OP0128. FALSTAFF, Live Performance, 1 & 8 April, 1950, Studio 8H, with Toscanini Cond. NBC S.O., Robert Shaw Chorale, Giuseppe Valdengo, Herva Nelli, Cloe Elmo, Nan Merriman, Frank Guarrera, Teresa Stich-Randall, Antonio Madasi, Norman Scott, John Rossi & Gabor Carelli. 2-RCA 72372, w. Elaborate 148pp Libretto-Booklet. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 743217237226
“Over the ensuing years of his long and storied career, Toscanini conducted FALSTAFF in more productions and seasons than any other opera in his repertoire. According to author and Toscanini authority Harvey Sachs, preparation for the 1950 FALSTAFF was a lengthy, intense process that included cast piano rehearsals over a period of six weeks, averaging six hours per day....It’s also a wonderful reminder of how, courtesy of Verdi’s genius, the FALSTAFF orchestra assumes the role of a principal in the drama of at least equal importance to the leading singers. The lengthy and scrupulous period of preparation is certainly evident in a performance that crackles with precision, fire, and nuance, right from the boisterous opening measures to the concluding fugue. Falstaff is the Italian baritone Giuseppe Valdengo, the Iago in the 1947 NBC OTELLO, and Amonasro in the 1949 AIDA. Valdengo’s lyric baritone was probably not a natural fit for the rotund Sir John, often sung by rich-voiced bass-baritones. But Valdengo was always a resourceful and imaginative performer, with superb diction and a keen sense of opera’s theatrical potential. These attributes, honed during an extended period of preparation with Toscanini (starting seven months before the broadcast) resulted in an interpretation of true genius. I rank Valdengo’s Falstaff, along with those of Giuseppe Taddei (Cetra), Tito Gobbi (EMI), and Geraint Evans (London) as the finest on commercial discs. Time and again, Valdengo (aided by Toscanini) offers touches that are spot on, and may even inspire you to laugh out loud. The remainder of the cast offers several additional top-notch performances. Nan Merriman (Meg Page), Cloe Elmo (Mistress Quickly), and Teresa Stich-Randall (Nanetta), a trio of great artists, approach the ideal in their respective roles. Herva Nelli, a regular presence in the Toscanini-NBC opera series, gives one of her finest performances as Alice Ford. Baritone Frank Guarrera, little more than a year into his long and valuable Metropolitan Opera career, is a virile and vocally secure Ford."
- Ken Meltzer, FANFARE, March /April, 2018
"Toscanini's credentials as a Verdi conductor were formidable and unsurpassable. He had first conducted FALSTAFF fifty-five years before - only a year after the 1893 premiere. Seven years before that he was in the pit at La Scala playing the cello at the premier of OTELLO. In fact he conducted FALSTAFF more than any other opera and these discs give us a chance to hear a man trying to squeeze the utmost out of players and singers to achieve his vision of an opera that was the nearest thing to his favourite. The respect is not just for the music. He spends a great deal of time ensuring that the words are inflected properly and are heard. Much effort is put into achieving balance, sometimes holding the orchestra down and, when appropriate, seeking to achieve chamber textures. ‘Everybody play quartet here’, he says in English to the strings at one point....an important historical document on conducting and to hear one of the greatest conductors lavishing love on an opera once described by him as ‘the most beautiful of all’.”
- John Leeman, musicweb-international.com.