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Recordings

Giuseppe Verdi: La Forza del Destino
30 Mar 2008

Verdi: La Forza del Destino

From a relatively obscure label — Osteria — comes this 1962 live recording of Verdi's La Forza del Destino, featuring a relatively obscure soprano, Gré Brouwenstijn.

Giuseppe Verdi: La Forza del Destino

Peter van der Bilt (Marchese di Calatrava), Gré Brouwenstijn (Donna Leonora), John Shaw (Don Carlo di Vargas), Jan Peerce (Don Alvaro), Rena Garazioti (Preziosilla), Georg Littasy (Padre Guardiano), Renato Capecchi (Fra Melitone), Conchita Gaston (Curra), Jos Borelli

Osteria OS-1002 [2CDs]

$16.98  Click to buy

The booklet notes come in Dutch (followed by an abbreviated English translation), which is understandable for a set highlighting the Dutch soprano's contribution. Paul Korenhof quickly lists Brouwenstijn's few "official recordings," and then details her career, an admirably extensive one in both German and Italian repertory.

So though the name may not be familiar to any but committed opera fans, it only takes a few moments of her Forza Leonora as preserved here to recognize a very great talent. In her mid 40s at the time of the performance, Brouwenstijn sounds in her prime. The voice is secure throughout the range, the tone firm and attractive, and her interpretation dramatic without any hysterical outbursts (often an excuse for poor technique or a fragile vocal state). All of Leonora's great moments come off supremely well, with a rare beauty in the prayers and a "Pace, pace mio dio" that leans to a reflective despair rather than a pathetic outcry. She still has the requisite fire for that aria's final "maledizione," however.

Jan Peerce, as Don Alvaro, beefs up his his tone for this heavy role, and at times the volume he pours out in the duets with John Shaw's Don Carlo overwhelms the recording equipment. The sound requires the usual aural compromises of in-house recordings, but only when the tenor and baritone are trying to out-bellow each other does it actually become harsh and unsatisfactory. In the other key roles, Rena Garazioti thankfully underplays Preziosilla's sometimes annoying music, Georg Littasy blends well with Brouwenstijn in Padre Guardino's scenes with Leonora, and Renato Capecchi doesn't scene-steal too ostentatiously as Fra Melitone.

Alberto Erede unobtrusively conducts the Netherlands Opera orchestra. Fans of Ms. Brouwenstijn will want this set if somehow the performance has eluded them, and at budget price, any others who love the opera and a fine performance by a soprano will find the set rewarding.

Chris Mullins

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