Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Jr. Mario Basiola, Robert Merrill, Giuseppe Verdi|
Verdi: Un Ballo in Maschera
Listen to Samples
An Invitation to the"Ball(o)":Bergonzi/Price/Merrill are Uns
Donizetti's Kid | NYC, NY United States | 07/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are many fine versions of Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera available to Opera-lovers world-wide. The most treasurable ones are to be found on live broadcasts and/or pirated performances, captured within the Opera house. This opera seems to benefit from Opera's outward trappings (i.e. scenery,lighting,costumes, make-up and of, course, a live audience)as the featured artists almost uniformly sing with a more heightened sense of urgency, intensity, and searing vocalism than is apparent in their studio output. For example, L.Price, Bergonzi, and Merrill -the leading principals on this recording- can also be heard together in a METOPERA broadcast from the mid-60's,(the same time period for this recording) that practically sizzles with electricity, and yields the kind of grand vocalism and individuality that placed them amongst the greatest Verdians of all time. The conductor (F.Molinari-Pradelli)whips up a potent energy in orchestra and chorus, that serves as a catalyst for all that follows. While the METOPERA performance is not widely available in the U.S.A, this RCA recording, with the stellar additions of Verrett and Grist, is a treasurable souvenir of the live performance - and a defintive performance in its own right.
Italian Carlo Bergonzi(the sole non-American principal in this cast)remains one of Opera's most musicianly tenors, especially in the works of Verdi (rivalled only by the ubitquitous Placido Domingo).While both made a specialty of the role of Riccardo, it is Mr.Bergonzi who seems the better-suited to the vocal demands. His timbre is of a lighter cast, sweeter in the softer moments, and yet is more than equal to the most dramatic passages in the Opera. While he employs the "traditional" chuckles in the "E Scherzo" (needless and unconvincing), elsewhere he sings with enviable legato, elegant phrasing, and nobility throughout. He is dramatically alert, contrasting the role's innate buoyancy with the gravity and maturity that comes later. Mr. Bergonzi excells in this role and performance. Pre-eminent Verdi soprano Leontyne Price likewise made Amelia one of her great roles. She invests the role with a femininity that is more pronounced than her otherwise illustrous rivals. Her voice is more than usually dusky in the lower middle (unapparent in the broadcast perf.), but serves the drama quite well as a result. Ms. Price's voice soars radiantly in "Consentemi Signore" (ActI) and masterfully copes with the huge vocal demands of the Act II scena, topped by a sterling high C in the cadenza. Her duets with Mr. Bergonzi are passionately sung (though missing the competitiveness that made the broadcast so enthralling), and she sings "Morro" with plaintive beauty. Throughout the opera, Ms. Price's upper voice is sovereign, produced with vibrant tone and silvery spin. She's able to meet the demands that the heaviest music makes on her plangent middle voice, perhaps not as successfully as her best rivals, namely Milanov/Arroyo/Nilsson, but her overall performance both dramatically and vocally is superior and magnificent. Baritone Robert Merrill, at the time of this recording, was a stalwart in this opera. His dramatic involvement here is actually more engaging than in the past, and his portrayal of the betrayed Renato is forceful, yet poignant. Mr. Merrill was blessed with one of the most beautiful baritone voices ever, and, though in the later stages of an incredible career, he still retains much of the vocal bloom that made him a mainstay at the MET and elsewhere. His is a wonderful contribution. This performance becomes unbeatable with the addition of the other two principals. Soprano Reri Grist, internationally-acclaimed as one of the finest soubrette coloraturas of her era (one of the greatest Zerbinettas)) made a speciality of singing the 'trouser' role of Oscar. Her pure, crystalline voice wholly reflects the irrepressible & mischevious spirit of the Count's page. What's more impressive however, is the soprano's ability to capture and register Oscar's graver nature, whether battling his innate mistrust of Renato at the Ball, or in defending the fortune-teller Ulrica in the first Act of the opera. Her voice soars beautifully with Ms. Price's in the opera's final ensemble as well. Even without the traditional interpolations/cadenzas ( a conductor choice), Ms. Grist is quintessential in this role. The artist Shirley Verrett enjoyed a successful career first as a mezzo-soprano, then graduated to a stellar career as a dramatic soprano. Indeed she debuted at London's Covent Garden in the role she sings here -Ulrica- and nearly twenty years later sang the role of Amelia at La Scala in Milano. Here Ms. Verrett sings a role written for and usually associated with contraltos, including the great Marian Anderson, who debuted at the MET in 1954, becoming the first African-American soloist to sing there. Ms. Verrett was never a contralto - neither are nearly all who sang the role after the late 50's- but sings most impressively in this performance. She is renowned for her dramatic insights, and her fortune-teller is commanding and even regal. Ms. Verrett's voice is properly dark, if not as refulgent as her recorded rivals, but has a much richer hue, wider range, and her vocal palette is more distinctive as well. She is a younger-sounding Ulrica than one usually encounters, perhaps explaining the charisma that enthralls her younger followers that include the sailor Silvano and pageboy Oscar. The two bassos, Giorgio Tozzi and Ezio Flagello contributions here are primarily vocal, but they sing the role of the conspirators Sam and Tom with tonal beauty and commitment. The singular drawback in this otherwise supreme performance is the conducting of Maestro Erich Leinsdorf. His conducting is seemingly indifferent, and the musical attenuations of this colorful Verdi score are too often ignored by this eminent conductor. There are so many details that he fails to illuminate, and the propulsive nature of the music is only intermittently observed. While disappointing in a performance with such a superb cast, Leinsdorf's leadership is more than adequate, and in no way diminishes the rightful legendary status of this recording, whose merits continue to be praised some 40+ years later. Some of the many fine versions of this opera include the Muti/Arroyo/Domingo-Solti/M.Price/ Pavarotti; and live MET performance with Milanov and Bjoreling, but this "Un Ballo In Maschera" performance should be the one in your collection. Have a Ball!
Price Soars As Amelia
Indiana Opera Buff | Fort Wayne, IN United States | 10/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This recording of "Un Ballo in Maschera", made for RCA in 1966, is first rate. Despite earlier comments to the contrary, the 39-year old Leontyne Price is still very much in her prime here and does some really terrific singing and acting. Carlo Bergonzi is an excellent Riccardo, full of lightness and elegance and humor. Reri Grist is the perfect page, in lovely voice with flawless high notes. The always wonderful Shirley Verrett, though a mezzo, sings the contralto role of Ulrica with firm tones and excellent musicianship. There was a comment that Robert Merrill was past his prime here. I can tell you that he is in better voice for this recording than he was for the Traviata he made with Joan Sutherland in 1962. I was amazed at just how good he sounded and what an all around fine job he did. I also own the Ballo with Pavarotti and Margaret Price, et al. Even though Pavarotti is a fabulous Riccardo, the RCA recording is superior overrall, especially because of Leontyne Price.
My favorite Ballo
Anthony G. Beck | cincinnati, oh | 07/31/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"...and also one of my all time favorite Verdi recordings. The soloists are all first rate and are captured in their prime. Highlights include Verrett's elecric Ulrica, a knock-your-socks-off Act II duet with Price and Bergonzi (I nearly drove my car off the road the first time I heard this), and an outstanding "Eri tu" from Merrill. Leinsdorf's no-bull approach sets up for exciting yet structured climaxes. Get this while it is still in print!"