About "Recitar Cantando" or Giacinto Prandelli

In 1975 Bongiovanni publishers came out with a compact disc of music by Giacinto Prandelli, who had been singing since 1940 and was famous for his exquisite delivery and natural manner of speaking and singing.

This compact disc includes some pieces recorded in the studio and some recorded live: they are pages by authors of operas, scenes from Donizetti, Ponchielli, Puccini, Massenet, and there are two arias, by Giordano and by Gluck.

We have heard this record and we have met Giacinto Prandelli, a youthful man, disenchanted, who shuns stardom completely. Today, as at the peak of his career, he tackles the art with the seriousness, the calmness and the lucidity of a born professional, focusing fully on study and style, without worrying about his public image, more than ignoring, not noticing current forms of shameless or slovenly publicity. Was he right to act thus? Who knows? In life each person acts according to his or her own nature. There are those who steal, those who make mischief, those who never cease talking about themselves; there are people who work, believe in certain principles, cultivate ideals and pursue their aims without heeding the uproar all around. In art as in any other profession.

Prandelli sang at the same time as Del Monaco, Di Stefano and Corelli. He was a grand seigneur of a tenor who never considered sounds detached from expression (this should be the most natural thing in the world for a singer, yet few are those who put this concept into practice), a bel canto performer then considered of classical schooling, who displays the style of the greats of the past. In effect, if you listen to pieces that require skilful chiselling, he is completely at ease. He is an actor who sings at the same time, and with such skill that he has been compared to the great Pertile in his way of delivering, of getting into character, of believing in the acted word and making it credible for the listener. He tells us about his career, his repertoire, and we have the feeling that he actually pursued two careers: on one hand light operas, exploiting his natural vocal qualities; on the other a stronger, more dramatic repertoire.

What is the explanation for this? Giacinto Prandelli tells us how he started out during the war in 1940 in Bergamo, followed immediately in 1941 by RAI concerts that brought him widespread fame – and straight to the best theatres, bypassing the usual endless auditioning process.

That wartime era, while it conditioned many young career seekers, paradoxically offered certain promising singers much greater opportunities to make headway. As early as 1942 he was already singing with exceptional partners: Rosetta Pampanini (Wally) and Carlo Tagliabue, and in 1945 with Tancredi Pasero (Faust) under the direction of Arturo Lucon. He told me the directors were already choosing him for trickier parts than expected due to his vocal tone colour, precisely because of his skills in interpretation. He thus found it difficult to answer when I asked him whether he identified more with his operatic repertoire or his veristic one. Then the matter of youth came up: «Was it harder for a young man then, or is it harder today now that provincialism has disappeared?» He tells me it has never been easy for anyone to make his way. Those who start now have the advantage of competitions through which to make themselves known, and there are probably more ways of getting straight into the theatres, which has the drawback of much harsher competition. Only the exceptionally gifted – those with sound preparation as well as out-of-the-ordinary skills – are successful. Even languages are more demanding than once upon a time, his Werther, for instance, which he sang in Italian at La Scala and elsewhere in Italy, and in French at the Met, and the same went for Manon, which he performed in numerous locations opposite unforgettable partners: Victoria De Los Angeles (in Barcelona), Rosanna Carteri (in Los Angeles), Dorothy Kirsten (in San Francisco). Not to mention Wagner, with Lohengrin in Italian in Parma, conducted by Capuana. It should not be forgotten that Prandelli was the first Peter Grimes at La Scala, though in Italian, as he is the first to point out; despite being asked to play the same role at Covent Garden shortly afterwards, he declined as it would have meant performing in English.

Like a true personality, while other great colleagues delighted their fans with their traditional repertoires, Prandelli went ahead with a modern and contemporary repertoire as well, with Mulé’s Dafni, Respighi’s La Fiamma, Rossellini’s Il Vortice and La Guerra, Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake together with a certain Ingrid Bergman, and Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites, which earned him great praise from the author himself.

In short, a career in bel canto (as shown by the arias by Giordano and Gluck on this record), another as a singer-cum-actor with a veristic repertoire, and modern opera tagged on as well. A fine example for a young man. Satisfy the masses or the elite? Aim for purity of art or popularity? Each one has his own forma mentis, his own modus vivendi, a certain style of singing and of living. Prandelli, it is true, is less popular than others, but certainly no less interesting.

The good, the excellent voices that pursue their careers hedonistically, concentrating purely on pureness of sound, often end up by stabbing themselves in the foot.

Artists dig their own furrows, to show others that it is not easy to follow in their footsteps, impossible if you rely merely on what mother nature has generously bestowed. Technique and style withstand the test of time; they remain up to date. Like Giacinto Prandelli, an elegant middle-aged man, an excellent singer, a true artist.

(from Il Corriere del Teatro, June 1976)

Giuseppe Pintorno