The Twilight of Belcanto
The Twilight of Belcanto
Including an Interview with Virginia Zeani
Perfect Bound Softcover
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With his unrivaled ear and unerring sense for the Italian tradition of singing, LEONARDO CIAMPA is one of today’s most insightful and effective writers on the topic.  The Twilight of Belcanto is unique in the field, combining Ciampa’s vast knowledge, keen wit, and penetrating criticism.  Rich with both personal anecdotes and historical data, it is an informative yet thoroughly enjoyable read.

The Twilight of Belcanto contains an exclusive interview with the great soprano Virginia Zeani.  Ms. Zeani was one of the most famous and beloved sopranos in Italy in the 1950s and ’60s.  Born in Transylvania, Romania, Ms. Zeani’s repertoire comprised 70 roles, including La Traviata, which she performed over 600 times.  She sang with virtually all of the greats, including Gigli, del Monaco, Corelli, di Stefano, Kraus, Domingo, and Pavarotti.  Poulenc chose her to sing Blanche in the world-première of Dialogues of the Carmelites.

The Twilight of Belcanto is sure to be considered a classic among books of its genre.

VZ: I had my début in L’Elisir d’Amore with Gigli in 1950, in Cairo.  I was 24, and he was 64 or something like that.

LC:  He was 60.

VZ: Yes.  And he had a very big belly, and at the end of the opera he had to embrace me, no?  Because in L’Elisir d’Amore Nemorino embraces Adina.  And Gigli said to me, “Cara mia, sai che cosa ci divide?  Quaranta chili e quarant’anni!  Senza quelli, ti potrei abbracciare molto piú facilmente!” [“My dear, do you know what separates us?  Forty kilos and forty years!  Without them, I could embrace you much more easily!”]

BOTH: [Laughter]

LC: Didn’t you also sing with Gino Bechi  in Cairo?  Was that at the same performance?

VZ: No. With Gigli I sang L’Elisir d’Amore, and with Gino Bechi that same year I sang Rigoletto and Traviata.

LC: I read that Bastianini – back when he was still a basso – sang Dr. Grenvil in a Traviata with you in Egypt.  Was that, by any chance, the same Traviata performance?

VZ:  Yes, that was in Cairo in 1950. 

LC:  Incredible!  Gino Bechi and Ettore Bastianini on the same stage!

VZ:  And the tenor was Annaloro.

LC:  Who?

VZ:  Annaloro, Antonio Annaloro.  A very great voice.  But his career didn’t last.  He was too débauché.

LC:  Ah.  So he was distracted.

VZ:  But he was a very nice person.

LC:  I read that you met King Farouk when you were in Cairo.

VZ:  King Farouk came to see Traviata and also L’Elisir d’Amore.  Then he sent gold medals to me, to Gigli, and to Bechi. -- I sang in Cairo two years, in ’50 and in ’51.  Then in ’52 there was the revolution, and Farouk left. 

LC:  Isn’t there a story about a huge banquet that he threw?  When was that?

VZ:  In ’51 I sang for Farouk and his fiancée, Nariman Sadek. It was the most incredible meal that I ever saw in my life!  And I couldn’t eat it because I had to sing.

BOTH: [Laughter]

VZ:  It pains me even today to think about it!

Born in 1971, LEONARDO A. CIAMPA is unquestionably one of the most highly regarded musicians of his generation. He is a composer, organist, choral director, pianist, accompanist, and vocal coach and is highly respected in each of those areas.

Ciampa’s compositions include: Suite Siciliana (Op. 145) for two violins, piano, and orchestra; La Bedda Sicilia, 36 Sicilian mazurkas for piano solo; Canzoni Digiacomiane, songs to Neapolitan texts by DiGiacomo; and numerous choral and organ works.

As an organ recitalist, Ciampa has toured Austria (2001) and Germany (2003) and will tour Italy (2004), England (2005), and Switzerland (2006).  Ciampa is Director of Music of St. Paul’s Church in Brookline, MA, and Founding Director of the Coro Polifonico of Boston.


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