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Eileen Farrell in New Orleans
Amilcare Ponchielli, Giuseppe Verdi, Anton Guadagno
Eileen Farrell in New Orleans
Genre: Classical
VAIA 1260, Scenes from La Forza del Destino (Verdi) 1963 with Richard Cassilly, Dino Dondi & La Gioconda (Ponchielli). 1967 with Nell Rankin, Chester Ludgin.


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VAIA 1260, Scenes from La Forza del Destino (Verdi) 1963 with Richard Cassilly, Dino Dondi & La Gioconda (Ponchielli). 1967 with Nell Rankin, Chester Ludgin.

CD Reviews

Farrell Shines in Verdi, Ponchielli
G. Novakov | Louisiana | 02/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"As an artist, Eileen Farrell was all over the chart--opera, concerts, blues, jazz--and she excelled in all of these areas. But, in truth, complete opera performances were rather rare compared to her concerts, recitals, and TV appearances. So we are fortunate to have these selections from two of her most popular portrayals, Leonora in Verdi's La Forza del Destino and the title role in Ponchielli's La Gioconda, performed under the auspices of the New Orleans Opera Association.

Farrell's Leonora is presented virtually complete (only the Inn scene is missing because it was not performed in this production, as was common during this era, even at the MET), and each of Leonora's scenes is presented uncut, allowing the listener to hear her characterization in context rather than as a recital. Farrell is in her prime (this is 1963) and presents a fully-delineated Leonora. Her wide vocal range is evident as the contrast between the quiet beauty of "La vergine degli angeli" in the Monastery scene and the dramatic intensity of "Pace, pace mio Dio" in the last act attest. She is in command of the role, and (contrary to her stated dislike of performing in complete operas), shows remarkable understanding and belief in the character. The rest of the cast is filled out with veterans Ara Berberian, Richard Cassilly, Raymond Michalski, and Nicola Moscona, and (a name new to me), Dino Dondi as Don Carlo. Fabled MET and RCA conductor Renato Cellini brings his usual competence to the performance.

The disc is rounded out with three excerpts from a 1967 New Orleans Opera performance of La Gioconda (under the direction of Anton Guadagno), again with Farrell in the title role. Farrell is every bit as exciting in this performance as she is in the earlier Forza. Farrell's "Suicidio" gains so much from being part of a complete performance, and her command of the role is everywhere evident in these brief selections.

The sound in both operas is in excellent, clear mono, and the liner notes (by Jack Belsom, New Orleans Opera Archivist) provide a concise record of Farrell's numerous appearances in New Orleans.

Highly recommended to all fans of Eileen Farrell.

Interesting that VAI and the New Orleans Opera Archives project chose to issue this cd so soon after releasing complete performances of both Forza (VAIA 1252-3) and Gioconda (VAIA 1255-3) with Zinka Milanov, and within a decade of each other, time-wise. Comparisons are inevitable, but, in this case at least, ultimately useless. Who can choose between the sheer beauty and glorious tone of Milanov, and the sheer volume and dramatic fire of Farrell? Fortunately for us, there is no need to choose--all three releases belong in every serious opera cd collection as souvenirs of two very special sopranos at the top of their form, in performances that recollect a golden era of regional opera performance in America.

Note: The New Orleans Opera is struggling to stay active after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina last year. Portions of the proceeds from the sale of this cd (and all VAI New Orleans Opera Archive recordings) go to support the continued existence of the local company. Your purchase will aid in the New Orleans Opera's recovery effort."
Farrell Rules
Jon H. Freeman | Florida | 07/17/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Eileen Farrell, one of the greatest voices of the Century, is heard in two roles that she performed in New Orleans as well as at the Met. She brings the excitement of live performance and a good interpretation. Unfortunately, since she sang so little live Opera in her career, there is not the extra punch of a Milanov, who owned these roles during her Met career.

This is not to belittle Farrell's interpretations, which are well thought out, just to wish for a little more stage savvy. Neverthless a CD to be cherished in an age when there are practically no singers who can negotiate either of these roles."