If presentation is all then this boxed set is a winner.
The box has an open side. It does not collapse when empty. Each of the
four CDs is individually packed in its own firm folding sleeve, the
CD being secured within an acrylic type holder.
The booklet entitled sung texts (no capitals) is
divided into four parts. There is a list of Domingos Verdi débuts.
That is followed by a schedule for each disc with opera, role, extract,
timing, soloists (where appropriate), orchestra and conductor. Next
to appear are some 160 pages of sung (mostly) Italian text with the
three usual language translations down a double spread page. The concluding
part is three pages of densely packed information relating to recording
Wow, you might say; but it does not end there. In addition
there is a lavishly printed hard backed (yes hard backed) booklet
containing an introduction by Domingo; an article by Harvey Sachs entitled
domingo and verdi : a "team for the ages" followed by an article verdi
and his tenors. Coloured paper: coloured (and early life Domingo black
and white) photographs from different roles over the years abound.
This has class / style / charisma stamped on every
detail; and not a note have we heard yet. What we have learned is that
this Deutsche Grammophon Edition is a comprehensive overview of Verdi's
writing for the tenor voice of recordings of Deutsche Grammophon and
other companies supplemented by 100 minutes of music that [he] has recorded
for the first time[and]quite a few "alternative arias" (Domingo).
Sachs concludes Thus we are able to observe the astonishing development
of one of the most influential composers of the 19th century.
Well, yes and no. Certainly there are tenor arias from
all twenty-eight Verdi operas: but in no order that allowed me to observe
the development unless I was prepared to jump disc or track. I may
be doing Deutsche Grammophon and/or their engineers an injustice but
it seems to me that CD content (but not order) was dictated by giving
maximum playing time. Laudable indeed but not really development watching
Having progressed thus far, it is not my intention
to review the eighty-seven tracks. What seems to me to be more relevant
is to provide an overview. After all, you are not going to be reading
this with (or without) a view to purchase unless you have some knowledge
of either Domingo or Verdi or both. If you are not familiar with either
then do go and buy one of his many single CDs as a taster before embarking
on this tour de force which will cost you £49.99 or less.
For that is what this is (for most of the time). Some
of the greatest dramatic tenor arias sung by one of its greatest exponents.
There are many examples: take Se quel guerrier from Aida with
its superbly hit and held notes and some delightful colouring; or the
long extract from one of my personal favourites Don Carlos/Don Carlo
showing the range and depth of emotion and tone. Listen to the two tracks
from his début Macduff in Macbeth where there are some stunningly
clear lines with remarkable colouring. For delightfully soft notes with
multi textures go to Dies irae. So far so good; or, more accurately,
so far so brilliant.
However there are other Verdi arias from his less memorable
operas which whilst workmanlike, do not possess the charisma of the
greats; and it is the juxtaposition of those other works with the brilliance
of the former which shows them to their disadvantage. It is mainly these
secondary works that are the subject of the new recordings included
The point about juxtaposition is relevant to the Domingo
performance. As a broad generalisation the recordings of the great
Verdi arias are taken from earlier recordings whilst (with a notable
exception) the lesser works form the subject of the recent recordings
for this edition. The juxtaposition point recurs because we can compare
directly the earlier recordings by the younger Domingo which are close
to, if they do not actually achieve, perfection with the Domingo of
today. We can hear where there is less comfort in the highest range;
where there is not the same pinpoint accuracy of vocal leap; and a slight
flattening of tone and colouring. For that is what we are talking about:
a hint of this, a reduction of that or a slight something or other.
That is my only reservation; but it is a serious one
because the new recordings are part of the raison d'être
for the appearance of this Edition. I think Deutsche Grammophon would
have performed just the same service if they had limited themselves
to the compilation of the earlier recordings: almost all are glorious.
Whilst I can understand entirely the roundness of
a recording of an aria from every opera of Verdi that, for the average
listener, will be no big deal. First most of the newly recorded arias
are not particularly memorable. Second the singing does not match the
benchmark set by Domingo in the earlier recordings.
However, if you are a single focus Domingo addict then
this is for you because it is indeed a tour de force from a colossus
who bestrides the operatic world.