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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
The very best of Verdi
La forza del destino:
Hungarian State Opera Orchestra/Pier Giorgio Morandi
Pace, pace, mio dio
Miriam Gauci, soprano, Belgian Radio and Television Philharmonic Orchestra/Alexander Rahbari
Solenne in quest’ora
Giacomo Aragall, tenor, Eduard Tumagian, baritone, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Rahbari
Va, pensiero
Slovak Philharmonic Chorus, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Oliver Dohnanyi
Surte e la notte … Ernani, involami
Marina Mescheriakova, soprano, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Michael Halasz
Patria oppressa!
Slovak Philharmonic Chorus, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Oliver Dohnanyi
Luisa Miller: 
Quando le sere al placido
Marcello Giordani, tenor, Catania Teatro Massimo Bellini Orchestra/Steven Mercurio
Questa o quella;La donna e mobile; Pari siamo!; Cortigiani, vil razza dannata; Gualtier Malde … Caro nome
Yordi Ramiro, tenor, Eduard Tumagian, baritone, Alida Ferrarini, soprano, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Rahbari
Il trovatore:
Vedi, le fosche notturne; Il balen; Ah! Si, ben mio; Di quella pira; D’amor sull’ali rosee vane;
Roberto Servile, baritone, Maurizio Frusoni, tenor, Daniela Longhi, soprano, Budapest Festival Chorus, Hungarian State Opera Orchestra/Will Humburg
Un ballo in maschera:
Di tu se fedele
Thomas Harper, tenor, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Michael Halasz
Messa da Requiem:
Dies irae; Tuba mirum; Ingemisco
Elena Filipova, soprano, Gloria Scalchi, mezzo-soprano, Cesar Hernandez, tenor, Carlo Colombara, bass, Hungarian State Opera Chorus, Hungarian State Opera Orchestra/Pier Giorgio Morandi
La traviata:
Libiamo, ne’lieti calici; Sempre libera; Lunge da lei per me; Di Provenza il mar
Monika Krause, soprano, Yordi Ramiro, tenor, Georg Tichy, baritone, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Rahbari
Don Carlo:
E lui! Desso l’Infante! … Dio, che nell’alma infondere
Giacomo Aragall, tenor, Eduard Tumagian, baritone, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Rahbari
Se quell guerrier io fossi! … Celeste Aida; Ritorna vincitor … I sacri nomi di padre; Gloria all’Egitto; Grand March; Ballet Music
Maria Dragoni, soprano, Kristjan Johannson, tenor, Ireland National Symphony Orchestra/Rico Saccani
Fuoco di gioia
Slovak Philharmonic Chorus, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Oliver Dohnanyi
Mia madre aveva una povera ancella … Piangea cantando … Ave Maria
Miriam Gauci, soprano, Belgian Radio and Television Philharmonic Orchestra/Alexander Rahbari
Ehi paggio! … L’onore! Ladri
Domenico Trimarchi, baritone, Hungarian State Opera Orchestra/Will Humburg
No recording dates and venues given but all the items were published 1990 – 2004.
NAXOS 8.552121-22 [77:44 + 76:40]

Some ten years ago, maybe more, Naxos released a series entitled “The best of …” on one CD per composer. Now here comes “The very best of …” on two extremely well-filled discs. A bit inconsistent perhaps, but never mind. For “The very best of Verdi” the producers have unsurprisingly picked the arias, choruses and a few other scenes that everybody knows and presented them in roughly chronological order.
CD1 opens with the overture and two other numbers from La forza del destino and since it is logical to open with an overture – very well played by the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra – they changed the chronology. Since Morandi recorded all Verdi’s overtures on two CDs it would have been nice to have the one from Oberto, but then it is not really the very best of Verdi. There are a couple of other discrepancies too but in the main it is possible to follow Verdi’s development.
Some operas are more fully represented than others, depending on what was available in the Naxos catalogue, the excerpts from Rigoletto, Il trovatore, La traviata, Aida, Falstaff and the Requiem are from complete recordings, the rest from a number of recitals. The quality of the performances varies, as they always do on compilations of this kind; some numbers are acceptable, no more, while there are some that are very good indeed. The sound varies also, since there are so many different venues and technicians involved, which means that one sometimes has to turn the volume up or down but in general there is little to complain about.
Where a question mark has to be inserted is concerning the documentation. The meagre booklet has a couple of lines about each opera and each individual number but there is no information whatsoever about the performers, so I had to visit the Naxos internet site to cull the information given in the heading. Maybe some people who buy this collection only want well-known pieces and don’t bother about who is singing, but since there are some important artists here it is only fair to list them.
I am not going to make an in-depth analysis of each aria. Let me just mention some of the jewels. I have known most of these recordings since they were new and have only sampled a few to refresh my memory or, in a few cases, to hear the ones I hadn’t heard before.
Among the sopranos two stand out: Miriam Gauci (La forza del destino, CD1 tr. 2, and Otello, CD2 tr. 16) and Alida Ferrarini, whose Gilda in Rigoletto (CD1 tr. 10-11) is among the best anywhere. Daniela Longhi’s Leonora in Il trovatore (CD1 tr. 18) is also sung with feeling. In the tenor department Marcello Giordani is an impassioned Rodolpho in Luisa Miller (CD1 tr. 7) and Yordi Ramiro’s attractive lyric voice is an asset in both Rigoletto and La traviata. Eduard Tumagian has a firm Verdian baritone and is a deeply involved Rigoletto. He sings excellently in the duets from La forza del destino and Don Carlos where he is partnered by Giacomo Aragall who is admirably steady but unimaginative and sings at a constant forte. Roberto Servile sings a good Il balen from Il trovatore (CD! Tr.15), while few singing actors have as deep insight in the character of Falstaff as Domenico Trimarchi. Alas, he was recorded too late in his career, his voice taking on an unpleasant wobble whenever he sings anything above mezzo-forte. Impressive, steady and sonorous is, on the other hand, Carlo Colombara, whose Tuba mirum from Requiem (CD2 tr.2) almost recalls Ezio Pinza. Maybe the greatest surprise is Georg Tichy who is a glorious and impassioned Germont in La traviata (CD2 tr. 8). Seldom has Di Provenza il mar been sung with such melting glow. Even a stuffed shirt would have followed this father to Provence!
As I hinted earlier in the review, not everything is on this exalted level but there are enough good things to make this a suitable starting point for recent converts, which I think is the category of listener this series is aimed at. The price is right.
Göran Forsling


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