is also comfortable singing the part of the rotund, comedic bloke! For a full list of productions left in this Spring 2018 tour, and your rapidly diminishing chances to hear Andrew in person, click here. To listen more to Andrew ahead of your visit, go to his website here.

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© Alex Burns 2018
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