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Verdi: La Forza Del Destino / Urmana, Guelfi, Giordani, Mehta

Verdi / Urmana / Guelfi / Giordani
Release Date: 01/27/2009 
Label:  Tdk   Catalog #: 5  
Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Filippo PolinelliCarlo BosiVioleta UrmanaDuccio Dal Monte,   ... 
Conductor:  Zubin Mehta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Florence Maggio Musicale OrchestraFlorence Maggio Musicale Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 3 Hours 9 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

VERDI La forza del destino Zubin Mehta, cond; Violeta Urmana ( Leonora ); Marcello Giordani ( Alvaro ); Carlo Guelfi ( Carlo ); Julia Gertseva ( Preziosilla ); Roberto Scandiuzzi ( Guardiano ); Bruno De Simone ( Melitone ); others; Maggio Read more Musicale Fiorentino O & Ch TDK OPFORZA (2 DVDs: 189:00) Live: Florence 2007

This is a tremendously enjoyable production of an opera that can be difficult to bring off. La forza del destino is so epic that it runs the risk of sprawling, and if the performers and the stage director don’t exercise self-discipline, the opera quickly loses its focus. I don’t think anyone will argue that this is the best-sung performance that he or she ever heard—in spite of its difficulties, there are many good audio-only recordings of this opera—but this is one of those times when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The last time I reviewed a DVD of this opera in these pages, it was a version dating from 1983 from the Metropolitan Opera, with Leontyne Price, Giuseppe Giacomini, and Leo Nucci in the lead roles. One might assume that the Met’s production would easily surpass the competition, but this newer version wins hands down, not because the singing is better (although that is arguably the case) but because the drama seems to mean something to everyone involved. The Met’s version is static, and, to be honest, frequently dull.

Stage director Nicolas Joël has no strange ideas about this opera, other than moving it up in time to what appears to be the 1800s. He handles the important crowd scenes very effectively, and encourages the singers to interact with each other in a dramatically realistic manner. Ezio Frigerio’s sets are simple but evocative, and Jürgen Hoffmann’s lighting is appropriately gloomy. Video director Andrea Bevilacqua has captured the opera’s mood perfectly, and whoever edited the production for video had an ear for the music as well: for once, the editing works with the music, not against it. The 16:9 picture format is crisp, like a cool and moonlit night, and the sound—I heard this DVD in the LPCM stereo format—is impressive in its impact and clarity. I just wish that we had been left to enjoy the overture without having to view the orchestra through a fake proscenium arch, and without opening credits competing for one’s attention. This music is too good to be wasted on “reading the program,” as it were.

It’s probably a stupid thing to applaud a television screen. Nevertheless, that is what I found myself doing as Violeta Urmana finished singing “Pace, pace, mio Dio.” Maybe it’s because she is not a petite woman, but I found myself thinking of Zinka Milanov and Eileen Farrell throughout much of her performance. Although it is not used with great subtlety, her voice is blessedly secure, and there is a nobility to Urmana’s singing which is right for Verdi. Her death scene had me in tears, which is more than I can say for Price and Caballé in the same scene. Tenor Marcello Giordani has a brilliant, almost metallic voice, and he uses it excitingly and with emotion; “O tu che in seno agli angeli” is truly moving. His problem is a tendency to go sharp. Here, his sound at the very top of his voice is more attractive than it was in his aria disc on Naxos, which made the top sound dry and strained. As for his acting, he is successful in depicting Don Alvaro’s nearly constant state of mental anguish. As Don Carlo, Carlo Guelfi has a dry sound—definitely more Leonard Warren than Robert Merrill—but like both of those singers, he is not lazy, and what he lacks in tonal allure (and sometime finesse) he makes up for in spirit. In his later interactions with Don Alvaro, this Carlo’s sinister, cynical smile is chilling, and by intention or by necessity, that uncomfortable smile is matched by his voice. Roberto Scandiuzzi is a surprisingly worn-sounding Padre Guardiano, although he’s one of the more attractive-looking monks one might hope to see in this opera. He’s quite overshadowed by Bruno de Simone’s fantastic Melitone in a performance that is both richly comic and malicious, and also terrifically sung. That leaves us with Julia Gertseva’s sexy Preziosilla. Vocally, she lacks the requisite agility for the role, but the sound is appropriately alluring, and you have to admire her exuberance in the “Rataplan” chorus at the end of act III.

In this performance, Mehta reminds us what a fine conductor he was on so many opera recordings in the 1970s. Nothing is self-indulgent or rushed, and the score’s excitement, melancholy, and (above all) melody are given their due. At times, the orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino sounds a little undersized, but the payoff is the transparency and bite of its playing.

With its imperfect but completely likable cast, wonderful conducting, sensible and imaginative direction, and high production values, this DVD of La forza del destino is well worth considering as a first choice.

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle

Il Marchese di Calatrava - Duccio Dal Monte
Donna Leonora – Violeta Urmana
Don Carlo di Vargas – Carlo Guelfi
Don Alvaro – Marcello Giordani
Preziosilla – Julia Gertseva
Padre Guardiano – Roberto Scandiuzzi
Frá Melitone – Bruno de Simone
Curra - Antonella Trevisan
Un alcalde - Filippo Polinelli
Mastro Trabuco – Carlo Bosi
Un chirurgo – Alessandro Luongo

Nicolas Joël, stage director
Ezio Frigerio, set design
Franca Squarciapino, costumes

Recorded live from the Teatro Comunale, Firenze, 2007.

Picture format: NTSC 16:9 anamorphic
Sound format: LPCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu language: English
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian
Booklet language: English, German, French
Running time: 189 mins
No. of DVDs: 2 (DVD 9)
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Works on This Recording

La forza del destino by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Filippo Polinelli (Bass), Carlo Bosi (Tenor), Violeta Urmana (Soprano),
Duccio Dal Monte (Bass), Carlo Guelfi (Baritone), Yulia Gertseva (Mezzo Soprano),
Marcello Giordani (Tenor), Roberto Scandiuzzi (Bass), Bruno De Simone (Baritone),
Antonella Trevisan (Mezzo Soprano), Alessandro Luongo (Baritone)
Conductor:  Zubin Mehta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Florence Maggio Musicale Orchestra,  Florence Maggio Musicale Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1862/1869; Italy 
Date of Recording: 2007 
Venue:  Teatro Comunale, Florence 

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