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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Giuseppe VERDI (1813 - 1901)
Falstaff

Falstaff: Ambrogio Maestri (bar)
Ford: Roberto Frontali (bar)
Fenton: Juan Diego Flórez (ten)
Dr Cajus: Ernesto Gavazzi (ten)
Bardolfo: Paolo Barbacini (ten)
Pistola: Luigi Roni (bass)
M Alice Ford: Barbara Frittoli (sop)
Nannetta: Inva Mula (sop)
M Quickly: Bernadette Manca di Nissa (mezzo)
M Meg Page: Anna Caterina Antonacci (mezzo)
La Scala Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Riccardo Muti
Stage Director: Ruggiero Cappuccio
Film Directed by Pierre Cavasillas
The disc also includes a DVD player cable check.
Regional Code 0 Picture Format 16:9 anamorphic
Sound formats Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, PCM Stereo
Production 2001
Subtitles in English, German, French, Spanish and Italian. Notes include a synopsis of the libretto, a brief account of the history of the opera and a note on the production.
TDK DVD 10 5127 9 DV-OPFAL [single disc: 118.00]
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This production from 2001 is a recreation after an historical staging from 1913 at the Teatro Verdi in Busseto, originally conducted by Toscanini in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Verdiís birth and, this time, of his death. Again it took place in Bussetoís tiny (328 seat) theatre and the audience, well behaved, looks a bit shoe-horned into the space. It is a relief to be able to say of the staging that it is entirely watchable and appropriate insofar as it looks as Verdi must have expected. The cover scan above is representative of the style throughout. There are no great coats, no machine guns and no-one is in military dress so one can relax and enjoy without resorting to any philosophical navel-gazing. The sleeve note would have one believe that the reduced orchestral forces were also an "authentic" decision. Given the size of the pit the word "necessary" comes to mind. However, with Muti in charge of proceedings this is a vital performance and no musical excuses are needed.

The filming is frequently in close up and this makes one very aware of the costumes and make-up (good) and that the cast spends much time watching the conductor (not so good). This apparent need to keep taking directions from Muti may be the reason why the performance does not quite have the "fizz" that is expected of any really outstanding Falstaff rendering. It would be invidious to pick out any particular member of the cast because they all seem good. The complex stage business so necessary in this paramount piece is carried off with skill but constrained enthusiasm. What this staging reminded me of most was a company production á la ENO or WNO, as opposed to a "stars" production. It was all the better for it.

Perhaps the one huge advantage of this Falstaff is that it is on one disc, and thus cheaper than most CD versions, and has pictures and subtitles thrown in for free. The menu gives sensible access points and the opportunity to have subtitles on and off and switch languages. A producer has annoyingly seen fit to put snippets of the music behind the menus, but that is what the mute button is for! Since opera is primarily a visual medium and the picture quality is good this has to be worth buying. But there are other attractions. The sound, I listened to the DTS soundtrack, is excellent. The stage picture is supported, not undermined, by the surround sound. The voices are clean and the words audible, the orchestra has a certain spaciousness which justifies those expensive rear channels without planting one in the pit. The pretence of being there is aided by the opening credits scrolling over scenes of the garden around the theatre and the gathering audience. Thankfully this same audience is quiet except to applaud vociferously at the ends of acts. Given the realism of vision and sound and the quality of performance one can just spend a night at the theatre in oneís own home and enjoy Verdiís finest opera unalloyed.


Dave Billinge


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