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Thread: Does anyone prefer Verdi's "early" operas?

  1. #16
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    In response to the OP, I would just point out that scholars usually talk of early, middle period and late Verdi, Rigoletto forming the bridge between early and middle period, just as Aida forms the bridge between middle and late.

    As someone who loves Verdi (along with Berlioz, one of my favourite composers), the early works will always be dear to me for carrying within them the seeds of his genius. However, I would have to admit that many of them are formulaic; probably as a result of his having to satisfy various opera managements in order to make money out of his craft. As for many Italian opera composers, opera was a commercial business and he had to satisfy both managements and the public, which could in turn exert a stranglehold on his creativity. Some of the early operas (Alzira, for instance) were rattled off in great haste, and this tends to show in the level of inspiration. When it takes a dip, it can usually be explained by looking at the circumstances of the work's composition.

    Of the pre Rigoletto operas, La Battaglia di Legnano, I think, is severely underrated. Stiffelio too, though it has undergone something of a reassessment in recent years. Of the others, Nabucco is a must as an opera in which Verdi's own voice is truly heard for the first time; the revised Macbeth, once derided, is now treated with a great deal of respect and performed quite regularly. Luisa Miller has justifiably always held a foothold on the repertoire, as has the slightly more bombastic Ernani, if only because it bursts with great tunes and offers great vocal opportunities for the singers. There are plenty of other wonderful moments in every single one of the other early operas too, but I'm not sure any of them satisfy as a whole quite as much as those I've mentioned.

    By the time Verdi wrote Rigoletto, he was quite famous, more financially stable, more able to dictate terms to opera managements, and take more time over each new project, and none of his operas from Rigoletto onwards is without merit. Maybe I should really say from Stiffelio onwards. It is interesting to note, however, that his relationship with the Paris Opéra was always fraught with problems, and how those problems have a more detrimental effect on Les Vêpres Siciliennes than they do on the later Don Carlos, by which time he had become more assertive. Even then, he vowed never to write for the Paris Opéra again, though he was not averse to writing ballet music for Otello when they wanted to mount the opera there.

    Looking at Verdi's two Shakespearean tragedies and his two comedies, I might regret the loss of some fantastic music in having to choose Otello over Macbeth. However I would have no hesitation choosing Falstaff, a work teeming with sparkling invention, over the youthful and derivative Un Giorno di Regno, charmingly tuneful though that work is.
    Last edited by GregMitchell; Jun-05-2018 at 13:10.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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  3. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by silentio View Post
    I think the early Verdi works still have that "bel canto flair", thus it requires the principals, especially the soprano to have great coloratura to pull it off convincingly.

    That is true even for something in the transitional period like La Forza del Destino. While I have heard it done pretty OK by the sopranos labeled "spinto" (Tebaldi and Price, the 1953 Firenze of Tebaldi with Mitropoulos is especially gorgeous), not until I heard the much underappreciated Callas studio that I realized Leonora should be better handled by someone with good coloratura skills. For example, this expressive aria from Act I, "Me pellegrina ed orfana" has florid passages that were so rarely executed as accurate as in here:


    How very perceptive of you, and how few people ever notice that central singers such as Tebaldi and Price do not render this aria with anything like the degree of accuracy that Callas does. But then, I suppose you would need to be able to read music and follow the score in order to understand this.

    Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera is also a transitional role, and requires a command of trills, easy coloratura, and a whole compliment of vocal niceties that are usually glossed over or ignored, as does the role of Leonora in Il Trovatore. Verdi's roots in bel canto are always in evidence, even as late as Aida. Think of Aida's Vedi, di morte d'angelo in the final duet.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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  5. #18
    Senior Member Tuoksu's Avatar
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    As Riccardo Muti said here "Il primo Verdi è sacro. Ogni nota è pensata scientificamente."
    I wouldn't say I particularly prefer early Verdi over middle/late Verdi but my all time favorite Opera by anyone is Macbeth. It reflects everything I love about the early Operas. As the previous posters pointed out, it takes an excellent and exceptionally-gifted singer to pull off this kind of Soprano roles. True dramatic voices have to sing fiendishly difficult fioriture, which makes it the only repertoire really calling for "drammatico d'agilità" as opposed to Dramatic Coloratura. This also makes these operas much less forgiving and harder to enjoy in most cases (i.e whenever it's not Maria Callas singing them) than say Trovatore or Traviata, which can be interpreted decently by Spinto or even Lyric Sopranos.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    I love Macbeth but then Verdi revised it. I can't understand anyone performing it in the original form as the revised work is one of great genius. Can't say I go in for anything before Macbeth although Nabucco is fun. But Verdi really found himself with Rigoletto and the rest is history

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    Quote Originally Posted by GregMitchell View Post
    How very perceptive of you, and how few people ever notice that central singers such as Tebaldi and Price do not render this aria with anything like the degree of accuracy that Callas does. But then, I suppose you would need to be able to read music and follow the score to understand this.

    Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera is also a transitional role, and requires a command of trills, easy coloratura, and a whole compliment of vocal niceties that are usually glossed over or ignored, as does the role of Leonora in Il Trovatore. Verdi's roots in bel canto are always in evidence, even as late as Aida. Think of Aida's Vedi, di more d'angelo in the final duet.
    While I can read music and play instrument, I have never followed opera scores. But you can tell from the recording that she is almost always more accurate than others. Here is another extreme example with incredibly intriguing vocal lines.

    .

    Compared with the above, this is only the approximation (starting at 2:05)

    Last edited by silentio; Jun-05-2018 at 22:20.
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  11. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by silentio View Post
    While I can read music and play instrument, I have never followed opera scores. But you can tell from the recording that she is almost always more accurate than others. Here is another extreme example with incredibly intriguing vocal lines.

    .

    Compared with the above, this is only the approximation (starting at 2:05)

    It's not just the notes, but the expression marks. Grace Bumbry once stated that, if you musically notated what Callas sang, you would invariably come up with an exact copy of what the composer wrote.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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  13. #22
    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    only sopranos I can think of who could consistently do justice to early Verdi are Callas, Verrett and Dimitrova. his work for bass is also pretty challenging, although he seems to go a bit easier on tenors (at least in the sense that you don't need to wait 20 years for a good one to come along. it's by no means easy music). other prominent Verdians like Price were wonderful in later Verdi rep, but didn't have the agility necessary to specialize in the first half of his work
    Last edited by BalalaikaBoy; Jun-07-2018 at 13:18.

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    Senior Member Bellinilover's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    I love Macbeth but then Verdi revised it. I can't understand anyone performing it in the original form as the revised work is one of great genius. Can't say I go in for anything before Macbeth although Nabucco is fun. But Verdi really found himself with Rigoletto and the rest is history
    Is Macbeth's aria "Mal per me" (in the final scene) a part of the early version or the revised one?

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    Senior Member Sonata's Avatar
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    I didn't realize Macbeth had revisions. Which popular recordings sre the original and which are revised?

  17. #25
    Senior Member Tuoksu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sonata View Post
    I didn't realize Macbeth had revisions. Which popular recordings sre the original and which are revised?
    Quote Originally Posted by Bellinilover View Post
    Is Macbeth's aria "Mal per me" (in the final scene) a part of the early version or the revised one?
    The biggest differences between the original 1847 version and the 1865 Paris revision are:
    • "La luce langue" wasn't in the original version. Instead there was a more early-Verdi-like dramatic coloratura cabaletta "trionfai", which is very interesting and fun from a singer's perspective but still, "la Luce Langue" is a better choice musically and dramatically here in my opinion.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o983cutkHHw
    • Patria Opressa wasn't in the original either. Instead, there was a different chorus à la "va pensiero".
    • Act III ends with a duet with Lady Macbeth ("ora di morte e di vendetta") in the 1865 revision, instead of the aria Verdi wrote for Macbeth in the original.
    • A Ballet was added to act III
    • The finale is different:instead of the big "vittoria" chorus it ends with a Macbeth aria "mal per me"


    Overall, the revision is indeed a great improvement in my opinion, but even so, Macbeth was already Verdi's best (and favorite) work up to that point when he wrote it and he was so proud of it. The original opera is great. The revised one is perfect.
    Last edited by Tuoksu; Jun-08-2018 at 00:28.

  18. #26
    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    I like soprano arias from the early taxing operas a whole lot. Santo di patria and those big arias from Nabucco. The operas themselves I am not overly familiar with. Stiffelio was fairly early an I think it has splendid music.

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  20. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattleoperafan View Post
    I like soprano arias from the early taxing operas a whole lot. Santo di patria and those big arias from Nabucco. The operas themselves I am not overly familiar with. Stiffelio was fairly early an I think it has splendid music.
    Stiffelio was written just before Rigoletto so not that early really. La Battaglia di Legnano is also from around the same time, and also has some splendid music.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member Sonata's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GregMitchell View Post
    Stiffelio was written just before Rigoletto so not that early really. La Battaglia di Legnano is also from around the same time, and also has some splendid music.
    Verdi himself was rather fond of both Stiffelio and La Battaglia, I've read
    Last edited by Sonata; Jun-15-2018 at 17:54.

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