with Giovanna d'Arco excerpts
Georgio Merighi (Ernani), Piero Cappuccilli (Don Carlo), Augusto Ferrin (De Silva), Mara Zampieri (Elvira) Trieste Teatro Communale/ MolinariPradelli; Mara Zampieri (Giovanna), Renato Francesconi (Carlo), Ettore Nova (Giacomo) San Remo Symphony/ Buenza-Delil
Myto 41288 [2CD] 148 minutes
Presumably intended simply as a tribute to the soprano, this "complete" Ernani emerges as an exciting, worthwhile performance in its own right. The bonus-most of Giovanna's role-if not quite up to the same standard, is still enjoyable.
Zampieri's few commercial recordings were generally not well received, and one could only concur with the unfavorable critical opinions they evoked. Her work here reveals a vastly superior singer; the voice is in fine shape from a gleaming top to a telling lower register. Moreover, it has an immediately recognizable timbre and is used intelligently. Her opening recitative, taken softly with an air of inward retrospection, immediately establishes Elvira's character. The following aria, 'Ernani, Involami', goes exceptionally well; and if her trill in the cabaletta is not quite the equal of Ponselle's, it remains an exciting and accurate traversal of this "sewing machine" music.
Her Ernani is a worthy partner. Merighi may not be the subtlest of tenors, but his ringing, virile tones are appropriate and he sounds involved in a role that usually emerges as a mere cipher. Cappuccilli commences in slightly hectoring fashion but improves steadily as the opera proceeds. His 'O de' verd'anni miei' is a high point and the audience responds appropriately. Unfortunately, he is rather off-mike for the concerted 'O Sommo Carlo', which thereby loses some of its effect. As the true villain of the piece, Ferrin sounds uncannily like the great Tancredi Pasero and commences with an even more prominent vibrato, which, fortunately, speedily lessens. Perhaps wisely, the cabaletta to his aria, `Infelice, e tuo Credevi', is omitted.
Molinari-Pradelli conducts a cohesive, fastmoving performance but always appears keenly sympathetic to his soloist's idiosyncrasies. In the Giovanna d'Arco excerpts, Buenza-Delil also keeps things moving, but somewhat frenetically and often at the expense of his singers. Certainly Zampieri's Giovanna does not sound quite as relaxed as her Elvira. But this is one of Verdi's least inspired works, with a title role seemingly more suited to a soprano leggiera. Both tenor and baritone are perfectly adequate.
These excerpts and the opera were recorded in performance, with all the virtues and blemishes this implies. Voices are sometimes distant as singers move away from the recording source, there are many odd thumps, and the audience is sometimes over-enthusiastic with applause. Fortunately, there is no distortion even in concerted passages; and, given the blazing intensity of the performance, it is easy to ignore all these extraneous intrusions. Alas, no libretto and almost no notes; but four rather good photos of the soprano offer some compensation.
Vivian A Liff
THIS REVIEW ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2004 ISSUE (VOL. 67 NO. 6) OF AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE (ARG). IT IS REPRINTED HERE WITH THE KIND PERMISSION OF ARG. FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON ARG, GO TO ITS WEBSITE AT www.americanrecordguide.com.