Whatever else, this is undoubtedly the best-recorded and probably the best-conducted Chenier we've yet had (and I don't forget the Levine/RCA set, unavailable at the moment). Ray Minshull, the Decca producer, has achieved a theatre balance between voices and orchestra. There is presence but nothing is exaggerated. As for Chailly, sometimes he over-conducts the score, drawing attention to himself rather than to Giordano, but by and large he is sympathetic to both the score and his singers. Chenier isn't easy to interpret; it bustles along busily all the time, but not always with much distinction or to any very strong purpose as we learnt again at the recent Covent Garden revival. Chailly almost convinces us that the story and the music,Read more especially where Gerard is concerned, is about something more than merely contrivance and cardboard, and he and the National Philharmonic bring out the work's colour and melodrama, both vividly presented.
For the many and important small roles, Decca have assembled half a dozen old faithfuls in various states of vocal health, all enjoying their moments of character performing. Varnay goes rather over the top as the old Countess in Act The three comprimari tenors, whose combined ages must be more than 200, all make the mark with Piero De Palma the most potent as the spy Incredibile, an object-lesson in acting with the voice. Giorgio Tadeo, a buffo bass of distinction, here turns himself into the nasty Mathieu, Krause is an honourable Roucher. But Christa Ludwig is better than any, making old Madelon's brief appearance into a moving vignette. Of the younger singers, Kathleen Kuhlman is a rather anonymous Bersi, Neil Howlett a snarling Fouquier-Tinville.
But Chenier stands or falls by its three principals. All three here perform eloquently. Pavarotti tends to rasp his way through the Improvviso, but improves no end in his first love duet with Maddalena, and defies the court in Act 3 with real heroism. But it is in the final act that his tone recaptures its old refulgence in his poetic musings and his death-going duet. Pavarotti may never quite suggest, as Corelli does on the Santini/HMV set, that he is the revolutionary poet of youthful ardour, but he is much the more musical singer.
Similar comparisons might be made between Caballe and Stella (HMV). The Italian soprano shows none of the strain under pressure of the Spanish, but time and again a phrase will set Caballe apart as the more subtle artist, as at the forlorn passage sung to Gerard after "La mamma morta"—"Corpo di moribunda e ii corpo mio!". There are occasionally those self-regarding mannerisms that Caballe indulges in, also a want of sheer tonal weight (that is to be found ideally in Tebaldi's singing in the earlier Gavazzeni/Decca set), but I warmed to her portrayal.
Nucci's Gerard is excellent, delivered with a nice balance between line and punch. His voice never seems individual to me. but his schooling is sound, and he is faithful to the score. Neither so forceful as Bastianini (Decca) nor as biting as Sereni (HMV), Nucci is as convincing as either in suggesting Gerard's equivocal, finally heroic character.
Andrea Chénierby Umberto Giordano Performer:
Tom Krause (Baritone),
Astrid Varnay (Alto),
Hugues Cuénod (Tenor),
Neil Howlett (Baritone),
Giorgio Tadeo (Bass),
Florindo Andreolli (Tenor),
Piero de Palma (Tenor),
Giuseppe Morresi (Bass Baritone),
Ralph Hamer (Bass),
Luciano Pavarotti (Tenor),
Montserrat Caballé (Soprano),
Christa Ludwig (Mezzo Soprano),
Leo Nucci (Baritone),
Kathleen Kuhlmann (Mezzo Soprano)
Welsh National Opera Chorus,
National Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1896; Italy Venue: Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London Length: 116 Minutes 42 Secs. Language: Italian Notes: This selection recorded August 1982 and June 1984.
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Good opera, great performanceDecember 18, 2012By Weston Williams (Chicago, IL)See All My Reviews"Andrea Chenier doesn't get the respect it deserves. Like many verismo operas, it tends to be overshadowed by the fact that it isn't by Puccini. That said, it is clearly no Puccini, nor does it intend to be. The music is great, and the opening baritone aria will knock the listener's socks off. The singers are quite well suited for their roles. Pavarotti's singing, while not the most dramatic, but he more than makes up for it in vocal quality, and the other singers preserve dramatic tension to keep the story going. The recording quality is excellent. This opera and recording is thoroughly recommended."Report Abuse