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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
(1844) [129.11]
Ernani – Luciano Pavarotti (tenor)
Elvira – Joan Sutherland (soprano)
Carlo – Leo Nucci (baritone)
Silva – Paata Burchuladze (bass)
Giovanna – Linda McLeod (soprano)
Riccardo – Richard Morton – (tenor)
Jago – Alastair Miles – (bass)
Orchestra and Chorus of Welsh National Opera/Richard Bonynge.
Recorded in Walthamstow Town Hall, London, May 1987. DDD
DECCA 475 7008 [64.34 + 64.37]


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.

John Phillips




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