Michel | Montreal, Quebec | 10/07/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like most Cetra opera sets taken from radio broadcast the
overall quality of the production is a bit rough around the
edges but what we loose in refinement we gain in raw excitement
as is the case here. Molinari-Pradelli leads a vivid performan-
ce of this dark tale of love/hate/jealousy/revenge and the cast
is excellent with Paolo Silveri (Simon) and Mario Petri
(Fiesco) both eloquent and sonorous - they get great support
by the then very young Antonietta Stella (22) and Carlo Ber-
gonzi (27) as Amelia and Gabriele. The sound is very good
considering its source and age (1951).
A fascinating recording
Ralph Moore | Bishop's Stortford, UK | 10/30/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In almost any discussion of the few extant recordings of "Simon Boccanegra", this one is overlooked in favour of the 1977 Abbado prizewinning set but if it were not for the boxy, congested mono sound - hence the reduction of one star - this one would be among as good a choice as any other. There are lots of reasons for preferring it, not least the first appearance of Carlo Bergonzi as a tenor after he re-trained from baritone. You can still hear more than a trace of baritonal heftiness in his sound - the voice was to acquire more squillo a few years later - and I confess that at first I strained to recognise the Bergonzi we know, excellent though his singing already is in his debut tenor recording role. This is also the recording debut of that estimable soprano Antonietta Stella, who, at 22, sounds a little nervous and tentative at her entry but soon gains in confidence - this was a radio broadcast - and sings with real passion. She tends to be slow starter in all her recordings but the voice is far from ordinary.
The surprise of the recording is Paolo Silveri. I have always enjoyed his fine, easy top notes and the smoothness of his vocal production, but here he finds an interpretative edge which makes him every bit the equal of Cappuccilli in both his studio recordings - and frankly I think he has the more purely beautiful voice, too. Nobody approaches Gobbi in either his studio recording or the live Gavazzeni performance (see my reviews)for really inhabiting the role; Silveri rather throws away the dramatic possibilities of the cursing of Paolo in the Council Chamber scene, but his singing per se in the great "Plebei! Patrizi! Popolo" aria is superlative. I enjoy Silveri's performance in the old "L'Arlesiana" with Tagliavini (again; see my review) but this is the best I have ever heard him sing and I feel that it is time to revalue him alongside great contemporaries like Gobbi and Bastianini. In addition, we have Mario Petri in sonorous voice as Fiesco and the skilful, sensitive direction of the ever-reliable Molinari Pradelli at the helm. The admirable Paolo is the same singer as in the Gobbi studio set; Walter Monachesi, here in fresher voice.
I have grown to admire and enjoy this opera more and more over the years; it is a very subtle, mature work - which is why Verdi thought it worthwhile revising with Boito's assistance. There is one small cut in which Paolo is refused the hand of Amelia (Maria) and decides to abduct her, but the text of that scene (in Italian only) is in the libretto; otherwise the opera is complete on two cheap discs (if you get the latest "Cetra Opera Collection" from Warner Fonit). It is a worthy addition to any collection as long as you don't mind the congested sound but the Abbado is still the best bet if you want only one, modern recording - and yet everyone should hear Gobbi, too in either the Opera D'Oro live set or the EMI studio recording. We are spoilt for choice - and I haven't even yet mentioned the famous classic, historic set with Tibbett, Martinelli, Rethberg and Pinza - what a cast - which is hors concours."