Bellini : NormaLa Coruna, 1970 (Audio)
Director: Loris Gavarini
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The Italian mezzo-soprano Bianca Berini has a great Amnes togheter with Marisa Galvany as Aida (1974 in N. Orleans)
Being somewhat matronly and peasant-like in appearance, she did not exude regal character onstage--except for the two foot high, Star Trek coiffures she favored as wigs! But the voice was another matter. The timbre was unmistakably Italianate (if dry) and the technique formidable, with an ability to sing equally well at different dynamic levels.
Furthermore, Berini's command of the music was supremely confident, her phrasing characterized by old-school virtues,particularly her liberal use of accento, portamenti, sobs, etc.
Berini returned several times to New Orleans Opera. In 1980 we can saw her in Adriana Lecouvreur opposite Teresa Zylis-Gara in the title role. Again, she looked ill-at-ease in a ballgown and powdered wig, but she blew the walls down in the "Accerba voluta" number that opens Act Two. It was around this time that her star gained some ascendency at the Metropolitan Opera. She
sang Amneris and Ulrica with regularity there (including several broadcasts of both roles).
She also appeared with the New York Philarmonic in the fall of 1980, joining forces with Caballe, Domingo and Plishka for the Verdi Requiem, Zubin Mehta conducting. This was recorded by CBS and, to the best of knowledge, is the only commercial recording that exists of Berini.
Berini returned to New Orleans Opera in 1983 as Santuzza opposite Ermanno Mauro and Cornell Macneil. For once, her pizzeria wig, sensible shoes and black shawl looked just right for the distraught heroine. Berini as Frugola was just about one of the most inspired casting ideas that James Levine ever had! Perfect fit between character and singer.
I think many people assumed Berini was younger than she actually was during the time she was a regular artist at the Met. According to one source, she was born in 1928, which would have made her approximately 54 years old at the time of the afore-mentioned Trittico telecast. Other Met roles during this period were Eboli and la Principessa Bouillon.
Berini also made a double
appearance at the Centennial Gala in 1983. She sang the "Reverenza!" duet with Louis Quilico in the afternoon portion, then returned in the evening segment to substitute for Fiorenza Cossotto in the Gioconda duet with Lucine Amara.
Speaking of that Gioconda duet, WHAT WAS THE DEAL with Berini that night?
Does anyone remember this? After the conclusion of the duet, Berini refuses to acknowledge Amara, gnarling her forehead as if a migraine had suddenly set in and steadfastly rebuffing the soprano's hand, extended for a joint bow. Dueling divas? Or just dueling bouffants? Inside scoop would be fun to hear!
I never encountered Berini again after the 1985-86 season at the Met. The Met aside, I don't think Berini appeared very much on the international scene. I am assuming she retired shortly after her Met contract went unrenewed.
(Edited from the L Opera archives, by Enzo Bordello)