essmac | Nashville, TN USA | 08/10/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I know that il Pav's voice is not for everyone, but I must disagree with the negative comments about his performance here. Quite the contrary, I think it's close to ideal, and one of his best.
Youthful and fresh, ardent, not generalized as tenors can be. In fact, his reading of 'Spirto gentil' might be the finest vocal acting you'll hear from him. He deploys an achingly melancholy tone color (not the embarassing old-school Italian tenor sobs) that brought me close to tears. I know! I was appalled at myself for getting misty at Pav of all people, but it's rather heartbreaking. And then he uses a darker color for the lower notes, indicating anger and sense of betrayal.
Combined with his involved, forceful delivery in the rest of the piece (especially the notorious high D-flat: squillo squillo squillo!), he basically steals the show from Cossotto (and tries valiantly to get the lead out of Bonynge's baton).
I hate to be critical of Flo, but as the Penguin Guide mustily puts it, she's below her best here. Penguin alludes to the recording sessions being difficult, and I have read other accounts of Flo's disagreeable nature- maybe she was worn out from fighting with Bonynge? Regardless, while the rock solid bottom notes are completely there, and the wonderful color of middle voice (sometimes sounding like Caballe) is as good as ever, the top is not so hot. The high notes are unfocused at best, and she badly misjudges a high B (I think it's a B) at the end of the first duet with Pav. He nails it, she doesn't, and the result is pretty awful.
However, on the whole, it's still good, dramatic, incisive singing and all fully within a bel canto frame-- except for the high notes, it's just the kind of quality you want for this role (this ain't Lucia).
Also noteworthy: while Bacquier and Ghiaurov are not completely flawless, they do deliver the goods here, both of them doing some highly effective, unusually soft singing to very great effect. Despite a couple of sloppy gear changes, Bacquier does a superb job with Alfonso's cavatina and caballeta (perhaps the finest thing for baritone that Donizetti ever wrote, and the blueprint for many Verdi baritone arias to come). And talk about embarassment of riches: Cotrubas in the coprimo role of Ines! Her solo with female chorus is just lovely.
As far as 'La Favorita' itself goes- if you've heard about the influence that Donizetti had on Verdi and wondered what all the fuss was about, here is proof positive. The impact on Verdi is apparent from the remarkable overture- clearly the model for Verdi'd 'Forza' overture. If you know anyone who thinks of Donizetti as an assembly-line worker who just cranked out hits with little thought to 'art', play the 'Favorita' overture for him. It's head and shoulders above most of the rest of his instrumental work.
In the last act, we find out where Verdi got the idea for his many scenes featuring the star singer with a chorus of monks and/or nuns offstage. 'Favorita' is even a clear inspriation for 'Don Carlo', complete with a King who sings a wistful aria about a woman and then faces off with a representative of the Church.
It's unfortunate that the Italian librettists mangled the original French libretto, introducing some story changes that don't make sense (even in operatic terms), and thus it's unfortunate that Bonynge and crew did not record the original French. But then, you know how Italian singers are about other languages: mai!"
There's Only One
RAWoFFtheWaLL | Williamsport, PA USA | 09/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is only one studio recording available of Donizetti's La Favorita (Italian version, not the original French language La Favorite) This is a bravura role for Luciano Pavarotti who's voice is certainly at its best here singing the role of Fernando, repertoire that could have been written just for him. The high C's and C#'s are exquisite here. He truly seems to know what he is singing about for this recording and his performance comes accross as very believable because of it. Fiorenza Cossotto is especially moving in her role as the "the favorite," Leonora. I found it unfortunate that she was not in better voice for the first act of this recording. Very disturbing was the love duet with Pavarotti. Ms. Cossotto was very wobbly and flat. In fact, at the end of the duet, (which is a definitive moment in the plot of the opera) Donizetti calls for the star tenor and mezzo-soprano to produce a lavish and sustained high C. Pavarotti's C is ample, well placed, and quite in tune, but Ms. Cossotto's C is extremely flat and ugly, especially considering there are two singers singing the same note at the same time, making her bad note sound even worse next to her partner's perfect note! I do not know why Maestro Richard Bonynge would not have asked for another take of the duet. Fortunately, she sounds much better for the remainder of the recording. I find it very strange! The rest of the cast, including Ileana Cotrubas, Gabriel Bacquier, and Nicolai Ghiaurov, are superb, and overall one could only hope that the only available studio recording of this opera in its Italian version would be so great. I highly reccomend the French version, La Favorite, recorded with Ramon Vargas and Veselina Kassarova. (I believe this is the only French version studio recording as well, and this opera has such beautiful music you will want both!)"