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Zinka Milanov, Bruna Castagna, Jussi Björling, Nicola Moscona
NBC Symphony Orchestra
Arturo Toscanini, conductor
Two versions surprisingly close in approach, the Toscanini with Milanov and Björling in prime form in a pressing which requires much effort to penetrate to the essence; Fricsay offers a devotional interpretation with soloists who are less overtly operatic but impressive nonetheless.
Leontyne Price, Rita Gorr, Jon Vickers, Robert Merrill, Giorgio Tozzi
Rome Opera Orchestra and Chorus
George Solti, conductor
Myto offers Solti and the ladies the year after their official recording on RCA, but live from the Met, the conductor particularly inspired. Choosing between Bergonzi and Vickers is more difficult, both leaving their mark on the role of Radames, but there is no doubt when it come to the others. A perfect illustration of the difference between an excellent studio recording and an inspired live recording.
One of Verdi's greatest operas in a performance less emphatic than some but extremely musical and sensitive, with Giulini in excellent form inspiring his cast to untold heights. The two basses may not be the equal of various predecessors in their roles, but they know the ropes. Despite reserves, still one of the best. Giulini's 1958 performance from Covent Garden on Myto has its partisans but this is one instance where the studio version is preferable.
The ultimate opera in an ultimate performance, the ensembles going like clockwork, the singers inspired, the text savored by all.
Renata Tebaldi, Fedora Barbieri, Mario del Monaco, Aldo Protti, Cesare Siepi, Renato Capecchi
Orchestra and Chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Dimitri Mitropoulos, conductor
One of the most difficult of Verdi's operas to bring to life, but these two live performances with Tebaldi far less torpid than usual should have you sitting on the edge of your chair. Corelli and del Monaco were both far more exciting in the theater than in the studio, the basses are stupendous and Mitropoulos unfortunately left far too little trace of his work in the opera house.
This 1938 recording remains in a class of its own, even today. Panizza doesn't tarry except when appropriate, and three supernatural forces will knock you over.
One of the most intelligent sopranos of the post-Callas era, one of the most elegant of tenors, the most intellectual baritone of our time and a humanitarian conductor give us one of the most searing versions of Verdi's classic opera.
Verdi's most sombre opera, in a perfect performance which only the more recent version of Abbado approaches, but perfect casting in this case wins the day.
Another Met performance, but how many legends of the past can be heard today in live performances, and here you get not only Ponselle but Tibbett, so you can find out what the shouting was about.
Despite a nonentity in the pit, the four principal singers raise this to the pantheon of recorded performances. Others may have made more of individual elements of the opera, but the totality of this version remains an object lesson.
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