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Published on Oct 22, 2008
Richard Bonelli (1889-1980)
"Visione veneziana", though rarely encountered these days, was a favorite of Titta Ruffo and many singers of his generation. Written by minor Italian composer Renato Brogi (1873-1924), the song is given a compelling performance here by the undervalued Richard Bonelli, in a recording made for Brunswick in 1929.
Bonelli, who studied with Jean de Reszke in Paris and made his debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1915, has often been considered something of an odd man out among American baritones- someone familiar to opera enthusiasts more by name than from actual familiarity with recorded material. The fact is that Bonelli, whose tenure at the MET lasted from 1932-45, was somewhat overshadowed by such homegrown house contemporaries as Tibbett, Thomas, and Warren. Furthermore, Bonelli has occasionally fallen victim to the longhair tendency of denigrating performers who devoted substantial chunks of their repertoire to crossover material.
As this recording shows, however, Bonelli was no second-rate hack. The baritone voice is bright, gleaming, beautifully burnished and focussed. And the gently pulsating vibrato adds an extra degree of intensity and urgency to Brogi's mournful vision. Several months ago I posted Cesare Siepi's powerful rendition of the song, and while Bonelli's performance lacks the dusky quality of that one, it is equally dolorous and moving.