Falstaff   (Levine;   Taddei, Neblett, Cossotto, Blegen, Monk, Ahlstedt, Tajo)   (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-653)
Item# OP3237
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Product Description

Falstaff   (Levine;   Taddei, Neblett, Cossotto, Blegen, Monk, Ahlstedt, Tajo)   (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-653)
OP3237. FALSTAFF, Live Performance, 8 March, 1986, w.Levine Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Giuseppe Taddei, Carol Neblett, Fiorenza Cossotto, Judith Blegen, Allan Monk, Douglas Ahlstedt, Italo Tajo, etc. (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio stereo YSL T-653. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.


�Verdi�s valedictory masterpiece is�arguably the greatest ensemble opera ever written; around the sun of its protagonist, the other characters orbit in a vocal constellation, with only Ford and Dame Quickly noticeably standing out on occasion as individuals. Consequently, apart from Falstaff, the opera requires sound, healthy voices that blend well rather than a great deal of individual interpretive finesse to carry the work. Here, all those elements are fully present. Making his belated Metropolitan Opera debut at age 69 (four years older than Magda Olivero when she appeared there as Tosca in 1975), Giuseppe Taddei is in remarkably fine form. His top notes are somewhat unsteady, though they are generally not sustained and so that is not a major issue, and his voice is not as plush as in his prime, but apart from that he is a pleasure to listen to, and of course he is also an absolutely masterful interpreter. Allan Monk provides a first-rate Ford; Fiorenza Cossotto is a colorful Dame Quickly, though she pushes her vibrato a bit hard to get a comically exaggerated effect in her salutations of �Reverenza!�; Carol Neblett (sadly, recently deceased) and Brenda Boozer offer a well-matched pair of Windsor wives, while Judith Blegen and Douglas Ahlstedt give equal pleasure as sweet-voiced, ardent young lovers. (It�s a bonus to have such a vocally attractive Fenton, a part that often seems to be cast as an afterthought.) Among the comprimario singers, veterans Charles Anthony, Anthony Laciura, and Italo Tajo (the latter as always a real treat) warrant special notice as Dr. Cajus, Bardolph, and Pistola, respectively. My only very slight caveat comes with James Levine�s conducting. While precise and energetic, he misjudges a few tempo relations, particularly in the notoriously tricky Act I nonet, and the gear changes in such instances are evident and somewhat awkward. (Admittedly, only Toscanini has achieved perfectly magical fluidity at this juncture.) Other than that, he is in fine fettle.

The sound quality is that of a good FM stereo broadcast of the era; given its relatively recent vintage, apparently this Canadian label is not concerned about any possible legal action from the Met to block this release. There are no booklet notes; the back tray card provides the cast, and the front insert the list of tracks and characters singing in those but no timings. Sensibly, instead of trying to even out disc timings by dividing act two in half, the first two acts are placed on CD 1 and the third act on CD 2. While not quite equaling the classic recordings by Toscanini (RCA), Karajan (Angel), or Solti�s first take (Decca) for stellar interpretive distinction, this is a very fine rendition that provides a welcome second take on Taddei�s Falstaff 36 years after his notable 1950 monaural Cetra recording, and is cordially recommended.�

- James A. Altena, FANFARE

�Taddei's 1985 Met debut in FALSTAFF - an opera he had first recorded in 1949 - was a triumph, his characterization a marvel of wit and comic invention that glowed with the relaxed mastery of an artist in his prime. No other Falstaff was quite so lovable a scamp; Taddei's deliciously witty �Quand'ero paggio� was delivered as a crisp, pointed aside that seemed like a whisper but filled every corner of the house. It was an irresistible - and unforgettable - moment in a richly detailed performance imbued with the ripeness of Indian summer. Taddei sang eleven Met FALSTAFFs in the 1985�86 season and returned to the company in 1988 for ten performances as Dulcamara in L'ELISIR D'AMORE, another of his signature roles.�

F. Paul Driscoll, OPERA NEWS, 3 June, 2010

�The debutant was Giuseppe Taddei, making his first Met appearance at age 69 in the title role of Verdi's FALSTAFF. Mr. Taddei, who has been one of the leading baritones on the international scene for nearly half a century (he made his opera debut in Rome in 1936), arrived with a glittering splash. His Falstaff, not only wittily acted and fully formed, was astonishingly well sung. The voice is not exactly plummy these days, but it retains a wonderfully liquid quality in lyric passages as well as the ability to bark out in the buffo style that for most Falstaffs is the beginning and end of the vocal gamut.�

- Donal Henahan, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 26 Sept., 1985

�Giuseppe Taddei was a distinguished Italian baritone who made his Metropolitan Opera d�but to glowing notices in 1985 at the astonishing age of 69. Born in Genoa on 26 June, 1916, Mr. Taddei made his operatic d�but in 1936, as the Herald in a production of Wagner�s LOHENGRIN in Rome. In the decades that followed he performed on many of the great opera stages of Europe, including those of the Vienna State Opera, La Scala and Covent Garden. In the 1950s, Mr. Taddei appeared in the United States with the San Francisco and Dallas Civic Operas; he was also long known to listeners here through his many recordings. In the 1960s, he sang in New York in concert performances. But until 25 Sept., 1985, when he stepped onto the stage at Lincoln Center in the title role of Verdi�s FALSTAFF, Mr. Taddei had never sung at the Met. At his curtain call, THE NEW YORK TIMES reported, Mr. Taddei received �a rafter-shaking ovation�.�

- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 4 June, 2010

�Carol Neblett, a soprano who sang numerous roles at New York City Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, sang all over the world after making her City Opera debut as Musetta in Puccini�s LA BOHEME in 1969. She sang the title role in Puccini�s TOSCA more than 300 times, the first in 1976 at the Lyric Opera in Chicago with Luciano Pavarotti as Mario Cavaradossi.

The impresario Sol Hurok took her onto his roster and encouraged her to try opera. Her City Opera debut in 1969 impressed Allen Hughes, who reviewed the performance for THE TIMES. Almost 20 years later, in 1988, when she performed her first Aida with Opera Pacific, Martin Bernheimer of THE LOS ANGELES TIMES wrote, �Tall, lithe and eminently sympathetic, she must be one of the most attractive � and most formidable � Aidas in history��. she worked steadily for decades, making her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1979 in Wagner�s THE FLYING DUTCHMAN. Harold C. Schonberg, the critic for THE NEW YORK TIMES, called her �the surprise of the evening�, adding, �Never has she unleashed so powerful and commanding a voice�.�

- Neil Genzlinger, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 28 Nov., 2017

“There are some things about a live operatic performance that a studio-made recording just can't duplicate. All the possibilities - inspiration, subtlety, revelation of a composer's work, seizure of a great moment, athleticism with its risk of disaster, simple music-making - are in play before an audience of flesh and blood, in one particular moment. The stakes are high and immediate.”

- Will Crutchfield, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 15 July, 1990