Classical Music Forum banner
1 - 20 of 22 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,741 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We have had a number of threads dedicated to the main Verdi operas and significant recordings of them. We also have a thread dedicated to early Verdi, but we don't have threads devoted to discussing recordings of the early works. This is understandable as they are less well known and there are fewer recordings of each to choose from. This last fact means that having a thread per opera is somewhat wasteful, so I have started this one to look at Verdi's first five operas and commenters' favourite recordings of them (on CD/Download and DVD/Blu-ray).

The operas are:

Oberto Conte di San Bonifacio
Un giorno di regno
Nabucco
I Lombardi alla prima crociata
Ernani


N.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,741 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I'll kick things off with Oberto.

There are two main recordings of Oberto on CD (although there is also an Italian radio concert conducted by Simonetto from 1951, the fifty year anniversary of Verdi's death).

Human Organism Art Adaptation People

Gardelli recorded the opera for Orfeo in 1987 and this is often seen as a continuation of his excellent early Verdi series on Philips. The tenor is Bergonzi, who appeared in quite a few of the Philips sets, but he is caught too late here and his voice sounds weak and isn't recognisable in his opening aria. He fares better later on in the duet with Baldani's superbly sung Cuniza. Interestingly Panerai sounds wonderfully vibrant and heroic in his first appearance in the opera, but has vocal problems later on in his duet with Dimitrova. The men are past their best, despite some fine singing breaking through here and there. Dimitrova is a wonderful Leonora and her diction is clearer than Guleghina who recorded the role later on. However, I enjoyed the unknown mezzo Ruza Baldani the most in this opera. Her voice isn't distinctive, but she brings more thrust and dynamic drama to her role than the other singers in this set. Gardelli is superb with his usual instinctive Verdian flair. Worth hearing, but not without its faults.

N.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15,434 Posts
For Ernani I recommend the 1983 Met production which you can watch on YouTube. Some great singing from Pavarotti, Mitchell, and Milnes. For CD I have the Price recording on RCA. It sounds good to me but I don't have much experience with many of these works. I recently collected about a half dozen Gardelli recordings on Philips but I'm just getting to know them. I have Sinopoli's Nabucco but there are probably some better ones out there. Namely, Riccardo Muti. That's the opinion in the Met opera guide.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,130 Posts
Verdi's second opera was not a success at its premiere at La Scala, though five years later (as Il Finto Stanislao) it was something of a triumph at the Teatro San Benedetto in Venice, a theatre with a strong tradition in comedy and opera buffa. Whilst not according it the same merit as Donizetti's great comedy L'Elisir d'Amore, which was clearly Verdi's model, it is brim full of lively tunes and very enjoyable in its own right. It may never become a repertory opera, but it is definitely worth the occasional revival. I have both the Philips set under Gardelli



and the earlier Cetra mono set



The Philips recording is of course in excellent 1970s stereo sound, has the Ambrosian Singers and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in splendid form under the experienced hand of Lamberto Gardelli, and a starry cast, and I must say I was very happy with it, but, after hearing the Simonetto, it now all sounds a bit dull and heavy, and the women at least are, I think, miscast.

Cossotto, a dramatic mezzo, doesn't sound in the least bit comfortable with the light soprano role of the Marchesa. She tries to lighten her tone and style, but she doesn't have the charm and clear voiced mastery of Lina Pagliughi, who is pure delight on the Cetra. Jessye Norman, who sings the mezzo role of Giovanna, also sounds a mite too heavy, and, though a soprano, her voice too sounds heavier than Laura Cozzi on the Cetra. The two buffo roles, sung here by Vincenzo Sardinero and Wladimiro Ganzarolli are also a trifle heavy handed when set beside the experienced buffos Sesto Bruscantini and Christiano Dalamangas on the Cetra. Renato Capecchi also sounds more naturally right as Belfiore than Ingvar Wixell.

The one role I prefer on the Philips is that of Edoardo, sung by the young Jose Carreras with honeyed tone and youthful charm, not that he totally eclipses Juan Oncina on the Cetra, but his tone is definitely more ingratiating.

Simonetto conducts with a sure sense of Italian opera buffa style, and the whole set comes to life in a way that the Philips doesn't quite. The Cetra is a totally joyful experience , fizzing and popping like a good prosecco. His orchestra and chorus, the Orchestra Lirica e Coro di Milano della RAI, may not be as accomplished as their British counterparts, but they play with enthusiasm and dash at Simonetto's more jaunty tempi.

Admittedly there are cuts, and the Cetra plays about 10 minutes shorter than the Gardelli. Well, this isn't Falstaff, and losing a few notes doesn't bother me that much, so I would have no hesitation in granting the palm to the 1951 Simonetto recording, despite ancient sound.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,130 Posts
I'll kick things off with Oberto.

There are two main recordings of Oberto on CD (although there is also an Italian radio concert conducted by Simonetto from 1951, the fifty year anniversary of Verdi's death).

View attachment 161521
Gardelli recorded the opera for Orfeo in 1987 and this is often seen as a continuation of his excellent early Verdi series on Philips. The tenor is Bergonzi, who appeared in quite a few of the Philips sets, but he is caught too late here and his voice sounds weak and isn't recognisable in his opening aria. He fares better later on in the duet with Baldani's superbly sung Cuniza. Interestingly Panerai sounds wonderfully vibrant and heroic in his first appearance in the opera, but has vocal problems later on in his duet with Dimitrova. The men are past their best, despite some fine singing breaking through here and there. Dimitrova is a wonderful Leonora and her diction is clearer than Guleghina who recorded the role later on. However, I enjoyed the unknown mezzo Ruza Baldani the most in this opera. Her voice isn't distinctive, but she brings more thrust and dynamic drama to her role than the other singers in this set. Gardelli is superb with his usual instinctive Verdian flair. Worth hearing, but not without its faults.

N.
Oberto is the only one of Verdi's erly operas I don't have in my collection, aside from Jérusalem, which is a re-working of I Lombardi.

I did listen to this Orfeo set once on Spotify, but I don't remember much about it and it certainly didn't prompt me to buy a recording.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MAS

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,833 Posts
For Nabucco, I have the live recording with Callas from Napoli. For Ernani, i have the Corelli from the Metropolitan Opera, co-starring Leontyne Price. The singers mentioned are the reason to own the recordings. As an adjunct, a Nabucco with Elena Souliotis and Tito Gobbi, good reasons both.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,741 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Oberto is the only one of Verdi's erly operas I don't have in my collection, aside from Jérusalem, which is a re-working of I Lombardi.

I did listen to this Orfeo set once on Spotify, but I don't remember much about it and it certainly didn't prompt me to buy a recording.
It isn't a great opera and is only of interest due to it being the first of Verdi's operas. However, it's not without its value for lovers of bel canto. The other studio recording of Oberto has more to recommend it.

Product Font Aircraft Wing Toy


Mariner isn't as steeped in Verdi's style as Gardelli is in his recording, but the conducting still respects Verdi's unique lyricism and is suitably lively when the score demands it. Ramey is a model of towering strength and is a more accomplished Oberto than Panerai, not only due to being in good vocal estate, but also because the role was written for a bass rather than a baritone. (The creator of Oberto was also the first Attila.)

Guleghina's vowels stick in her throat and are somewhat muffled, but apart from this defect she sings and acts the soprano role of Leonora well. I prefer Dimitrova, but not by much. Urmana, a wonderful mezzo - why did she make the move to soprano? is so good that she betters Baldani. The only singer I have reservations about is Stuart Neill as he is stretched in places, but his voice is fresher than Bergonzi. Overall this is the recording of the opera on CD that is to be preferred.

For a DVD/Blu-ray choice there are two discs available. One is part of the Tutto Verdi set that includes all of Verdi's operas on DVD/Blu-ray except for Jerusalem and Aroldo. These are invaluable for the early rarer works, but the provincial Italian casts are seldom first choices for the more well known works. In this case I would go with the Oberto from Bilbao that features a cast of decent singers that have become much better known since.

World Purple Book Publication Font


The production is fairly traditional and the opera is allowed to speak for itself. There are no surprises here and some may find it a little staid, but the straightforward staging is to be preferred over the ubiquitous 'grungy' flights of fancy we see too often nowadays.

N.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,833 Posts
I loved the early Verdi Phillips recordings with the great casts! The singers were in their early careers and now look more starry than ever. One of them (Il Corsaro) had Jessye Norman and Montserrat Caballe' in addition to Carreras!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,741 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I loved the early Verdi Phillips recordings with the great casts! The singers were in their early careers and now look even more starry than ever. One of them (Il Corsaro) had Jessye Norman and Montserrat Caballe' in addition to Carreras!
Absolutely! I have all eight of them and most of them are first or joint first choice for the opera concerned. The interesting thing is that those which had been recorded before by Cetra were reviewed unfavourably when compared with the Cetra versions, but in most cases the Philips recordings are preferred today.

N.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,130 Posts
Absolutely! I have all eight of them and most of them are first or joint first choice for the opera concerned. The interesting thing is that those which had been recorded before by Cetra were reviewed unfavourably when compared with the Cetra versions, but in most cases the Philips recordings are preferred today.

N.
I have all eight too, though I must say I only remember them all being very favourably reviewed. The only one I'd prefer that was recorded by Cetra is the Un Giorno di Regno I mentioned above.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,741 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Nabucco

Nabucco is one of the early Verdi operas that has grown in popularity in the last 60 years or so (the other would be Macbeth, which has gone from being virtually forgotten to now being a regular part of the rep). I wonder if this is due to the superb roles for soprano and baritone that each features.

Publication Font Line Material property Magenta

There aren't that many recordings of Nabucco though. The best of the bunch is the Gardelli on Decca due to the two main parts being taken by Gobbi and Souliotis who clear most of the competition (some will prefer Bruson's smoother tones or Callas' more precise technique, but neither of those two made a studio recording and so aren't quite in the running for a first choice). The secondary roles could have been better cast, but there's nothing objectional to Prevedi, Cava and Carral. It would have been wonderful to have the young Ghiaurov instead of Cava as he is the best Zaccaria on disc, but it's Nabucco and Abigaille who command our attention when listening to this opera. The sound is decent, vintage stereo and the chorus and orchestra come across well. I can't imagine this being bettered in the near to mid future, if ever.

Product Font Vehicle Rectangle Wheel

It should be no surprise that the other good recording is conducted by the other Italian early Verdi specialist, Muti. His recording enjoys more modern sound, and therefore, favours the big choruses even more than Gardelli's. The star of the recording (other than the chorus) is Ghiaurov as Zaccaria. Scotto makes a surprisingly feisty Abigaille and whilst she pushes her voice right up to its limits, this is a dramatic performance that is well worth hearing. There are two shortcomings to the recording that mean it falls short of the standard set by the Decca set and that is Manguerra's rather plain Nabucco. He has more character than Cappuccilli on the disappointing Sinopoli DG set and maybe it's the comparison with Gobbi that means he comes across as somewhat smaller than life. The other issue is that Muti rushes and whilst the score needs energy and shouldn't sag, he drives forward too much. This is still a set worth having though.

N.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,833 Posts
In contrast to Conte's remarks above, I do consider Callas's Macbeth live recording from La Scala's opening night in 1952 first choice, even taking into consideration the sound challenges. Everything pales into insignifiance for me given Callas's masterful and definitive assumption of the Lady, never to be even approached, pace Shirley Verrett fans!

As for the rest of the cast, they were La Scala's cast, the best available then, even if we disagree today.

Sleeve Font Art Magenta Fictional character
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,741 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
In contrast to Conte's remarks above, I do consider Callas's Macbeth live recording from La Scala's opening night in 1952 first choice, even taking into consideration the sound challenges. Everything pales into insignifiance for me given Callas's masterful and definitive assumption of the Lady, never to be even approached, pace Shirley Verrett fans!

As for the rest of the cast, they were La Scala's cast, the best available then, even if we disagree today.

View attachment 161982
I actually meant that Callas' Nabucco isn't in the running, but the reason I gave (it's not a studio recording) does also apply to the Macbeth. One of the most important differences between the two operas though is the prominence of the chorus in the earlier opera and that means a first choice has to be a studio recording (or a modern live performance where the sound lives up to expectations) for me.

N.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,130 Posts
In contrast to Conte's remarks above, I do consider Callas's Macbeth live recording from La Scala's opening night in 1952 first choice, even taking into consideration the sound challenges. Everything pales into insignifiance for me given Callas's masterful and definitive assumption of the Lady, never to be even approached, pace Shirley Verrett fans!

As for the rest of the cast, they were La Scala's cast, the best available then, even if we disagree today.

View attachment 161982
Surely The Conte was talking about Nabucco and, however brilliant Callas's singing is, quite eclipsing anything any other soprano has given us, the sound is pretty atrocious and almost disintegrates completely by the last act. That live 1949 recording could never be considered a library choice for that reason.

As for Macbeth, well the sound, as revealed in Warner's latest transfer, is hardly up to the standard of any of the studio sets or more recent live recordings. It is, however, a lot more listenable than the Nabucco and I do consider it essential, mostly because of Callas's fantastic Lady Macbeth, which I consider hors concours. I would still always want a good studio recording and for that I choose Abbado, not least because Verrett is the most convincing Lady after Callas.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,741 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Sticking with Nabucco AND Callas, despite its rough sound Callas' Abigaille is essential listening due to the perfect combination of fiery drama and technique. The rest of the cast are ok, but neither Bechi nor Neroni comes anywhere close to Gobbi or Ghiaurov. This is a set primarily for Callas fans.

The Warner remaster is the easiest way to find the set, but the Hardy Classics release has the best sound (although the original sources are so bad, no transfer is great).

Musical instrument Font Poster Formal wear Advertising


Dress One-piece garment Flash photography Font Music


N.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,741 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
There's another live recording of Nabucco which is well worth hearing. The 1966 La Scala season opener conducted by Gavazzeni and with a superb cast headed by Guelfi, Souliotis and Ghiaurov.

Poster Font Art Movie Event


This is one of those over the top, live Italian performances that it would have been very exciting to have seen in person. If you think Souliotis is ferocious on the Decca set, then you will be surprised at how much further she can take the feistiness here. Her and Guelfi seem locked in a never ending battle and with Ghiaurov as Zaccaria this recording could have the best overall cast of a Nabucco recording. Demands to be heard!

N.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,833 Posts
There's another live recording of Nabucco which is well worth hearing. The 1966 La Scala season opener conducted by Gavazzeni and with a superb cast headed by Guelfi, Souliotis and Ghiaurov.

View attachment 161996

This is one of those over the top, live Italian performances that it would have been very exciting to have seen in person. If you think Souliotis is ferocious on the Decca set, then you will be surprised at how much further she can take the feistiness here. Her and Guelfi seem locked in a never ending battle and with Ghiaurov as Zaccaria this recording could have the best overall cast of a Nabucco recording. Demands to be heard!

N.
I love that cover!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,741 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Nabucco on DVD/Blu-ray

I've been meaning to come back and comment on the various audio-visual recordings of Nabucco.

There are a number available, but not that many with equally great singers in the two main roles. There are two classic ones from the 80s that both feature Renato Bruson and Ghena Dimitrova. Neither is in a particularly good production, with the Verona costumes being more than eccentric. The Verona recording also doesn't have the best sound it being from the open air arena. The other is from La Scala (whose chorus MUST be heard in Va Pensiero) and is conducted by Muti and therefore is the better bet of the two. This is vintage Scala fare and so is recommended:

Book Publication Beard Font Poster


The other offerings of this opera in DVD or Blu-ray feature the likes of Nucci, Pons and Guleghina and have their pros and cons. For an interesting production with decent singers in modern sound, I would go for the one from Tutto Verdi from Parma with the ferocious Theodossiou and a suitably grizzled Nucci. He doesn't have the beauty of tone of Bruson, but he throws himself into the part and is far better than Baritone-Mingo.

Photograph Blue Font Poster Electronic device


These two are the picks out of those available and it depends whether you are more interested in a modern well presented production or a performance where the production is a little lacking, but the singing and conducting isn't a let down. There isn't a perfect first choice, but these two have much to enjoy.

N.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,413 Posts
For Nabucco I'd go with the old Cetra set. Silveri is a wonderful Nabucco, with more voice than the older Gobbi on the Decca set and while I do very much like Guelfi I find Souliotis too light for this role. Mancini is ideal even if she dips the high C in 'Salgo Gia'.

Font Poster Advertising Illustration Event
 
1 - 20 of 22 Posts
Top