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By Giuseppe Verdi

VIDEO: Renata Tebaldi, Franco Corelli, Ettore Bastianini, Boris Christoff; Molinari-Pradelli (no subtitles; B & W); Teatro San Carlo, Naples, 1958; Available on Bel Canto Society BCS 666 OR Legato LVC 001

AUDIO: A) LYRICA: Maria Caniglia, Galliano Masini, Carlo Tagliabue, Tancredi Pasero, Marinuzzi conducting (1941); a show that moves with both feeling and dispatch, thanks to Marinuzzi; there are a few cuts--including, unfortunately, the traditional one of omitting the entire Alvaro/Carlo confrontation (Act III, Scene 2) where they reveal their true identities in a stormy duet; but this is still an authentic adventure through Verdi's vision; in fact, despite so many musical liberties (and the rare flat note from a highly impassioned Caniglia or the occasional sloppy phrase here and there from an equally impassioned Masini), a dedicated and consistent cast throughout still makes this set something altogether special; each of the principals may occasionally fudge the dotted "i" or the crossed "t" (so to speak), but there is no let-up in the way this stirring performance maintains narrative strength throughout; also available on the ARKADIA label (although their transfer boasts a negligibly wider dynamic range, that is considerably offset by added distortion at climaxes) [G.R.]

B) STANDING ROOM ONLY (SRO): Eileen Farrell, Franco Corelli, Anselmo Colzani, Ezio Flagello, Guadagno conducting ("live," 1965); together, Farrell and Corelli are awesome in their first encounter and in the opera's finale (were the famed Enrico Caruso and Rosa Ponselle [1918 revival at the Met, not one note survives] any more thrilling?!); together or apart, Farrell and Corelli give more sheer energy and beauty of voice than any of their competitors (Caniglia and Masini on A included), they are the raison d'etre for this performance; also, much finer sound quality than on A despite the pitfalls of "live" recording (some of the coughing bouts are fearsome!); unfortunately, cuts similar to those on A are compounded by a few missing minutes at the end of Act III and the opening of Act IV (an evident flaw in the original tape), luckily none of Farrell's or Corelli's music is affected; supporting cast does not hold a candle to their counterparts on A and Guadagno's conducting is strictly average [G.R.]

C) MELODRAM: Leyla Gencer, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Aldo Protti, Cesare Siepi, Votto conducting ("live," 1957); the most rapt, poetic and heartfelt reading of all; for once, the sometimes impersonal Votto really shapes the entire evening into something memorable; his astounding transformation yields an amazingly profound reading, making this an experience to savor; all the highly distinguished cast-members at his disposal are at one with their Maestro's rare blend of deep inwardness and unbridled passion, showing how Verdi's rich, haunted score was meant to embrace both extremes; gratitude for the rich inner feeling throughout this broadcast is balanced against the occasional ensemble train wreck (sample the opening of Preziosilla's "Rataplan"!) and Leyla Gencer's surprising lapses in pitch, despite her fresh vocal estate and infinitely tender interpretation; all the traditional cuts are observed, including, once again, the inexplicable omission of the Act III, Scene 2 confrontation.  [G.R.]

D) EMI: Martina Arroyo, Carlo Bergonzi, Piero Cappuccilli, Ruggero Raimondi, Gardelli conducting; for once, a musically accomplished, well recorded studio effort with every note of the score intact; hardly a weak link in the whole cast--though this does not have the full excitement of the top three; in fine stereo [G.R.]

E) MYTO: Montserrat Caballe, Jose Carreras, Piero Cappuccilli, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Patane conducting ("live," 1978); I have not yet heard this, looks quite tantalizing on paper; could this be the one to combine the musicality and completeness of D and the dramatic excitement of A, B and C?  certainly, all three principals could still produce in 1978; I wonder. . . .  further information is eagerly awaited!  [G.R.]

For Further Reading:

The Operas of Verdi : From Il Trovatore to La Forza Del Destino (Vol. 2, Revised), by Julian Budden

Encounters with Verdi, by Marcello Conati, Richard Stokes, Julian Budden

In Association with

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