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The QUINTESSENTIAL "Forza",
By A Customer
This review is from: Verdi: La forza del destino (Audio CD)
Verdi's "La Forza del Destino" is one of the most difficult of his operas to cast properly. The musical demands are quite formidable,and require a command of vocalism and technique that only the greatest singers can offer. It further requires the leadership of an immaginative conductor to bring cohesion and eloquence to Verdi's somewhat sprawling score. This recording of "La Forza del Destino" towers over the others in best meeting the aforementioned 'criteria'. Maestro James Levine demonstrates his mastery of the score throughout, creating intimacy in the more personal passages of the opera (no more so than in the moving Convent Scene), contrasted with the bustling energy of scenes in the countryside and battlefield. His conducting has the "sweep" and verve so neccessary to illuminating and energizing the overall(Russian-influenced?)gloom of this often turbulent score. Spanish tenor PLACIDO DOMINGO is simply the finest "Alvaro" of his generation. The dark richness and power of his beautiful instrument captures the ever- changing and volatile moods of the tragic, star-crossed lover. Mr. Domingo's great musicality abets the drama, making "O tu che in seno" heart-wrenching. Elsewhere, he is ardent with Leonora, and passionate in his duets with Don Carlo. There is no one better. Leonora di Vargas is sung by American LEONTYNE PRICE, the pre-eminent Verdi soprano of the past 30 years. This is one of the diva's most-celebrated roles, and, having recorded it twice, we are the more fortunate for having both to experience and enjoy.
The vibrant and lyrical quality of the Schippers "Forza" (1964) has been replaced with a throbbing, darker, heavier sound in the middle, and a lower voice that's alternately chesty or slightly raspy. Ms. Price's upper voice is sovereign and resplendent. She mixes gorgeous piani with requisite forte high notes that are powerfully intoned. Throughout, the soprano is dramatically alert, bringing desperation and urgency to the taxing "Convent Scene", fear and confusion in the earlier duet with her beloved Alvaro, expressing pain,lamentation, and rage in her justly-famous singing of "Pace,pace mio Dio",and a soft, hushed intensity to the final Trio as well. A magnificent performance!! American baritone Sherrill Milnes likewise dominated his peers in the Verdi canon. His strong, virile singing of Don Carlo is well-suited to a role that is very monochromatic in dimension, but quite exciting musically. Mr. Milnes' voice here is resonant in the middle, slightly weak in the lower voice, and powerful in his wonderful upper voice (with some strain at times), and he utilizes it with musicality, and a dramatic flair that is often more extroverted than introspective. His duets with Mr. Domingo are thrillingly sung, as is the "Urna fatale/Egli e Salvo" scena. Italian basso BONALDO GIAOTTI, also a 'specialist'in the role of Padre Guardiano, sings with warmth and plangent beauty. The basso imbues his singing with authority, clarity, and strength, creating, with Ms. Price, a 'Convent Scene' of unusual passion and conviction. Mr. Giaotti is not any less committed in the more-static music of the role,(duet & scena with Fra Melitone, sung with comic intelligence by French bass-baritone GABRIEL BACQUIER) and his firmly-produced bass is one of the finest on record in this music. Italian mezzo-soprano FIORENZA COSSOTTO rarely, if ever, sang the role of Preziosilla onstage, perhaps because it is marginally a principal role, and/or due to its mostly unrewarding vocal demands. Few mezzos really succeed in this daunting music, that requires agility, range, and power. Ms. Cossotto is most admirable in those respects, though her upper voice is clearly taxed by the music, and tonal beauty is only intermittently provided. Still,the mezzo is energetic and, as always with this gifted artist, 'paints' with the detailed, insightful, and often ironic touches of the accomplished singing-actress that defines her art. The supporting and comprimario roles are also well-characterized and sung. The John Alldis Choir, integral in this opera, sings gloriously, and the London Symphony Orchestra plays splendidly for Mr. Levine. This "Forza" remains the overall 'winner' amongst its competitors. While individual performances, all happily available on other CD sets -Callas, Tebaldi, Milanov, L.Price, Arroyo, Verrett, Bergonzi, Tucker, Warren, Merrill, Siepi, Tozzi, M.Pradelli, Schippers, Muti - may rival those heard here, the sum of the performances in this "Forza" are unbeatable. Own THIS one!