A real spectacle
David Landau | Los Angeles, CA USA | 10/23/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a marvellous performance from 1966, the waning part of the "golden age". For me, the real surprise is the mastery of the conductor, Oliviero De Fabritiis, whose most famous appearance on disc, I suppose, is in the pre-war Tosca with Gigli & Caniglia. His work here calls to mind a favorite German conductor, Kempe, for being wholly non-neurotic, which sets it against the grain of "modernity". Like Kempe's conducting, it has an opposite virtue: it's generous. The whole spectacle is laid out so beautifully that you can't help being involved. The tenor, Ferraro, is also very strong and another positive surprise.
The soprano, Olivero, whose name almost collides with the conductor's first name, is well known for her vocal and dramatic strength. The role of Minnie is right up her alley, and she's terrific. A considerable bonus of this lovely publication is the CD booklet, containing Olivero's extended reminiscences of her unusually long career. (She's now in her late nineties and continues to sing in public.) The role of Minnie has a Wagnerian heft, and Olivero's manner fits it. As she remembers, she had her breakthrough singing Elsa in Lohengrin in 1937; and three decades later, she could still give of a real Wagnerian strength.
As sound, the recording is very likeable; genuine stereo, observed from a distance and so a little fuzzy at first, but with plenty of power and without those annoying peaks that are inflicted by too close a perspective. The La Fenice orchestra is spot-on, with the winds especially eloquent.
The critical consensus is that the best of this opera--as is often the case--is to be heard in records from the live performances; especially those under Mitropoulos and Votto. But those recordings are in relatively thin sound. This performance under De Fabritiis has all the virtues of the golden age, combined with pretty agreeable sound. If you can do without a translated libretto--the Italian text is not hard to find online--then this fine issue might give you the only version you need of a very wonderful (and under-appreciated) opera.
(By the way, I haven't figured out how to change my address on this review; but if it makes any difference, I'm now living in San Francisco--a city that feels distinctly more operatic than Los Angeles.)"