Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

The Verdi Opera Experience
Full tracklist at end of review
WARNER CLASSICS 2564679409 [79.22 + 75.44]

I looked carefully at Verdi’s dates when this collection came for review. I did so in case my memory was failing after all these years. Perhaps Warner Classics were getting their retaliation in first in respect of collections that will come with the bicentenary of the great Italian composer’s birth. Such collections came thick and fast with the related centenary of his death in 2001. Prime among those issues was an outstanding collection from the Universal stable - home of Decca, DG and Philips. Its double CD, at bargain price, came in small booklet form with a biography and extracts from all of his twenty-eight operas plus the Requiem. Further, each opera benefited from a brief essay putting it into context within the composer’s oeuvre. Whilst recognising this Opera Experience collection from the Warner stable is not competing in that field, I recount the virtues of the Universal issue in the hope that when 2013 comes around, other labels will aim to compete with similar quality presentations and content.

This Warner collection draws on recordings first issued from a variety of sources now collected within its stable including recordings for the Teldec, Erato, Finlandia and Barenboim-Said labels. Teldec were rather late into complete opera recordings, many under Carlo Rizzi, at the time Music Director of Welsh National Opera and some of which escaped my notice. The company also issued a number of interesting recital discs, often taking a more imaginative and sideways look at the repertoire. Notable among these was an issue titled No Tenors Allowed. This was a collection of bass and baritone duets with two Americans, the baritone Thomas Hampson and the bass Samuel Ramey, giving dramatic brio and elegant phrasing and excellent characterisation. Their contributions included the confrontation between Boccanegra and Fiesco (CD1 tr.4). Also vocally commendable are the two duets involving fellow American, tenor Jerry Hadley and Hampson from Don Carlos, (CD2 tr.7) and Les Vêpres Siciliennes (CD2 tr.4) from a collection conducted by Rizzi with his Welsh orchestra. Less successful is the blustery singing in the great confrontation between the Grand Inquisitor and Philip from Don Carlo (CD2 tr.2), and Neil Schicoff’s monotone singing alongside a fluttery Gruberova in the extracts from La Traviata (CD 1 trs 11-12).

Among other interesting items are Domingo’s Ma se m'è forza perderti from Un Ballo in Maschera (CD1 tr.8) and his Celeste Aida (CD2 tr.8), particularly comparing the latter with his younger, more ardently lyric-voiced, but less well characterised self, on his first recital recording recently re-issued by Warner (see review). Although not renowned for holding his top notes, particularly in his later years, Domingo would have been preferable to Jose Cura conducting himself in Ah! sì, ben mio ... Di quella pira. From Il Trovatore (CD1 tr.15). Likewise Raimondi’s effortful Credo from Otello would have been better left in the vaults (CD 1 tr.9). On the plus side it is good to hear Barbara Frittoli as a womanly Elisabeth singing a strong Tu che le vanità from Don Carlo (CD2 tr.6) and also making more of Violetta’s act three Teneste la promessa ... Addio del passato from Traviata (CD2 tr.3) than Gruberova does of the act one coloratura.

No Verdi collection would be complete without some of his virile and characterful choruses. A selection of these is interspersed throughout. With the superb Orchestra and Chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under Carlo Rizzi, these include the starter Va pensiero from Nabucco (CD 1 tr.1) to the concluding Triumphal March from Aida (CD2 tr.9); their quality of performance is a notable plus for this collection. Less understandable is the unidiomatic overture to La Forza del Destino with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra under Daniel Barenboim.

Only the basic details are given with recording dates - a nightmare puzzle to decipher.

Robert J Farr

A bargain bag of Verdian pot-pourri. Some good performances mixed with others better left in the archives.

Full track-listing
CD 1
Nabucco
Va, pensiero (Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves) [4.39]
Orchestra and Chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Carlo Rizzi
Rigoletto
La donna è mobile [3:01]
Richard Leech (tenor)
Gualtier Maldè ... Caro nome [5:33]
Sumi Jo (soprano)
Orchestra and Chorus of Welsh National Opera/Carlo Rizzi
Simon Boccanegra
Suona ogni labbro il mio nome [7:19]
Thomas Hampson (baritone) and Samuel Ramey (bass)
Munich Radio Orchestra/Miguel Angel Gomez-Martinez
Come in quest'ora bruna [6:27]
Karita Mattila (soprano)
London Philharmonic/Yutaka Sado
Macbeth
Patria oppressa! [7.23]
Orchestra and Chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Carlo Rizzi
Il Trovatore
Vanne, lasciami ... D'amor sull'ali rosee ...Tu vedrai che amore [10.37]
Barbara Frittoli (soprano)
London Symphony Orchestra/Colin Davis
Anvil Chorus [2.48]
Orchestra and Chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Carlo Rizzi
Ah! sì, ben mio ... Di quella pira [4.14]
Philharmonia Orchestra/José Cura
Un Ballo in Maschera
Ma se m'è forza perderti [5.34]
Plácido Domingo (tenor)
Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper, Berlin/Nello Santi
Otello
Credo [5:10]
Ruggero Raimondi (bass)
Orchestre L'Opera de Paris/Emil Tchakarov
Ave Maria. [4:42]
Cristina Gallardo-Domâs (soprano)
Munich Radio Orchestra/Maurizio Barbacini
La Traviata
Prelude to Act I [4.20]
Brindisi [2.57]
Follie….Sempre libera [4.39]
Edita Gruberova (soprano) and Neil Shicoff (tenor)
London Symphony Orchestra/Carlo Rizzi
CD 2
La Forza del Destino
Overture [8.03]
West-Eastern Divan Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim
Don Carlo
Il Grande Inquisitor! [8:47]
Matti Salminen (bass) and Jajjo Ryhanen (bass)
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Leif Segerstam
La Traviata
Teneste la promessa ... Addio del passato [7:45]
Barbara Frittoli (soprano)
London Symphony Orchestra/Colin Davis
Les Vêpres Siciliennes
Quel est ton nom? [7:39]
Thomas Hampson (baritone) and Jerry Hadley (tenor)
Orchestra of Welsh National Opera/Carlo Rizzi
La Battaglia di Legnano
Giuriam d'Italia por fine ai danni [4.17]
Orchestra and Chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Carlo Rizzi
Don Carlo
Tu che le vanità conoscesti del mondo [11:53]
Barbara Frittoli (soprano)
London Symphony Orchestra/Colin Davis
Don Carlos
Le voilà! C'est l'Infant! [10:33]
Thomas Hampson (baritone) and Jerry Hadley (tenor)
Orchestra of Welsh National Opera/Carlo Rizzi
Aida
Celeste Aida. [4:57]
Plácido Domingo (tenor)
Orchestra of the Deutsche Opera, Berlin/Nello Santi
Triumphal March
Orchestra and Chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Carlo Rizzi