Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
I Due Foscari - Tragedia lirica in three acts (1844) [98:25]
Francesco Foscari - Gian Giacomo Guelfi (baritone); Jacopo Foscari - Carlo Bergonzi (tenor); Lucrezia Contarini - Maria Vitale (soprano); Jacopo Loredano - Pasquale Lombardo (bass); Barbarigo - Mario Bersieri (tenor); Pisana - Liliana Pellegrino (soprano); Un Fante - Aldo Bertocci (tenor); Un Servo - Gianni Barberi (bass)
Chorus and Orchestra of RAI Milan/Carlo Maria Giulini
rec. Milan, 1951
no text or translation included
WARNER MUSIC 2564 66143-4 [70:02+28:23]
I suspect that even devotees of Byron do not spend much time with his play “The Two Foscari”. Nonetheless it did appeal to Verdi who described its subject as delicate and full of pathos. Even then, however, he was concerned about the lack of real drama. He was right to be. Although the resulting opera has many powerful scenes, especially the last, and the contradictory Venetian atmosphere of sunshine and pleasure opposed by intrigue and repression is beautifully evoked the result is not wholly satisfactory as a whole in the theatre or on disc. It is however brief and well worth an occasional hearing, and any Verdi enthusiast will want a version in their collection.
Whether they will want this one is less certain. It was one of the series of operas recorded by Italian Radio to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the composer’s death. At the time there were no other commercial recordings of I Due Foscari. Heard today, however, it has little to commend it. Its main attraction is the performance of Gian Giacomo Guelfi as the elder Foscari. Other recordings suggest that he was a powerful but somewhat coarse singer, but here he reveals his artistry as well as his power, especially in the final scene where the Doge learns that his son has died, is forced to abdicate and finally dies himself. I had expected much from the young Carlo Bergonzi as the younger Foscari but, although he is essentially a character who suffers throughout the opera, he is portrayed in altogether too lachrymose and monotonous a fashion. In fairness I should point out that Bergonzi had only recently started to sing as a tenor having previously performed as a baritone. Maria Vitale is adequate as are the minor parts. Again I had expected much of Giulini, at that time a staff conductor with the RAI, but the very dim recording makes it hard to appreciate the contribution of the orchestra or chorus. Tempi certainly seem to be well chosen but it is hard to comment further.
The main rival on disc is the Philips recording conducted by Lamberto Gardelli, with Cappuccilli, Carreras and Ricciarelli in the cast. I do not have its latest reissue, but earlier issues of it are so obviously superior as to make the present Warner issue of little more than limited historical interest.  

John Sheppard 

Little more than limited historical interest.