This reissue is
in Decca’s new “Classic Opera” series, very well produced sets
of outstanding performances, supplied in new transfers with
full libretti at mid-price.
This opera is an
example of the young Verdi in his rum-ti-tum period. He was
unusual for his time, in insisting that the libretto be completed
to his satisfaction before starting work on the opera. The libretto
for Ernani was the work of Francesco Maria Piave based upon
the tragedy ‘Hernani’ by Victor Hugo. Verdi was looking for
a faster moving and more passionate story than Nabucco and I
Lombardi, its immediate predecessors. Ernani was the first of
his operas to use Piave as librettist, but the experience of
working with him proved so successful that many more operas
followed from this partnership.
The plot is similar to many Italian
operas in that the heroine instead of being allowed to marry
the man she loves, is about to be married to her guardian. The
hero, who is a bandit, plans to abduct her and have her for
himself. The king is also in love with the heroine and tries
to persuade her to marry him instead. This love triangle is
the meat of the opera and Verdi’s dramatic writing is well to
the fore with passionate singing from the principals.
The first aria from the opera to make
an impact was “Ernani involami” and appeared on Joan
Sutherland’s first recital disc released in the late 1950s with
the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra conducted by Nello Santi.
In the present case, Sutherland does not sound as fresh as she
did then, but her singing is still mightily impressive. This
recording was the last collaboration between Pavarotti and Sutherland
and all of the very fine characteristics of that partnership
are clearly evident. The other principals, Leo Nucci and Paata
Burchuladze, performed superbly evincing a clear understanding
of the text. The Welsh Opera forces are sympathetically and
excitingly conducted by Sutherland’s husband, Richard Bonynge.
The drama of this
early Verdi score comes through well, and the excellent recording
handles all of the passion superbly.
I would rate this
performance above all of its rivals and supplied now at mid-price,
with complete libretto it is unbeatable in the marketplace.