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Verdi: Falstaff
Giuseppe Verdi, Mário Rossi, Mirella Freni
Verdi: Falstaff
Genre: Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #2


      
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CD Details

All Artists: Giuseppe Verdi, Mário Rossi, Mirella Freni, Renata Tebaldi, Agostino Lazzari, Enrico Campi, Fedora Barbieri, Fernanda Cadoni, Renato Capecchi, Renato Ercolani, Tito Gobbi, Vittorio Pandano
Title: Verdi: Falstaff
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Opera D'oro
Original Release Date: 1/1/1962
Re-Release Date: 8/7/2001
Genre: Classical
Style: Opera & Classical Vocal
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPC: 723724151123
 

CD Reviews

A great document and a bargain to boot!
Philip A. Kraus | Chicago, IL United States | 11/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a great bargain from Opera d'oro and it is in very fine sound considering the 1962 air check. The performance brims with high spirits by an excellent Italian cast. Rossi conducts well but there are a few glaring ensemble problems inherent in live recordings.Renata Tebaldi never recorded Alice commercially. She is a delightful comedienne and in wonderful voice here. This is by far the best of her Falstaff recordings and if you love her voice as I do, you must have this performance. Gobbi is full of fun if a bit crude and prone to shouting at times. A huge bonus is the young Mirella Freni as Nannetta in radiant voice with beautifully floated high notes. Capecchi is a great Ford and Lazzari a sweet voiced Fenton. And Feodora Barbieri makes a meal of Quickly. At the Opera d'oro price, this is a steal. My own favorite Falstaff recording is Solti's commercial release with Geraint Evans. This CD would be an excellent addition to any serious opera collection and gives us Tebaldi's Alice Ford in very listenable sound!!!"
"Falstaff" live, with Gobbi, Tebaldi, Freni and Barbieri!
L. E. Cantrell | Vancouver, British Columbia Canada | 07/15/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"SOURCE:
Live performance in Naples, December 1, 1962.

SOUND:
This is a mono air check As such, it's not bad. It reproduces the voices fairly well but does not, of course, do full justice to the orchestral details. Overall, it strikes me as acceptable, if not much more.

CAST:
Falstaff (a fat, old force of nature, recently betrayed by the new, young king and currently fallen on hard times) - Tito Gobbi (baritone)
Alice Ford, one of the women of the Town of Windsor, an object of Falstaff's designs - Renata Tebaldi (soprano)
Ford, Alice's short-tempered, jealous husband who is conveniently absent from his house every day from two until three - Renato Capecchi (baritone)
Nannetta Ford, his daughter [Shakespeare's Anne Page] - Mirella Freni (soprano)
Fenton, a young man in love with Nannetta but regarded as an unsuitable son-in-law by her parents - Agostino Lazzari (tenor)
Dame Quickly, a woman of Windsor and an unmatched go-between - Fedora Barbieri (mezzo-soprano)
Meg Page, another woman of Windsor, another object of Falstaff's designs - Fernanda Cadoni (mezzo-soprano)
Dr. Caius, a victim of one of Falstaff's earlier schemes and highly unhappy about it - Vittorio Pandano (tenor)
Bardolfo, one of Falstaff's unreliable henchmen - Renato Ercolani (tenor)
Pistola, another unreliable henchman - Enrico Campi (bass-baritone)

CONDUCTOR:
Mario Rossi with the Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro San Carlo, Naples.

DOCUMENTATION:
Usual Od'O bargain package: no libretto. Brief essay on the opera. Short summary of the plot. Track list.

COMMENTARY:
"Falstaff" was the final work of the Grand Old Man of Italian opera. Along with the preceding opera, "Otello," it constitutes what is now known as "late period Verdi." Most opera fans hold up "Otello" as the better of the two. I don't agree. I think "Falstaff" is one of the towering peaks of opera and that its only real peer is Mozart's "Don Giovanni."

As a young man, Verdi's teachers had forced him to compose in the formal manner of Mozart, thus instilling in him a lifelong distaste for the great German composer. Nevertheless, there must have been respect mixed with that distaste, for I do not believe that it is by accident that Verdi's opera ends with a magnificent vocal fugue, matched only by the fugue that closes "Don Giovanni."

Both "Otello" and "Falstaff" owe their existence to Verdi's lifelong passion for Shakespeare. When Verdi died, among the twenty-odd well-thumbed books shelved beside his bed was a multi-volume set of Shakespeare. As a young man, Verdi had set "Macbeth" to music with considerable success. And there was, in fact, a fourth Shakespearean work that had drawn serious attention from Verdi. In the greatest of all operatic might-have-beens, Verdi struggled for years with "King Lear" before giving it up. He told another composer that it was the scene of Lear's madness that had stopped him. It simply terrified him.

"Falstaff" is based on the Bard's "The Merry Wives of Windsor," an atypical and not especially successful play--by Shakespearean standards, anyway. Perhaps the relative weakness of the play can be explained by the very old tradition that Queen Elizabeth I, having seen and enjoyed the fat knight in the two Henry IV plays, told Shakespeare that she now wished to see Sir John in love. An otherwise casual desire, when expressed by an absolute autocrat, has the force of an imperial edict, so Shakespeare must have set to work posthaste. Later scholars have speculated that he saved himself some time by taking over the bones of a "Volpone"-like play (now entirely lost and forgotten) about a swindler who sends the same lying love letter to two women. Into this framework he stuffed Fat Jack and his cronies. Among other things, this hypothesis offers an explanation for the radical change in the nature of Dame Quickly, whose name would simply have been attached to a pre-existing character. Whatever the truth of this, it remains that "The Merry Wives" is the only work of Shakespeare's that plainly deals with Elizabethan England and that its version of Sir John Falstaff is distinctly below par.

Arrigo Boito was the composer/librettist who manhandled Verdi out of his post-"Aida" retirement. After the success of the dramatic "Otello," he turned to comedy, a field for which Verdi was not renowned. The greatest failure in all of Verdi's career had been his second opera "Un giorno di regno," a comedy withdrawn after its first performance and a work on which Verdi firmly turned his back for all the rest of his long life. (Actually, contemporary revivals demonstrate that "Un giorno" was actually a pretty good opera, but Verdi had suffered through the deaths of his first wife and both his children while trying to maintain a light touch for the opera. He had ample cause never to go back.)

Boito was perhaps the greatest of Italian librettists. His only plausible rival for the title was Da Ponte, Mozart's librettist for "Le nozze di Figaro," "Don Giovanni" and 'Così fan tutte." Boito was perfectly aware of the faults of "The Merry Wives." For his "Falstaff," Boito tossed out Sir John's second visit in the disguise of the old woman, retaining only the first visit with its hasty exist via buckbasket. He also seriously strengthened Sir John by importing important speeches from "Henry IV." The result was libretto of the very highest quality, so good, in fact, that literary figures as prestigious as W. H. Auden have declared it to be superior to Shakespeare's original.

This is a performance with a festival-quality cast. Gobbi's Falstaff was legendary. Here, he is very much in the same mode as his famous recording with Karajan. He's a little rougher, but projects more energy in the presence of a live audience. Tebaldi gives a near-perfect demonstration of what Verdi must have had in mind for Mistress Ford. Freni sings beautifully, even though purely as a matter of personal taste, I prefer a lighter, more girlish voice for Nannetta. Berbieri sings beautifully, too, but I prefer the more characterful version of, say, Chloe Elmo. Capecchi and the rest of the cast are all fine. I, for one, would be perfectly delighted to see any or all of them in a live performance. There are a few rough spots, as is almost inevitable in a live performance. They don't bother me.

Because of the less than perfect sound and minor performance roughness, I downgrade this "Falstaff" to four stars, but it remains an excellent bargain choice, especially as a back-up version."
Ding, dong, the Evil One is elsewhere but his cast is here
Theodore Shulman | NYC | 12/22/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"It's the answer to a prayer: Tito Gobbi as Falstaff, WITHOUT the nasty overtinselled-operetta-robot! (As Mr. Spock said, "'Herbert' was a minor official, notorious for his rigid and limited patterns of thought!") The conductor here, Mario Rossi, performs with feeling, and loses precision just often enough to remind you it's live.

I love Rolando Panerai as much as anyone, but it's nice to hear someone else perform as Ford from time to time! (How many times did Panerai record the role--four???) Here we have the versatile Renato Capecchi, a little more subject than Panerai to the trials of the part, but singing well and acting manfully.

Mirella Freni sings in her light-mode here (she also has heavy-mode, as in her performances as Elisabetta in DON CARLO) and she's very nice. Fedora Barbieri is fine as always, deep and earthy, and Renata Tebaldi brings fine musicality, acting, and celebrity-power as Alice Ford.

It's not a five-star performance, but it sure is nice to be able to listen to Gobbi."