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Giuseppe Verdi: La battaglia di Legnano
10 Sep 2009

Verdi: La battaglia di Legnano

The true opera fan devotes almost as much time, if not more, to the "what might have been" careers as to those of the superstars.

Giuseppe Verdi: La battaglia di Legnano

Mario Rinaudo; Franco Calabrese; Alfredo Giacomotti; Massimiliano Malaspina; Mario Sereni; Rita Orlandi Malaspina; Gianfranco Cecchele; Giuseppe Morresi; Vera Magrini; Marcello Munzi; Walter Brighi. Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro di Milano della Rai/Maurizio Rinaldi. Live recording: Milan, November 14, 1973.

Myto 2 MDCD 0012 [2CDs]

$41.98  Click to buy

Myto is a label for such opera devotees, and thus the apt name of the company’s new budget line: Myto Devotion. This release of a 1973 Milano RAI performance of Verdi’s relatively obscure early work La battaglia di Legnano focuses on tenor Gianfranco Cecchele. His photo, in costume, gets the booklet cover, and disc two ends with ample excerpts from another rare Verdi work, Aroldo, with Cecchele in the lead.

After the expected choral opening to Legnano,, Cecchele appears as the hero, Arrigo. Initially the voice strikes the ear with a manly, appealing spinto sound, darker than that of a lyric. Continued exposure to the voice lessens the appeal. Cecchele cannot quite control the vibrato on held notes, and in longer legato lines the tone gets husky, heavy. The Aroldo performance, recorded two years later in 1975, contains little to suggest the earlier performance doesn’t capture the basic quality of his voice. The Aroldo gets blessed with a better soprano, however, in Angeles Gulin. In the Legnano one Rita Orlandi Malaspina sings Lida. With no biographical information of any kind given in the single fold booklet, guesses as to Ms. Malaspina’s age would be ungentlemanly. Suffice it to say, she sounds like no spring chicken.

The best singing on other disc comes from the veteran baritone Mario Sereni in Legnano. He needs a little time to warm up, and then he puts on a master class, at least relative to his co-stars, in legato and characterization.

As for the opera itself, flashes of Verdi’s genius too seldom shoot through a rather dull atmosphere. The music of Aroldo, a re-write of Stiffelio to get it past the censors, makes one wonder why Myto didn’t devote the set to that entire performance and offer just selections from the Legnano - focusing on Sereni.

Though not first-class, the sound is fine, as is the Milan RAI orchestra under Maurizio Rinaldi. Apparently Myto is aware of Cecchele fans eager for his work. This, then, would be for them.

Chris Mullins

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