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Verdi: Falstaff / Evans, Ligabue, Carlin, Oncina, Rota

Verdi / Evans / Ligabue / Rota / Rpo / Gui
Release Date: 10/25/2011 
Label:  Glyndebourne Festival Opera   Catalog #: 12   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Anna Maria RotaMario CarlinJuan OncinaGeraint Evans,   ... 
Conductor:  Vittorio Gui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Mono 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

VERDI Falstaff Vittorio Gui, cond; Geraint Evans ( Falstaff ); Ilva Ligabue ( Alice Ford ); Anna Maria Rota ( Meg Page ); Oralia Dominguez ( Mistress Quickly ); Sesto Bruscantini ( Ford ); Mariella Adani ( Nannetta ); Juan Oncina ( Read more class="ARIAL12i">Fenton ); Hugues Cuénod ( Dr. Caius ); Mario Carlin ( Bardolph ); Marco Stefanoni ( Pistol ); Royal PO; Glyndebourne Ch GLYNDEBOURNE 012-60 (2 CDs: 122:01 Text and Translation)

I saw Geraint Evans’s Falstaff at Covent Garden, in 1972. Let me amend that: I was in the back balcony, so in all likelihood the visual part of the performance dated to 1970, as it takes 2.1 light-years for the stage images to reach those rows. Nevertheless, I do recall his performance (with the aid of opera glasses) vividly. His acting was superlative, both with voice and body. There were no master gestures, no waiting on character until a music queue hit, no cheap, broad strokes taking the place of infinite pains over detail. The voice was only moderate, but the focus on character was complete.

With this Glyndebourne Falstaff we go back to 1960, with an interpretation that is as good as I remember, but with more voice and nothing ordinary about it. It is a dark, compelling instrument, fully satisfactory in the depths of the “Mondo ladro” monolog, but capable of floating a lovely G? in act I’s “di San Mar- ti -no.” Interpretatively he follows Verdi’s mercurial flow and makes much of the role’s playful, quicksilver wit: more the manner of Henry IV ’s sardonic knight than the jolly buffoon from Merry Wives of Windsor , which he’s often presented as. More could be written about this; several thousand words, in fact, an analysis of each of the two monologs, of the dialogs with Quickly and Ford-Brook in particular. Suffice to say that I find him among the finest Falstaffs on disc.

Vittorio Gui deserves some of the credit in this. Evans was to record Falstaff for Solti three years later, but that recording is typically more hard-driven, and some character detail is lost. There’s a genial, relaxed quality to Gui’s conducting that doesn’t belie a sharp ear for textural changes and expressive gestures. He brings precisely the kind of leadership that a rich opera like Falstaff requires to the helm.

Back to the cast, and several other standouts. Ilva Ligabue is a delightful Alice Ford, and Oralia Dominguez one of the most distinguished of Quicklys. Sesto Bruscantini’s slightly acidic baritone never achieved the kind of popularity he deserved in the Anglo-American operatic world, but he was a master singer and interpreter. His Ford is fully the equal of Evans’s Falstaff, his act II monolog among the delights of this recording. Just as good in the unrewarding part of Caius is Hugues Cuénod, who makes one realize just how many notes of the role are typically ignored or given their incorrect note values to create a comic impression. There are only two performances to note on the debit side. Juan Oncina is caught slightly off-form, with plenty of style but carefully husbanding his resources, and Mariella Adani’s poorly equalized, monotonous tone does little for either the capricious Nannetta or the diaphanous Fairy Queen.

The engineering is extremely good for its date, with a lot of presence and good balance among singers and orchestra. There are a few occasions when the performers are off-mike, such as the opera’s very beginning, and the first of the love scenes—both presumably recorded considerably upstage. But these are rare, and the voices have much presence. Great care as usual is apparent in the transfers, with no off-pitch transfers, and minimal filtering. As these were house recordings, there’s none of the bad signal-to-noise ratio that comes from generations of poor dubs.

Oncina and Adani to one side, this is one of the best Falstaff s on disc, making allowances for its date and live sound. I’m not about to suggest we all throw out our Abbado (DG 471 194) or Karajan (EMI 48199) sets, or the many other fine ones available, but there’s much to enchant here, and plenty that will endure.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Anna Maria Rota (Mezzo Soprano), Mario Carlin (Tenor), Juan Oncina (Tenor),
Geraint Evans (Baritone), Ilva Ligabue (Soprano), Hugues Cuénod (Tenor),
Sesto Bruscantini (Baritone)
Conductor:  Vittorio Gui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Italy 
Date of Recording: 6/1950 
Venue:  Live Glyndebourne Opera House 

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