daniel0302 | New York, NY United States | 08/31/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There have been many good recordings of "Un Ballo in Maschera" and some bad ones as well. While probably nobody's first choice, this recording is an excellent addition to the collection of the Verdi enthusiast, and is in many ways a classic. Of course, the 1954 mono sound is not up to the standard set by other more recent recordings. Angelo Questa's conducting may lack the nuances of other conductors' interpretations, but he leads a solid performance. It is also steeped in an Italianate tradition rich in performance practice that is certainly closer to Verdi's own than other celebrated maestros' more recent versions. The Italian label Cetra made enormous contributions to recorded opera very early in the LP era and taped (mono) recordings of a vast number of Italian operas, both standard repertoire as well as pieces that today are considered rarities. The sonic qualities of LP recording would soon be bettered by stereo tapings by Decca, RCA, and EMI. Also, many of the Cetra recordings sound a little under-rehearsed; this is true in places on this recording, but the rewards of listening to this are ample. American soprano Maria Curtis Verna, the Amelia of this "Ballo", had the misfortune of being born a spinto soprano in the same generation as Callas, Tebaldi, and Milanov. Like her contemporaries Antoinetta Stella and Gabriella Tucci, Curtis Verna was underrated and under recorded, and when she was recorded (as with this recording) it was not with quite the same degree of refinement that her more celebrated contemporaries received. One can only respond with chagrin to this embarrassment of singing riches in our parent' or grandparents' generations given the notable dearth of great Verdi sopranos today. If Curtis Verna were singing today, she would likely be one of very few reigning Verdi sopranos of our time. Granted, some consider her singing and her voice somewhat idiosyncratic, but Curtis Verna has all of the big money moments of this role. "Ecco l'orrido campo" is well sung and interpreted, while "Morro, ma prima ingrazie" is heartbreaking.Giuseppe Valdengo as Renato also contributes fine performance and, like Curtis Verna, may not be perhaps the greatest interpretation of the role, but certainly can withstand comparison to other recorded performances. There is exciting chemistry between Valdengo and Curtis Verna in the opening scene of Act 3. Even with a little strain on the top, his "Eri tu che macchiavu quell'anima" is clearly the work of a fine musician.Mezzo-soprano Pia Tassinari is arguably the greatest Ulrica ever recorded - she is truly fabulous and one regrets that the role does not reappear again later in the opera so that she can sing some more! She is absolutely fantastic and for the "Ballo" enthusiast is worth the price of this recording all by herself. The major flaw is the uneven, hoarse, unrefined and sometimes off-key singing of Ferruccio Tagliavini. Tagliavini only sounds really good when singing below forte and in mid voice. Part of the problem seems to lie with the miking of the original taping sessions, but that is only part of the problem. Tagliavini possessed a small, lyric instrument that was suited to lighter roles. As with other tenors he forced himself into parts that were far too heavy for him with disastrous results. Listening to him is often torture; the great duet is rough going in places despite the contribution of Curtis-Verna. I find myself often tracking past his most unattractive moments when listening to this recording. Despite some woeful singing from the leading man, this recording is still worth the money (particularly at this bargain price) as a document of Italian Verdi style of its time, as well as the genuinely fine contributions of Curtis Verna, Valdengo, and the extraordinary Tassinari."
A satisfying experience!
Impostazione | New York City Area | 01/23/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This performance, despite fine contributions from all soloists lacks something. It moves fast but where does it go? I do not feel the terror or intrigue that abounds in the text. Curtis-Verna is a dependable soprano and the tenor is also quite reliable. Tassinari sings like a star and later recordings show her influence.
Valdengo's voice is very pleasing and his Verdi style notable. I wish I could describe the terrific sensations it effects on me, that wonderfully vascular sound. His performance is not perfect and his voice is not comfortable in the score's high regions, but that virile, open and masculine sound stands out.
As for the role of Amelia, you may try Millo for grandezza, Stella Roman (my favorite) for her fabulous emotional high notes, stunning pianissimi and climactic delivery, Leontyne Price's emotional delivery, Callas' thoughtful delivery, Milanov's dignified and noble presentation, Caniglia (I adore her) for the sheer terror she evokes, Arroyo for the beauty of her singing, Herva Nelli for style and you have Nilsson, Tebaldi, Margaret Price, Caballe, Crider, Ricciarelli and of course others to choose from as well.
A good performance among many great versions!