OP3357. LA FORZA DEL DESTINO, Live Performance, 9 March, 1968, w.Milton Cross’ broadcast commentary, w.Molinari-Pradelli Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Leontyne Price, Franco Corelli, Robert Merrill, Jerome Hines, Louise Pearl, Fernando Corena, Louis Sgarro, Carlotta Ordassy, Robert Schmorr & Robert Goodloe; FRANCO CORELLI, w.Alberta Maisiello (Pf.): Recital from Englewood, NJ, 18 March, 1962; FRANCO CORELLI, w.Stokowski Cond. Philadelphia Orch.: Concert of 19 Jan., 1963; FRANCO CORELLI, w.Fausto Cleva Cond. Met Opera Ensemble: Excerpts LA BOHEME from his role debut, Rodolfo, with Gabriella Tucci, 29 Feb., 1964; LEONTYNE PRICE, w.Kurt Adler Cond. Met Opera Orch.: Concert of 26 July, 1966, Lewisohn Stadium, New York. (Canada) 4-Immortal Performances IPCD 1131, w.Elaborate 42pp Booklet. Transfers by Richard Caniell. Notes by Ken Meltzer & Richard Caniell. Specially priced at Four discs for the price of Three. – 787790469902
“In FANFARE 41:5 I reviewed the same 1968 Met broadcast of Verdi’s LA FORZA DEL DESTINO as released on the St. Laurent Studio label. I noted that it was a fine remastering at a level that anyone will enjoy who is comfortable with good monaural broadcast sound from the late 1960s. However, for a number of reasons Richard Caniell’s new Immortal Performances presentation is preferable. It should be pointed out up front that Immortal Performances is selling the four-disc set for the price of three, which should make it irresistible.
First off, Caniell seems to have found a superior source, and the recorded sound has more clarity and presence than on the St. Laurent Studio version. The difference, if you listen from moment to moment, is not major, but over the course of the entire opera the cumulative impact of the performance is greater here. There are, moreover, a number of other differences. Caniell undoes the Met travesty from the 1950s and 1960s of placing the Overture after the First Act of the opera, for reasons that were never clear to me (or many other critics either). St. Laurent Studio appropriately enough reproduced the Met performance is it was given. Caniell, who is often more interventionist (almost always in good ways) has put the Overture back where it belongs. He has also edited Milton Cross’ commentary so it matches this change.
Another thing of extreme value: Caniell has included two full CDs of bonus material. (Note the overall generosity of timing - an average of slightly over 77 minutes per disc.) FANFARE colleague Ken Meltzer has written insightful, stimulating notes in the booklet that accompanies this set, and he also was able to provide Caniell with a radio interview he conducted with Franco Corelli in 1993. As you would expect if you are a regular reader of his reviews, Meltzer asks intelligent, music-related questions rather than the usual trite ones we get so often in celebrity interviews, and Corelli gives interesting, stimulating answers. The interview material is interspersed with excerpts from the performances Corelli talks about. The interview overall is one of the finest I have ever encountered with a singer, and it makes this set irreplaceable for opera lovers. It was Caniell who added the music to the interview, and very intelligently too. Corelli referred to the live La Scala Meyerbeer UGONOTTI as one of his favorite recordings of himself, and the extraordinarily thrilling duet with Corelli and Simionato is an experience no opera lover should be unaware of.
As additional bonuses we get various other Corelli performances including a recital he gave in New Jersey in 1962 that is positively electric, and a stunning portion of his Met role debut as Rodolfo in 1962. How can I find a way to adequately describe the impact of Corelli’s singing when Meltzer has done it so articulately? ‘… this remains grand Italian tenor vocalism unlike any other of the time. The arias, all set in broad tempos, are accorded a richness of voice, generosity of phrasing, and relishing of high notes that cannot help but raise goose bumps’.
After experiencing the luxurious sound of Corelli, we are given selections from a July 26, 1966 concert at New York’s Lewisohn Stadium with Leontyne Price and the Metropolitan Opera orchestra under Kurt Adler. The sound is not as good as it is for the Corelli excerpts. Although it also originates as a broadcast, Lewisohn Stadium was an outdoor facility, and the whipping wind detracts some. But Price’s gleaming voice comes through well enough, and the performances tend to be more incisive and dramatic than her studio recordings of the same material. On stage, Price enjoyed a direct communication with her audiences, and the large crowd in the outdoor stadium surely nourished her with their energy. The radiance of her voice shines through everything; this is an extraordinary ‘extra’ for this set.
Yet the main attraction of this set remains LA FORZA DEL DESTINO, and if you want my detailed reaction to the performance you can find it in the FANFARE Archive under my review of the St. Laurent Studio release. Summarizing those comments, I noted the warm glow of the upper reaches of Price’s voice, her ability to phrase broadly and generously because of superb breath control, and an overall vocal splendor combined with a true dramatic sensibility. I noted that for some listeners Corelli is an acquired taste, but it is one I acquired when I first heard him at the Met in the 1960s. I also pointed out that he is on very good behavior here, minimizing the explosive exaggerations and excessive scooping that marred some of his performances. He displays sensitivity to a wide range of dynamic shadings on this occasion. Robert Merrill is far more dramatically alert than he could be on studio recordings, and of course he was blessed with one of the finest baritone voices in the postwar era. The rest of the cast is well above the norm, except for Louise Pearl’s competent (but little more) Preziosilla. What Caniell could not fix were the extensive cuts the Met employed in those days (deleting the Inn Scene completely and giving Preziosilla some of her deleted music back in the third act), nor could he do anything about Francesco Molinari-Pradelli’s routine conducting.
I do not, however, wish to end on a negative note. Even if you require a complete LA FORZA DEL DESTINO in stereo for your collection, should you care about Verdi’s opera at all, this performance is essential. As grateful as I was for the St. Laurent Studio release, it is superseded by Immortal Performances’ for the mild improvement in sound quality and, more significantly, the irreplaceable bonus material. Alongside Ken Meltzer’s essay there are engaging recording notes by Caniell (whose expressions of rage at the Met for their butchering of the score are treasurable), lots of wonderful photos, and singers’ bios. Immortal Performances deserves much praise for the quality of their production and presentation. The booklets that accompany their releases are collector’s items in themselves, and add enormous value to their releases."
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE, March / April, 2020