Audio Tracks

From the immense and varied discography of Titta Ruffo a first selection of the songs that most represent and embody the great internationally renowned artist.

The recordings were taken from the complete edition of Titta Ruffo’s recordings elaborated by Richard Bebb in 1987 and published by Rubini Records, starting from the original records.

Don Giovanni

 

Titta Ruffo played the ambiguous and charming role of the great Spanish lover in only two occasions: at the Colon of Buenos Aires in 1908 and in Philadelphia six years later. But looking back on the concert career of the great Pisan baritone, we often find the most memorable pages of the Don Giovanni.
A need for a deep revision of the typical “Mozartian and Rossinian” style emerged during the second half of the previous century. So, if on one side the public had the opportunity to appreciate the accuracy of certain “clean” performances, free from frills of a tradition far from its origin and time, it has brought modern critics to understate, if not outright criticize certain freer, more original interpretations of such artists like Ruffo.
It’s undeniable how these recordings lack the philological style that will be present only several years later, but they allow us to witness how the common taste of the time when Ruffo used to perform would tend to exalt not just the mere vocal intensity, but the passion for great characters like Don Giovanni and his limitless acting potential.

 

La ci darem la mano

Recording of 1908

 

Finc’han del vino

Recording of 1914

 

Deh vieni alla finestra

Recording of 1912

 

I due granatieri

Recording of 1915

 

Truly loved by Ruffo, this romanza recounts a well known event that he himself narrated in La mia parabola, when, upon receiving the news about the end of the second world war, he broke out into singing the Marsigliese from a window of his house in Firenze. The piece was originally written by Schumann in German and tells the story of two napoleonic soldiers returning from the invasion of Russia who find out about the imprisonment of their emperor. In its climax, Schumann’s music closes paraphrasing the Marsigliese which, in Ruffo’s voice, becomes a message of freedom for all humanity, not just a homage to France.

 

Aman lassù (Cristoforo Colombo, Franchetti)

Recording os 1914

 

Alberto Franchetti’s “Cristoforo Colombo” had major success and used to be the signature song of an entire, extraordinary generation of baritones. Naturally, Ruffo delivered a very personal performance of that piece, so powerful that the very author was impressed by it, thus becoming the golden, unattainable standard of his very skilled contemporary vocalists. In “aman lassù”, Cristoforo Colombo sings about his doubts. An intimate, powerful moment of a dreamer coming to terms with his destiny and, moreover, with his failures.
Ruffo uses his vast range to convey the character’s anguish with elegiac, murmured tones.

 

E canta il grillo

Recording of 1929

 

Vincenzo Billi, born in Ravenna, was a very prolific composer in the italian operetta and Lieder repertoire. Formed at the conservatory of Pesaro, he spent most of his life in Firenze where he cultivated his love for the tuscan vernacular and spirit. In 1911, Billi published E canta il grillo for the Ricordi company and dedicated it to Titta Ruffo. The Pisan baritone embodied, more than anyone else, the tuscan spirit of that time and both his approach to the text and his strum were ideal. During his 25 years career, Ruffo recorded several versions for piano solo and for orchestra of E canta il grillo.
We opted to publish here his latest version that was recorded on an electric platform, rather than his most vocally impressive one, to better enjoy the original pitch and articulation of Titta Ruffo. Written by Billi in genuine tuscan style (always bringing the stress on the last vowel) in order to mimic traditional songs,
E canta il grillo, with its compositional peculiarities, puts itself on par with other giants of the tuscan “verismo” like Puccini and Mascagni: we need only think about the young shepherd from Tosca or Lola’s song in Cavalleria Rusticana. Following Ruffo’s eminent recordings, “e canta il grillo” made its way in the chamber music and concert repertoire of the italian baritones. Memorable recordings happened with Ettore Bastianini and Piero Cappuccilli who, like many others, could not resist a meeting with the Principe.

 

Chatterton – Tu sola a me rimani

Recording of 1905

 

Would it be fair to consider Titta Ruffo as the successor of Mattia Battistini? Vocal critics might consider this to be pure blasphemy: polar opposite vocality, opposite musical line, Battistini used to approach his roles with his art nouveau style while the Pisan baritone would amaze his audience with his absolute impersonation. That is all true, although both were disciples of Persichini and both, each in his own way, innovators that became the ideal performers of Massenet and Leoncavallo. In Saint Petersburg, 1902,
a version of Werther which Massanet adapted specifically for the reatino baritone was staged. A unique
one-off in the world of opera which was canonized by an incredible studio recording in 1909.
In 1904, invited by Ruggiero Leoncavallo, Titta Ruffo recorded for the record label Pathè the aria “Tu sola a me rimani o poesia” from the Chatterton. The romanza for tenor, specifically adapted for Titta Ruffo by the composer from Campania, is reduced to a piano solo and voice version.
We’ll never know if, in the mind Leoncavallo, a complete version for baritone may have existed, but, in my opinion, it is obvious that Battistini’s experience with Werther has greatly influenced Leoncavallo and his Chatteron.
Parallelisms abound if we just consider the obvious correlations between Goethe’s melancholic young protagonist and the sad life of the poet Thomas Chatteron: romantic heroes who committed suicide.
In this recording, honoring a tradition of the Pathè Musical House, Titta Ruffo states the title of the track and his own name as a performer. Many other musical houses have published this track omitting the spoken introduction. The heirs of the Pisan baritone opted to offer a complete version.

 

Amleto – O vin discaccia la tristezza

Recording of 1920

 

1907, Titta Ruffo made his debut in A. Thomas’ Hamlet in Lisbon and this role will become his greatest creation. Although the Pisan baritone loved other parts of French opera more (Come un romito fior…), the Toast with its breathless, two high Gs cadence would become his most famous aria.

[Vittorio Vitelli, baritone]

 

Dinorah – Sei vendicata assai

Recording of 1914

 

Meyerbeer’s opera has been mostly forgotten nowadays, but at the time of Titta Ruffo it used to be in the repertoire of all the best theaters of the world. This particular aria has accompanied Titta Ruffo throughout his entire career, first as an audition piece and then in concerts. Vast and full of dramatic accents, «Sei vendicata assai…» perfectly fit the vocal and expressive qualities of the Pisan baritone.

[Vittorio Vitelli, baritone]

 

La Gioconda – Enzo Grimaldo [with Gigli]

Recording of 1926

 

This recording is originally labelled as “unpublished”. What might have persuaded the performers to make this decision will probably never be known, but luckily, several years later, they changed their mind and today we can enjoy this extraordinary collaboration. The Gioconda duet was recorded in 1926 when a young Gigli came to the Metropolitan in New York City to take up the heavy mantle of the great Caruso, prematurely departed. Even though this piece doesn’t quite compare to the glorious Otello duet between Titta Ruffo and Caruso, in a certain sense, this a tangible testimony of how much hope New Yorkers were putting in the young tenor from Recanati.

[Vittorio Vitelli, baritone]

 

I Pagliacci – Si può… Un nido di memorie

Recording of 1912

 

Considered by many critics as the operatic manifesto of the verismo, it is still considered today as the biggest accomplishment for every baritone. In addition to an impressive cantabile, tradition has it (although philological movements often oppose this) that the baritone should sing a high A flat and a closing G. A really challenging romanza on purely vocal grounds, but the lyrics (another opera by Leoncavallo) are infused with concepts that make this a real manifesto of the verismo. A play between truth and lie, between comedy and reality, this is the secret of “I Pagliacci”. Extraordinary voices have put their personal seal on these pages of musical history, but none of them has resisted listening to the star performance: the one by Titta Ruffo. Putting aside the well-known predilection of the same composer for the Pisan baritone, Ruffo has shown towards the role of Tonio a level of care that goes well beyond the purely vocal aspect. His personal interpretation, although personification would be more appropriate, tailored on an outcast met during a vacation in Montecatini, shows the perfect connection between author and performer, both pursuing the TRUTH.

[Vittorio Vitelli, baritone]

 

L’Africana – All’erta marinar

Recording of 1915

 

This tirade without orchestra accompaniment, this unique musical piece allowed Titta Ruffo to showcase the full force of his accents and an exuberant A flat in the closing. L’Africaine unapologetically claimed its rightful place in the repertoire of the first decades of the last century (we only need to mention the aria «O paradiso» sung by Beniamino Gigli) and the Pisan baritone interpreted the slave Nelusko in such a unique way that he became a role model for both his peers and future generations.

[Vittorio Vitelli, baritone]

 

Otello – Credo in un Dio crudel

Recording of 1914

 

Titta Ruffo recorded this aria only twice in his thirty-years career, but he went on stage as Jago numerous times. Among his most illustrious partners, we remember the tenor Zenatello, founder of the Arena di Verona summer festival.

[Vittorio Vitelli, baritone]

 

Otello – Si pel cel marmoreo giuro [with Caruso]

Recording of 1914

 

This duet was recoded in New York on January 8th 1914. Story has it that it was done in just one take. We could name this “Clash of the Titans”. It became immediately very popular and time has only increased its fame. Having been recorded at vocal peak condition for both artists, the Otello duet is still considered to be the highest point of vocologic history even today. Caruso had been preparing for years to play Otello and the Metropolitan of New York booked the debut of the Neapolitan tenor as the Moor alongside Ruffo. Caruso’s illness and premature death prevented this from ever happening.

[Vittorio Vitelli, baritone]

 

Rigoletto – Pari siam

Recording of 1908

 

The monologue of the first act of Rigoletto, compared to the second act tirade « Cortigiani, vil razza dannati », shows us Ruffo’s acting knack in addition to his vocal boldness. The ability to highlight and shape every word without ever straying from Verdi’s vocal line. Verdi was working on King Lear while composing Rigoletto and sure enough the structure of the monologue « Pari Siamo » is closer to acting than singing.

In these pages, Ruffo’s visceral love for Shakespeare is perfectly mirrored in the feeling of Verdi for the bard Avon.

[Vittorio Vitelli, baritone]

 

Visione veneziana

Recording of 1912

 

Arietta composed by Brogi, recorded by Titta Ruffo at different stages of his career both with an orchestra and with just piano accompaniment like the last, magical, electric recording of 1933 when his career was concluded, but his vocal performance was still remarkable. During the twentieth century, after Ruffo, Visione Veneziana has found its place in the concert repertoire of many incredible Italian lyrical artists like Di Stefano, Cappuccilli and Siepi, but it is still inextricably tied to the voice of the Pisan baritone.

[Vittorio Vitelli, baritone]

 

Zazà – Zazà piccola zingara

Recording of 1912

 

Composed by Ruggero Leoncavallo, it was first brought to stage at Teatro Lirico of Milano directed by Arturo Toscanini on November 10th 1900. Ruffo was not the first Cascart in history, nor was he ever directed by Toscanini, but he donned the role of Cascart right after the debut and eventually became, throughout his thirty-years career, the favorite baritone of the Calabrian composer to whom he dedicated his last opera: Edipo Re. The opera “Zazà” is halfway between Verismo and the Parisian unbridled fashion of cafè-chantant. The romanza “Zazà piccola zingara” allows Ruffo to join together the marvel of the high register and the beauty of the legato from the pure nineteenth-century tradition.

[Vittorio Vitelli, baritone]