VERDI: La Forza del Destino

As parts of this radio broadcast have circulated before, this means that the
original acetates left the cupboards a few times and were put on tape. The
sonic quality of the CD’s under review is high and I’m fairly
sure the producers didn’t want to use some older tapes but employed the
acetates. Unfortunately, acetates can be very fragile and some of them were
already slightly damaged as one can derive from the hiss at certain moments.
Several times this results in heavy blasts which are quite painful to hear,
especially during some of the Stella-solos in act 1 and 2. So the better
(using the originals all the time) is less than the good (using some older

Moreover, the sound picture is not exactly helped by Antonietta Stella.
The soprano had made her dÈbut one year earlier and she is still finding her
way. She gives the impression of singing her heart out in the Verona Arena
instead of the rather intimate and not overly big Concertgebouw. She sings
unrelentingly loud with almost no nuances. She often lashes out with a
glottal bang and the voice doesn’t resemble much the fine Verdi soprano
she would become later on. Indeed, only five months later she sang Amelia in
Simon Boccanegra far more subtle and there the voice is immediately
recognizable as witnessed by the recording Cetra years later put on the
market (with Carlo Bergonzi in his first year as a tenor).

Loudness is the main quality of JosÈ Soler as well. Most collectors will
know him from his Cetra ChÈnier with Renata Tebaldi and some from
his aria album on the same label. An old hand at the Verona Arena told me he
was present back in 1949 when Soler sang Manrico. The tenor had good high
notes and he encored ‘Di quella pira’. Still the public
didn’t let him go and clamoured for another encore. Soler however
pointed at the pyre and shouted: “ My mother is burning” and off
he ran. The Uruguyan tenor has the right material though he is more a lyric
than a real spinto tenor. But he unmercifully puffs up his voice at every
high note and has a tremendous success with a public starved of international
tenor singing since the war. Soler is not really unmusical, using far less
sobs than most tenors did at the time in the same role but phrasing is not
his forte. Good strong tenor singing, yes, but bland at the same time.

The only one of the three title singers for whom less is sometimes more is
baritone Rolando Panerai. With his lyric baritone he is less inclined to rely
on volume and he succeeds in singing with style and nuance. His aria is well
done and puts forwards the doubts Carlo has. It is a pity EMI asked the aging
Carlo Tagliabue three years later for the Callas-Tucker Forza as Panerai
would undoubtedly been an improvement. As far as I know this is his only
known recording of the opera and so it is a pity that the second
baritone-tenor duet was still cut at the time.

Enzo Feliciati starts out well as Padre Guardiano but soon proves himself
to be a rough-and-ready bass. In the last act there is no smoothness at all,
no consolation in the voice but just barking along. Amalia Pinta as
Preziosilla has one of the biggest vibratos I ever heard which probably
explains her lack of a career as the basic colours of the voice are fine.
Melchiorre Louise is one of those comprimario-singers we remember well from
the legendary recordings of the fifties. He sang Benoit in BohËme or
Sacristan in Tosca but Melitone is a league higher and his
exaggerated utterances are probably meant to hide his lack of a true baritone
or bass voice. Aad de Rijk takes on three roles in one Verdi opera which must
surely be some record. The Netherlands had a most austere economic programme
after the war and this is one of the results: a bass completely strange to
Italian roles. Argeo Quadri drives on his forces without any problem though
he too is not too subtle and therefore not a conductor who can demand some
lowering of the volume by his two main singers.

Forza is a difficult opera for labels. Even a cut version is
still some 10 minutes longer than two CDs can bear and therefore some bonuses
are necessary. The first one is quite a contrast with the complete
performance. The idiosyncratic style of Helge Rosvaenge never appealed to me
in Italian roles; nor does his permanent use of explosive sounds. Heinrich
Schlusnus had the most Italian of all pre-war German baritones and he
succeeds very well in overcoming the German translation and Hilde Scheppan
has a better ear for nuance than Stella though the sound is not very Italian
and reminds one of Gundula Janowitz. The second bonus is a strange one: ten
minutes of the first act of a Covent Garden Forza of 1975; not
exactly the most popular part. Still in those few moments Carlo Bergonzi
gives us more real Verdi phrasing than Soler and Rosvaenge combined, even
though by that time he flattened every time above the stave.

Jan Neckers

image_description=Giuseppe Verdi: La Forza del Destino
product_title=Giuseppe Verdi: La Forza del Destino
product_by=Antonietta Stella (Leonora), JosÈ Soler (Alvaro), Rolando Panerai (Carlo), Amalia Pini (Preziosilla), Enzo Feliciati (Guardiano), Melchiorre Luise (Melitone), Conelis Kalkman (Trabucco), Aad de Rijk (Marchese – Alcade
– Chirurgo), Omroepkoor en Radio Filharmonisch Orkest conducted by Argeo Quadri. Amsterdam, September the 3rd 1951.
product_id=Ponto PO-1037 [3CDs]