on 11 April 2001
A somewhat neglected masterpiece, Mefistofele, has much to offer and is certainly not less beautiful than other verisimo operas. The exceptional maestro T.Serafin chooses the well tried formula of Tebaldi, Del Monaco, Siepi all in their absolute, glorious prime. The result is unique! Renata Tebaldi in one of her signature roles is unforgettable! Especially in the death scene she'll bring tears to everyone! Del Monaco performs wonderfully though a softer voice (like Bergonzi for example) could have been more affective in parts that demand lyrical sound (like the lontano,lontano, lontano). Last but certainly not least Siepi is s u b l i m e !! The role of Mefisto fits him like a glove! Indisputably, if you intend to buy a Mefistofle recording, this is the one! Don't miss it!
on 15 February 2003
This is considered Arrigo Boito's masterpiece. Some consider it a semi-masterpiece, but it is definitely the masterpiece among the few operas that Boito composed. I do agree with those who think this opera is a less than ideal masterpiece. I will start the review by discussing the opera's virtues and faults.
"Mefistofele" is an opera of uneven quality. The music is very beautiful and serves the plot very well. It is very enjoyable and certainly does its job of conjuring up Heaven, Hell, angels, the supernatural, devilish going-ons, and lively crowd scenes. The Prologue is masterful in its depiction of Heaven. The music is both powerful and serene. The Epilogue is glorious too. It is very powerful and conveys the drama of Faust's redemption and Mephistophele's defeat very well. The chorus scenes are very enjoyable and contain some of the opera's best tunes. The major drawbacks of the opera are its plot and libretto. The plot is very ridiculous and is unworthy of Boito's glorious music. The libretto is tacky and overdone. Boito was known as a man of letters and he wrote the libretto himself. It would have been better if he had chosen a librettist other than himself and a plot that was more believable and worthy of his music. Boito succeeded with the music of this opera, but not with its plot and libretto.
On to the conductor and singers in this excellent recording. Cesare Siepi is in glorious voice and characterizes Mephistopheles very well. Mario del Monaco is also in excellent voice. This was the first time I heard his singing and his voice. I immediately liked both. His is a likeable voice that is loud and powerful. His tendency to sing loudly is evident on this recording, especially in the Epilogue. However, he also sings softly on this recording and when he does, he is quite pleasant to listen to. He characterizes Faust very well with some nice histrionics thrown in for good measure. Renata Tebaldi is a glorious Margherita. She was known for her portrayal of Margherita and she gives a glorious interpretation here. She displays her fabulous spinto voice in this role. Her "L'altra notte in fondo al mare" is very well sung with some nice, if not completely competent, coloratura.... When she describes her daily chores to Faust, she has to sing a bit of coloratura in the line "filo sull'arcolaio." She manages the task decently, if not spectacularly. Her Prison Scene is done marvelously. She was not known for deep acting, but you could never say she was dramatically detached like Sutherland was. Her acting in this scene is great. Floriana Cavalli, who sings Elena, is very able. Her voice is strong and pleasant, if not as pleasant as Renata's, with powerful high notes. She has excellent diction. Her Pantalis, Lucia Danieli, is also very able. Conductor Tullio Serafin paces the scenes beautifully. The serene parts of the score are given space to unfold and the dramatic parts are given fast, exciting tempos.
This is a great recording of "Mefistofele". This one or the one with Norman Treigle, Plácido Domingo, and Montserrat Caballé will more than suffice if you want to own a recording of this opera.
By the way, the track index lists the wrong page numbers.