Verdi: La forza del
Renata Tebaldi, soprano (Leonora); Mario del Monaco, tenor (Don Alvaro); Aldo
Protti, baritone (Don Carlo); Cesare Siepi, bass (Padre Guardiano);
Fedora Barbieri, mezzo-soprano (Preziosilla); Renato Capecchi, bass (Fra
Melitone); Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Communale di Firenza,
Dimitri Mitropoulos, cond.
ARPCD 0126 (3 CDs) (M)
(ADD) TT: 2:42:58
June 14, 1953 the Florence Teatro Communale presented the first of five
performances of Giuseppe Verdi’s La forza del destino
. On that
occasion an all-star cast sang under the direction of
one of the most inspirational of conductors.
It was an evening when all of the elements came together to
produce one of the greatest performances of Forza
ever preserved on
far as I can tell, the new Archipel issue is the only currently
available release of this extraordinary Forza
previously heard it on a few other labels.
A Turnabout LP set was marred by boxy, distant sonics and
A Foyer CD release offered far better sound, but limited in upper frequencies.
new Archipel is, in many ways, the best I’ve heard to date.
Archipel claims the set is “issued from the original source.” Whatever that means, the sound has more clarity and
definition, with a particularly noticeable improvement in the upper
range. Both orchestra
and voices emerge with a presence not previously evident.
the bad news. Archipel has
(for reasons that escape me) added artificial "stereo" to the recording.
It seems that this effect is limited to the right channel.
The left channel has fine sound. As playback systems vary, do what
is necessary with equipment you have to listen only to the left
channel. Some preamplifiers/receivers have a control that will
allow you to do this. If your controls will not enable this, you
could use a connector as pictured above which will permit you to connect
the left channel signal into the two stereo inputs. It's quite a
bit of trouble for sure, but it will enable you to hear the fine-sounding mono version of this performance.
what a performance it is! Every
one of the principals is in top form.
Renata Tebaldi is in glorious voice with ravishing, opulent
tone, and little of the hardness that crept into her upper register in
later years. In the great
Monastery Scene, she is able both to give full vent to Leonora’s
despair, and to float a magical “La Vergine degli Angeli.”
Tebaldi’s “Pace, pace” is another highlight of this
performance, as is her heartbreaking delivery in the final Trio.
All in all, one of the most radiant performances ever given by
this treasured artist.
in the case of Tebaldi, Mario del Monaco is in the absolute top form of
his early years. At this
stage of his career del Monaco possessed one of the most miraculous
tenor voices of the 20th century, with an incredible focus
and power that continued unabated from the dark lower register to a
brilliant, ringing top. Del Monaco easily could make a great effect (as he often did)
through sheer vocal opulence. But
here del Monaco sings with a subtlety not often associated with this
dramatic tenor. “O tu che
in seno” features some gorgeous long phrases, with very effective use
of hushed tones not typically associated with this singer.
Throughout the performance del Monaco takes unusual care to apply a wide range
of dynamics and vocal colors. The
result is an interpretation of far greater cumulative impact than some of
the tenor's “can belto” outings.
Siepi is a magnificent Padre Guardiano, noble in voice and bearing.
Renato Capecchi, a fabulous singing actor, is one of the best Fra
Melitones on disc. Fedora Barbieri as Preziosilla is in superb voice as well,
faring about as well as can be expected with one of Verdi’s less
gratifying mezzo roles.
Protti is a singer who rarely earns much in the way of praise.
At a time when there were several great baritones on the scene,
there was little that was distinctive about Protti, either in terms of
vocal quality or characterization. On the other hand, he possessed a firm and vibrant Italianate
voice and certainly sang with style and vigor, if with a rather
generalized approach. In
this performance Protti is a more than competent Don Carlo, one who does not let the side
down, even in such august company.
It’s a shame that he and del Monaco were not given the
opportunity to sing the “Sleale!” duet, cut in this performance, as
it often was at the time.
Dimitri Mitropoulos leads a riveting account of Verdi’s score, one of
tremendous momentum and power. The
ensemble is much better on this occasion than in the 1960 Vienna
performance I previously reviewed, although the conclusion of the
“Invano, Alvaro” duet does come a bit unglued.
sorry Archipel decided to tinker with what is obviously excellent
source material. But as I
mentioned above, their transgression can be easily corrected, allowing
you to enjoy a unique and glorious representation of Verdi’s epic
Note: About two decades ago there was minor interest in issuing
"long playing mono CDs," with each of the normal stereo
channels carrying one mono signal permitting twice as much program
material. One issue was on the Rodolphe label (RPC 32516.17), Wagner's Parsifal
from the 1953 Bayreuth Festival with Clemens Krauss conducting, a 2-CD
set with a playing time of about four hours. To play these recordings it
was necessary to have equipment that would permit listening to just one
channel, either the left OR the right, which added to the setup
confusion. The "long playing mono CD" concept was quickly