OP0475. FALSTAFF, recorded 1964, w.Solti Cond. RCA Italiana Ensemble; Geraint Evans, Robert Merrill, Alfredo Kraus, Giulietta Simionato, Ilva Ligabue, Mirella Freni, Rosalind Elias, etc. (Germany) 2-Decca 417 168, w.Elaborate libretto-booklet. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 028941716828
"The quality of the RCA Italiana Orchestra's playing and the singing of the chorus are admirable...Geraint Evans has deservedly earned great praise for his splendid characterization and singing of Falstaff. His call for wine, soon after the curtain has risen on the first scene of Act 1, shows him to have the voce grossa denied to Valdengo and Gobbi...One can see his chest swelling with pride as he sings Falstaff's description of his huge girth, well turned leg, and comely figure, without which, as the fat knight says just before (with the piccolo mocking him above—a hint from Handel's Polyphemus aria?) no man would fear him or woman love him. Mr. Evans does finely in the great ‘honour’ and ‘vile world’ monologues - seeking our sympathy in the latter for what really was scurvy treatment, and he follows Gobbi in an almost tragic treatment of Falstaff's contemplation (after this wash-basket episode) of his waxing portliness and grey hairs. This is the Falstaff of the second part of Henry IV. The singer rises splendidly to the big climaxes and is delightfully libidinous in Falstaff's description of Alice, and in his love scene with her. He touches off ‘Quand'ero paggio’ with charm. In all this is a very good-humoured and well-rounded portrait of the part.
Robert Merrill's Ford can stand up to the fine performances in this part of Frank Guarrera (Toscanini) and Rolando Panerai (Karajan); he has to surmount a louder orchestral sound than they do at the great climax of Ford's fury and comes through splendidly. I was absolutely enchanted with Ilva Ligabue's Alice. Schwarzkopf had characterized the part charmingly in the Columbia issue, but this is the real Italian thing: an Alice, with an edge on her voice which shows the dominating person she should be, able to fool Falstaff, subdue her husband, and secure the happiness of the young lovers.
The many ensembles are exemplary in clarity and the balance between voices and orchestra is rather better than in the Karajan, and of course much better than in the Toscanini. There is little attempt to suggest stage movement other than the usual 'fading' techniques, and this is not sufficiently applied to the voices at the end of the first scene of Act 3. Quickly's last words are marked ‘distant - dying away’... this new issue is imbued with fun, laughter and excitement,and it is exceedingly well performed as a whole, with fine precision in the orchestral detail and the ensembles."
- GRAMOPHONE, May, 1964