Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Rolando Panerai (bass) Sir John Falstaff
Alan Titus (baritone) Ford
Frank Lopardo (tenor) Fenton
Piero de Palma (tenor) Dr Caius
Ulrich Reiss (tenor) Bardolfo
Francesco d'Artegna (bass) Pistola
Sharon Sweet (soprano) Mrs Alice Ford
Julie Kaufmann (soprano) Nanetta
Marilyn Horne (mezzo soprano) Mrs Quickly
Susan Quittmeyer (mezzo soprano) Mrs Meg Page

Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Sir Colin Davis
Rec 8-18 April 1991, Herkulessaal der Residenz, Munich
BMG Classics 09026 60705 2 2CDs: [53.53 + 63.43]
Crotchet £17.00  AmazonUK  £15.99  AmazonUS

Verdi's final opera is one of the great comedies, and like all comedies it relies enormously on pace and timing. The music almost defies analysis, though of course there are several marvellous sections which rank to all intents and purposes as 'set pieces', not least the celebrated final fugue: 'All the world's a stage'. And this final number is a good place to set the stall of this recording, since it reflects the strengths of the performance, which are its consistent teamwork and timing.

It is no coincidence that this is so, since the conductor is Sir Colin Davis, vastly experienced in the opera house. While this is a studio rather than a live recording, it has all the spontaneity and freshness of the latter, particularly because of the point and vivacity of Davis's conducting. His orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony, is among Europe's best, and from first note to last there is some distinguished playing on display, both solo and ensemble.

What of the cast? First and foremost is the Falstaff: Rolando Panerai, whose great experience of the role in theatre makes him particularly successful. Then there is that great singer Marilyn Horne, the Mistress Quickly, whose characterisation of this important role is second to none. The other women are good too, notably Sharon Sweet as an assertive Alice and Julie Kaufmann as a lyrical and sweet-toned Nanetta. She is well matched with her lover Fenton, as whom Frank Lopardo gives a fine interpretation, in attractive voice throughout.

Earlier issues of the recording criticised the sound as over-reverberant. While this seems somewhat less of a problem in this latest issue, it cannot be denied that there are more subtleties in Verdi's score than are captured here, particularly in the detailed ensemble passages. But the cavils are relative, for with a splendid cast and inspired conducting, this set is well worth investigating.

Terry Barfoot

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board.  Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.This is the only part of MusicWeb for which you will have to register.

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: