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Thread: Where to start with Verdi?

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Default Where to start with Verdi?

    Hello. I'm interested in getting into the operas of Giuseppe Verdi. Obviously, he is a towering figure in opera with many great works. I have no idea where to start. What little I have heard (and seen), I've liked: mostly individual arias from Rigoletto, Aida, La Traviata, and Otello. I would say I enjoyed most the ones from Rigoletto, but there was some good music throughout.

    What is a good full recording of one of his operas that you might recommend to a beginner? Which conductor/orchestra/singers...?

    I would be interested to hear the perspective of the opera forum here. I am not a big opera guy. I've only heard a couple of Mozart operas in their entirety, and enjoyed them. Outside of that, I've heard a handful of Bellini arias sung by Maria Callas that are all beautiful. I've heard samples of Wagner and Strauss operas (I've heard all of Elektra several times, love that one) which I enjoyed. And then I've heard a handful of Puccini arias and those are always good too. Trying to get deeper into opera as a whole though and it seems the big Italians are going to be a good way to start.

    I will take similar recommendations for Puccini, if anyone has any there, too

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    Senior Member Itullian's Avatar
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    The middle period 3 are a great place to start.
    Rigoletto, Trovatore, Traviata all have great stories and melodies.
    They are very easy to like.
    Last edited by Itullian; Apr-27-2019 at 01:24.
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

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    Flamenco, What are your two favorite voice types--male or female?

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    I would suggest staring with Aida, Traviata or Rigoletto.
    These recordings are personal favourites -

    Aida Karajan Decca.jpg

    Aida Karajan EMI.jpg

    TraviataKleiber.jpg

    RigolettoGiulini.jpg

    RigolettoSinopoli.jpg

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JosefinaHW View Post
    Flamenco, What are your two favorite voice types--male or female?
    Probably tenor and soprano. I enjoy them all though if it's a good singer!

    Thank you to everyone for your responses, especially Fat Bob with your wealth of recommendations. From the little I have heard, I enjoy Karajan (bits of Boris Godunov mostly), Kleiber (his Tristan und Isolde is great) and Giulini (his Don Giovanni is amazing, I just got it on CD) as opera conductors.

    I think I will likely seek out Giulini's Rigoletto as a possible starting point. I can't say I am familiar with any of the singers mentioned but I am a fan of the conductor and orchestra. But I am still open to hearing everyone else's input.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Itullian View Post
    The middle period 3 are a great place to start.
    Rigoletto, Trovatore, Traviata all have great stories and melodies.
    They are very easy to like.
    This is absolutely where everyone interested in exploring Verdi should start. Musically, there's little in each of these works that isn't interesting. AIDA is a bore.
    Follow me on Instragam: figaro_under_the_moonlight.

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    DVD: Verdi - Otello / Solti, Domingo, Te Kanawa, Leiferkus Royal Opera Covent Garden
    Last edited by nina foresti; Apr-27-2019 at 02:27.

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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    Macbeth (1847) is an early-ish example of Verdi's mastery, although the revision of 1865 is the one usually recorded. I would start with this then plunge into other tragic masterpieces such as Rigoletto (1851) and Otello (by 1887).

    Below are the recordings I have of these three.



    '...a violator of his word, a libertine over head and ears in debt and disgrace, a despiser of domestic ties, the companion of gamblers and demireps, a man who has just closed half a century without a single claim on the gratitude of his country or the respect of posterity...' - Leigh Hunt on the Prince Regent (later George IV).

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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    Probably tenor and soprano. I enjoy them all though if it's a good singer!

    Thank you to everyone for your responses, especially Fat Bob with your wealth of recommendations. From the little I have heard, I enjoy Karajan (bits of Boris Godunov mostly), Kleiber (his Tristan und Isolde is great) and Giulini (his Don Giovanni is amazing, I just got it on CD) as opera conductors.

    I think I will likely seek out Giulini's Rigoletto as a possible starting point. I can't say I am familiar with any of the singers mentioned but I am a fan of the conductor and orchestra. But I am still open to hearing everyone else's input.
    Flamenco, we are somewhat in the same boat. I love Verdi but I've listened to Verdi via my love for bass, bass-baritone, and the baritone voice.

    I'm sort of absorbed in Wagner right now, but I am going to explore ALL of Verdi's operas very soon (I haven't yet decided if I am going to start from the beginning of opera and listen to the greats that I haven't already listened to in chronological order. For example, I adore Orpheo by Monteverdi, but I haven't listened to L'Incoronzaione di Poppea yet (although I now own two version that I am dying to listen to.)

    Let me show you two videos that I adore and see what you think. Personally, when I decide to REALLY listen to all of Verdi I think I am going to begin with the beginning.

    One of my favorites for a million in one reasons is Don Carlo in Italian. Check it out. (There is also a French version Don Carlos. My suggestion: Begin w. the Italian..


    The other is MacBeth. This is definitely a baritone opera. What the hell, right? Try another voice type.



    I look forward to your posts. As I said, soon or later I will listen to all of Verdi's operas, too.
    Last edited by JosefinaHW; Apr-27-2019 at 03:47.

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    Flamenco, Please notice in the listing of the singers on the MacBeth recording, Robert Llloyd! Not Verdi, but Bartok. If you are passionate soul--as your name would suggest--listen (and watch) Bartok's Duke Bluebeard's Castle..... and just melt.


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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    @Josefina, thanks for the links. I'm listening to that Macbeth now, and this guy has a hell of a voice. I certainly do appreciate some good baritone/bass singing when I hear it (I like Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau--I was listening to Die Zauberflöte earlier today, he is Papageno on the CD I have and he sounds great--and then some others). There's just something about the higher ranges that is so piercing and resonant. But a good baritone or bass can sometimes get that earth shaking quality in their voice that's something to behold. Certainly seems Verdi knew how to write a great baritone part, at the very least!

    That duet from Don Carlo was nice too. Wiki tells me this is a "grand opera", can someone tell me exactly what that means? All I know is that I associate the term with French opera, people like Berlioz, Meyerbeer, etc. But I'm not really familiar with their music.

    As for Bluebeard's Castle, thanks for a good video link w/ subtitle. I'm saving this one for another day when I have an hour to spend (not bad at all for opera!) I do love some Bartók, though. I've listened to all 6 of his string quartets in as many days and I'm probably going to repeat the cycle starting tomorrow, they were all fantastic. I would say he's probably one of the most versatile composers of his generation. Still, though, I can hardly picture what he might sound like in an opera and I'm excited to hear it.

    Thanks again

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    I can't recommend Ponelle's films of operas more for people wanting to dip into the world of opera. He made several great films, that had some absolute monsters of the stage in them. I quite like his Rigoletto, and while I haven't seen it, I believe he did Falstaff as well.

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    Nabucco. the following singers slay the lead role: Maria Callas, Ghena Dimitrova, Elena Souliotis, Julia Varady

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    I started my operatic listening overall with Rigoletto, the first of Verdi's truly great operas. Just about has everything - superb concept, fine libretto, finely drawn characters, great music, the tragic ending. My first recording was Solti's (then new - it cost £4 about 3 weeks wages from my job) and I played it again and again. Still available with Merrill, Kraus and Moffo and very finely sung. One snag is that Solti's exciting conducting tends to rush the thing off its feet.
    Last edited by DavidA; Apr-27-2019 at 06:39.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Rigoletto.... Solti's ... with Merrill, Kraus and Moffo and very finely sung. One snag is that Solti's exciting conducting tends to rush the thing off its feet.
    So you might be better to go with Serafin, a justly famous performance that has stood the test of the time, although it employs the cuts standard back then. The cast is probably the finest and most dramatically attuned on disc, with Gobbi and Callas truly heartrending as Rigoletto and Gilda. Di Stefano's Duke might not be as elegantly sung as some, but you truly understand how he could charm an innocent young girl to the extent that she would kill herself for him. Serafin pacing is just perfect and he conducts with a sure understanding of the lyric Italian style. Not that he's any slouch and the Act II finale, for one, is absolutely thrilling.

    Last edited by Tsaraslondon; Apr-27-2019 at 11:25.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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