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Verdi: Ernani (Parma Festival 2005) (Berti/ Guelfi/ Prestia/ Neves/ Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Regio di Parma/ Antonello Allemansi/ Pier' Alli) (C Major: 720904) [Blu-ray]  [Region A & B]
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To celebrate Giuseppe Verdi's bicentenary in 2013, C Major is proud to present the truly unique project, TUTTO VERDI: All 26 operas released on DVD and Blu-ray, together with his immortal Requiem and special documentary.
Ernani was Verdi's fifth opera and is based on Victor Hugo's Hernani. It takes as its starting point the theme of vengeance in all its manifold aspects and received its first performance at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice in March 1844, its success proving Verdi's definite breakthrough as a composer. The fact that the work has been staged with increasing frequency in major opera houses in recent years is due to the renaissance of bel canto singing.
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At it's premiere this opera was an overwhelming success. It really made Verdi famous and the leading composer of the day. After its triumph in Milan the following year there were over fifty productions throughout Italy and a dozen of so outside Italy; even in Vienna. The romantic revolution in literature and opera was on its way.
Interestingly it was the first Verdi opera to be done in America and in the early 1900's was quite popular; Caruso and Scotti sang arias from it often. (Grandma's Victrola belted out the Soldier's drinking song "Eviva! Beviam, Beviam! often when I was a wee tot.) It soon lost favor and was very rarely done in my younger days but I did hear the majestic Leonard Warren as Carlo and the superb Leontyne Price as Elvira. (Her "Ernani, involami!" still rings in my ears - talk about a "hot" number!) Pavarotti sang the tenor part beautifully. His aria "O tu che l'alma adora" from the 1983 DVD of the Met's production with Leona Mitchell is a fine recording for the technology of the time.
The cast in this 2005 recording is a roster of good singers. The drama is dominated by the king Don Carlo and in this recording I'm happy to say that baritone Carlo Guelfi does just that. He has a big commanding voice forceful but not forced throughout it's range. He has the looks and the commanding presence with a regal demeanor. He's just right for the part; here a zephyr, now a storm. As de Silva, grandee of Espana, Giacomo Prestia was the inflexible bearer of honor and his word even in the face of death. As with the others it was a serviceable job of acting and action kept on it's relentless pace. Marco Berti has a strong voice not quite mastered but he certainly carried off his part well. He will smooth out the rough edges in vocal production and acting and can make an excellent Verdi tenor. Susan Neves certainly has the voice and controls it well. Her "Ernani, involami" was impressive. She has the range. She needs to slim down and get more involved in the action onstage.
The sets made this old traditionalist quite happy. It's a clever setting and a pleasant change from most modern clap-trap. The costumes were also very well done. Bravi! to those involved. As conductor Antonello Allemandi kept everything going at a steady pace and the orchestra under tight control. All in all a good performance of a good opera!