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Support us financially by purchasing this disc from
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Best of Verdi Arias
Various singers, conductors, stage directors and venues
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Regio di Parma, except where shown.
Sound Format: PCM Stereo. dts-HD MA 5.1. Picture: 16:9, HD
Sub-titles: Italian (original language), English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese
Also available on DVD
C MAJOR Blu-ray 718604 [112:00]

This is one of two recent discs that might be considered as bargain price samplers for C Major’s Tutto Verdi series. The other, Best of Verdi Opera Choruses, is reviewed here. The series was issued during 2013, the Verdi bicentenary and was claimed to be of all Verdi’s twenty-six operas plus his Requiem. In fact it did not include the two major re-writes nor the alternative same name versions of operas such as Macbeth and Don Carlo(s).

That aside, it was an imaginative idea for C Major to undertake the venture. They focused on the Teatro Regio at Parma, the major town nearest Bussetto, Verdi’s birthplace where he later had his estate. The Teatro Regio had been running an annual Verdi Festival for several years with some of the productions filmed. The idea was to base the whole series on that theatre. However, this was not to be for some of the early operas as well as for Otello when a new production was cancelled late on. It should be noted that the extracts from Otello (CH. 22) are not from the same set as that included in the Tutto Verdi series. I give details below where anything is from a theatre other than the Teatro Regio. Two other venues used in this series were the tiny Teatro Verdi theatre in Busseto that Verdi help fund, but never entered, and the Teatro Farnese in Parma itself where Falstaff was filmed (see review).

In terms of the Italian opera scene, the premiere league is La Scala, with Rome, Venice and Naples hanging on by their fingernails. Parma, whilst not in the premier league, comes pretty near the top of the next down, excelling in the quality of its chorus more than the soloists it attracts. It simply does not have the drawing power of the major Italian theatres, with many of the soloists plying their trade in the provincial houses of Italy and Europe. There are notable exceptions such as Marcello Alvarez singing Rodolfo in Luisa Miller (CH.12) and Manrico in Il Trovatore (CH.14) where he brings real lirico spinto heft, tone and phrasing to his contributions. A welcome surprise is also Daniela Dessi, better known in bel canto, singing the bolero from I vespri siciliani with warm and flexible tone (CH.15). I exempt Leo Nucci, born in 1942, who appears in no fewer that seven of the Tutto Verdi series. Yes, there are signs of wear in his voice, but all his interpretations are ones that I am sure Verdi would have welcomed, particularly that of Rigoletto where his accusations to the courtiers (CH.6) are very good indeed. Rigoletto, introduces some younger singers who may yet make an impact on the international stage. These include Francesco Demuro as the Duke of Mantua, and Nino Machaidze as Gilda. Likewise in the recording of La Traviata where Svetla Vassileva and Vladimir Stoyanov, both of whom appear in more than one of the series, make appreciable contributions.

The weakness of some singers is evident in the extracts from Don Carlo, Aida and La Forza del Destino. This is particularly in the tenor roles. The Otello extracts feature a well-acted duo with Carmela Remigio who is appealing as Desdemona, albeit the venue contributes some quirky producer novelties including her re-appearing and walking to the dying Otello for the final kiss he demands.

Robert J Farr

Disc contents:
La traviata
1. È strano! È strano! … Ah, fors’è lui … Sempre libera
2. Lunge da lei … De’ miei bollenti spiriti
3. Di Provenza il mar, il suol
Violetta Valery, a courtesan, Svetla Vassileva (soprano); Alfredo Germont, an ardent admirer, Massimo Giordano (tenor); Giorgio Germont, his father, Vladimir Stoyanov (baritone)
4. Questa o quella
5. Gualtier Maldè … Caro nome che il mio cor
6. Cortigiani, vil razza dannata
7. La donna è mobile
Duke of Mantua, a licentious nobleman - Francesco Demuro (tenor); Rigoletto, his jester - Leo Nucci (baritone); Gilda, Rigoletto’s daughter – Nino Machaidze (soprano);
Don Carlo
8. Fontainebleau! … Io la vidi e al suo sorriso
9. Ah, più mai non vedrò la regina! … O don fatale
Don Carlos - Mario Malagnini (tenor); Eboli - Alla Pozniak (mezzo)
Orchestra of the Teatro Comunale Luciano Pavarotti Modena
10. Se quel guerrier io fossi! … Celeste Aida
11. Ritorna vincitor! … Numi, pietà del mio soffrir!
Radames, captain of the guards – Walter Fraccaro (tenor); Aida, an Ethiopian Princess - Susan Branchini (soprano)
Luisa Miller
12. Quando le sere al placido
Rodolfo, Count Walter’s son - Marcelo Álvarez (tenor)
Il trovatore
13. Stride la vampa!
14. Ah! Sì, ben mio … L’onda de’ suoni mistici … Di quella pira
Manrico - Marcelo Álvarez (tenor); Azucena - Mzia Nioradze (mezzo);
I vespri siciliani
15. Mercé, dilette amiche
Duchess Elèna, sister of Duke Frederic of Austria - Daniela Dessi (soprano)
Un ballo in maschera
16. Forse la soglia attinse … Ma se m’è forza perderti
Riccardo, Count of Warwick and Governor of Boston, USA - Francesco Meli (tenor)
La forza del destino
17. Pace! Pace, mio Dio!
18. La vita è inferno all’infelice … O tu che in seno agli angeli
Leonora, his daughter – Dimitra Theodossiou (soprano); Don Alvaro, lover of Leonora and of Royal Inca Indian descent – Aquiles Machado (tenor)
19. Piangea cantando nell’erma landa … Ave Maria, piena di grazia
20. Niun mi tema
Otello, commander in chief of the Venetian fleet - Gregory Kunde (tenor); Desdemona, his wife - Carmela Remigio (soprano)
Orchestra of the Teatro La Fenice/Myung-Whun Chung
Performed in the Courtyard of the Ducal Palace, Venice