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Verdi: La Forza Del Destin [Box set]

Giuseppe Verdi Audio CD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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3.0 out of 5 stars Good But Not Great July 19 2004
Format:Audio CD
While not an opera buff, I have always been attracted to Forza: as a child I was intrigued with my parents' old 78 rpm shellac of Rosa Ponselle singing "Pace, Pace" (still unmatched imho). My reservations concerning this complete Forza set: Del Monaco's tight, loud and unrelenting Alvaro and Molinari-Pradelli's rather directionless conducting. Tebaldi is in warm, full voice, although here and there her intonation causes me to grit my teeth. All in all, I feel that the "live" 1958 Naples recording on Hardy Classic Video is superior to what is heard here, with the same conductor a bit more lively in front of a live audience. Tebaldi is tremendously sympathetic and Corelli is in magnificent voice.
Other versions worth hearing: Gino Marinuzzi's 1941 Forza is, to my ears, by far the best conducted account, with a fine ensemble effort from Caniglia/Masini/Tagliabue. It's cut, of course, as is the Callas version (I find her quite compelling, and Serafin lends fine support, but Richard Tucker drives me up the wall). I have not heard the Gencer/Di Stefano live recording - some opera mavens feel it is the finest of all.
Bottom line: the Marinuzzi (Naxos) is probably the best bargain, while Tebaldi/Corelli/Bastianini/Christoff/Dominguez with Molinari-Pradelli on video provides a superior alternative to this studio version.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Power, Drama, Beauty! My No1 Forza Del Destino! Jan. 28 2003
By Armindo
Format:Audio CD
After the legendary Florence Festival Forza performances (1953) under the baton of the neglected giant Dimitri Mitropoulos, people at Decca knew they had the perfect artists to create a masterful Forza Del Destino. This set gives us an idea of the kind of voices one could hear in the '50s: Tebaldi, Del Monaco, Bastianini, Simionato, Siepi, Corena. Everyone was at her/his peak in 1955 when this set was recorded. Notice also that they are all Italians and this certainly is a plus when it comes to vibrato and Italian accent.
There are not enough superlatives to compliment Renata Tebaldi's Leonora di Vargas. Even her opponents agree that this was one of her greatest roles in which she was unrivalled. The sheer power and clarity of her singing teaches us how opera is supposed to sound! Verdi (and all opera composers) has injected the drama in the music but you need an opera singer of this calibre to sing the drama. Just listen to "Son giunta!", "Pace, Pace" or any other Tebaldi moment!
Del Monaco is heard here in one of his famous roles. He rarely sings piano on this set but his fierce sound is welcome in this heavy tenor role. He lacks Bergonzi's style but on the other hand, Bergonzi doesn't have Del Monaco's ringing voice. Giulietta Simionato once again proves that she was an excellent Verdi mezzo. As for Bastianini, Siepi and Corena they are everything one could ask for. NO OTHER Forza Del Destino recording has such an ideal group of performers!
Mollinari-Pradelli was not the best conductor of his time but I find his conducting very pleasant; he doesn't try to overpower his singers and allows them to shine. A Serafin or a Mitropoulos would have been ideal but still the result is excellent. And what a great surprise that this '55 set has STEREO sound!
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Power, Drama, Beauty! My No1 Forza Del Destino! Jan. 28 2003
By Armindo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
After the legendary Florence Festival Forza performances (1953) under the baton of the neglected giant Dimitri Mitropoulos, people at Decca knew they had the perfect artists to create a masterful Forza Del Destino. This set gives us an idea of the kind of voices one could hear in the '50s: Tebaldi, Del Monaco, Bastianini, Simionato, Siepi, Corena. Everyone was at her/his peak in 1955 when this set was recorded. Notice also that they are all Italians and this certainly is a plus when it comes to vibrato and Italian accent.
There are not enough superlatives to compliment Renata Tebaldi's Leonora di Vargas. Even her opponents agree that this was one of her greatest roles in which she was unrivalled. The sheer power and clarity of her singing teaches us how opera is supposed to sound! Verdi (and all opera composers) has injected the drama in the music but you need an opera singer of this calibre to sing the drama. Just listen to "Son giunta!", "Pace, Pace" or any other Tebaldi moment!
Del Monaco is heard here in one of his famous roles. He rarely sings piano on this set but his fierce sound is welcome in this heavy tenor role. He lacks Bergonzi's style but on the other hand, Bergonzi doesn't have Del Monaco's ringing voice. Giulietta Simionato once again proves that she was an excellent Verdi mezzo. As for Bastianini, Siepi and Corena they are everything one could ask for. NO OTHER Forza Del Destino recording has such an ideal group of performers!
Mollinari-Pradelli was not the best conductor of his time but I find his conducting very pleasant; he doesn't try to overpower his singers and allows them to shine. A Serafin or a Mitropoulos would have been ideal but still the result is excellent. And what a great surprise that this '55 set has STEREO sound!
The only other studio Forza Del Destino I warmly recommend is the EMI Gardelli set with Bergonzi, Arroyo, Capuccilli and Raimondi: a less powerful performance with great singing (if not as enchanting as the one heard here). If you are looking for Verdi perfection go for the '53 live Florence Festival Forza Del Destino (Tebaldi, Del Monaco, Barbieri, Protti - Mitropoulos) or get the 1958 DVD Forza with Tebaldi and Corelli.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top notch, Golden-Age cast in ideal Verdi performance; one of the best March 10 2007
By Niel Rishoi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
If I had to name a favorite Verdi opera, it would have to

be his La forza del destino. This opera moves me like no

other among his works. I realize that some others -

Falstaff, Don Carlo, Otello - are considered to have a

greater unity between text and music. But Forza has the

strongest emotional pull. The story may be pure

opera-illogico of the soap variety, but the emotions

expressed within the dilemmas of the characters are

powerful, moving. It is among the gloomiest of Verdi's

operas, tense, brooding, morbid. Classic themes of thwarted

love and revenge. But there's also spirit, quirkiness

(Preziosilla, Melitone), and perhaps most significantly for

me, profound spirituality. The second scene in the second

act is one of the most inspired from Verdi, one I go back

to with eager familiarity. The "Madre, Madre pietosa

Vergine" is a peerless expression of pleading for mercy and

devotional fervor, with the monks' backing chorus creating

a truly haunting effect. Nothing is more beautiful than

that section beginning "Ah! que'sublimi cantici..." (and we

are treated again later to the equally ravishing "La

Vergine degli angeli"). The long duet with Guardiano and

Leonora is an amazing piece of writing, one of the best

musical "dialogues" for soprano and bass; usually these

"father/child" duets are boring, but this scene,

imaginative, urgent and detailed, is powerful drama. One

passage I love in this is the prelude to "Il santo nome di

Dio signore," where there is a long solo for organ; it

achieves pure magic with a lone violin, on high, intoning

the "Deh, non m'abbandonar" melody. The contrast between

the organ and violin produces an ethereal, eerie effect.

This is by far some of the most raptly spiritual music

Verdi ever wrote. And, of course, there's "Pace, pace mio

Dio."

Abetting my enjoyment of the opera is the mid-fifties

recording of it put out by Decca/London, conducted by

Francesco Molinari-Pradelli. It may not be the most "of

the theater" performance of the opera, but it is one of the

greatest overall casts ever assembled on a Verdi recording.

At any time. At least I think so. Here's who we get:

Renata Tebaldi, Giulietta Simoonato, Mario del Monaco,

Ettore Bastianini, Cesare Siepi and Fernando Corena. All

huge voices, all healthy, robust; true Verdi voices,

stylists. All in their resplendent prime. All ITALIAN.

Nothing else like that for ages. And ages.

In my estimation, Leonora was Tebaldi's best Verdi role,

and perhaps the best Leonora of the last several decades.

The voice and manner sound so ineffably, authentically

"right." Don't tell me she's under the pitch in some of

the highest notes: IT DOESN'T MATTER. Pedigreed Verdi

singing of this nature is extinct. The full-bodied

softness, the exquisite diction, the comet-like soaring -

it doesn't get better than this. Her "Madre, madre

pietosa Vergine" is one I listen to the most. The rhythmic

urgency, the fullness of tone - and she sounds as if she's

really talking to God. And I feel; only a devout Roman

Catholic could possibly understand the religious piety of

Leonora, and it's especially important here. With Verdi

and Tebaldi, you Believe. You better believe it.

Hearing del Monaco and Bastianini just effortlessly plunge

their hearts and voices in their music and duets is the

sweetest sound to my ears: they fence as only Italian

uomini can do, and moreover, exhibit not a whiff of stress

doing so. Immense, powerful sounds. Bastianini's "Urna

fatale" is close to being my favorite rendition of the

aria; there is a beautifully imparted bittersweetness to

the voice, a smarting irony that goes right to the heart.

Del Monaco is not all just his usual glorious fire and

brass; "O, tu che in seno agli angeli" has as much

sensitivity as you could want - and are going to get - from

a "confident" Italian tenor.

Simionato rips through an ungrateful killer of a role with

utter nonchalance and great spirit; "Al suon del tamburo"

and "Rataplan"are both a bitch of pieces to sing,

requiring the mezzo to skip up and down nimbly, but

Simionato just laughs merrily through it all. She makes it

sound like a piece of cake.

Siepi delivers the best sung Guardiano of any on record

that I know of. So many magical sections come to mind

immediately: "Venite fidente alla croce...", "Sull'alba il

piede all'eremo", "Il santo nome di Dio signore", "Non

imprecare umiliati" ~~ no other Guardiano has a voice so

beautifully resonant, so well placed, and such consummate

ease with this complex music. So many basses rumble

portentously through this music so that they sound like

gassy, juddering old farts, but Siepi just caresses the ear

constantly, and not just with the sound. He traverses

easily through the difficult writing; listen to how he

manages in the final trio the line `d'ira e furor

sacrilego, non proferir parola; vedi, vedi quest'angiol

vola al trono del Signor.' This section zips up and down

the voice's range, and requires supreme breath control, and

security at either ends of the range. Most basses are

gasping for leverage here, but not Siepi. In fact, he sings

this role with such ease, he's often accused of sounding

uninvolved. Ha. Listen to the way he and Corena, in their

long and legendary partnership, spark each other in the

duet with Melitone and Guardiano.

Others versions I like: the rediscovered 1958 Napoli

performance on video (but Christoff is an unidiomatic major

blot for me). Tebaldi even greater. The young Corelli.

Bastianini. Oralia Dominguez. A priceless document.

(Leontyne is in the 1984 MET performance).

The 1953 Mitropoulos from Firenze. Tebaldi ferociously

intense. Siepi again great. Protti so-so. Barbieri,

Barbieri. Del monaco more sensitive than on Decca.

Mitropoulos - slow tempi, but dramatic.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent and authentic Forza Jan. 30 2005
By Marc Musnick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This magnificent set which comprises of four Italian principles is the best recorded FORZA available. Although the competition is pretty stiff when this opera was not difficult to cast, I always come back to this recording. And if you love Tebaldi, this recording is a must have.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Recording I'm Sure Verdi Would Love Aug. 28 2005
By Timothy Kearney - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
If you assembled Renata Tebaldi, Mario Del Monaco, Ettore Bastianini, Giulietta Simionato, and Cesare Siepi, gave them a telephone book and asked them to sing, it would sound great. Put these five performers together and give them the score of LA FORZA DEL DESTINO, and you have a masterpiece and a set that will have a treasured place in any recording library. Each of the principals is in top voice, with each soloist working together and creating a cast that is a true ensemble. The many choral sections of the opera (the crowds, friars, soldiers, etc.) are mesmerizing and the direction of conductor Francesco Molinari-Pradelli pulls the recording together.

I purchased this recording without hearing it, knowing that the pairing of Del Monaco and Tebaldi nearly guaranteed a performance I would enjoy. I also knew that this recording was made when Decca's quality recordings in opera was just about a guarantee. I was correct on both counts, yet I also found a few surprises when I listened to it, especially in Ettore Bastianini's Don Carlo and Giulietta Simionato (my favorite Verdi mezzo) as Preziosilla.

Other reviewers have said they believe this is the greatest FORZA. One even claims it is the greatest opera recording of all time. While I will not so far as to claim that it is the greatest all time recording, it is a great set. In comparison with other sets available, I would select this set. I only own one other copy of FORZA with Leontyne Price under the direction of Thomas Schippers (another great set), and I have heard the other RCA set with a good performance by Price (which is still great) and a youthful and strong Placido Domingo(who is not so youthful but still quite strong). Fortunately there are many good choices available, but for me, the Decca set is the recording of choice. I will also say it is the most "Italian" of the recordings, recorded at a time when being an Italian in opera meant quality performances of Italian works.

Enjoy!!!
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars IT'S GOOD, BUT NOT THE ULTIMATE "FORZA DEL DESTINO" March 14 2006
By L. Mitnick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This recording of "La Forza del Destino" is good as far as it goes. The 1955 stereo sound is clear and vivid (London/Decca championed the use of stereo very early in the game), and the cast of singers is legendary. For many years, this was the "Forza del Destino" recording of choice prior to the subsequent versions on RCA Victor starring Leontyne Price. Even today, there are many who continue to cling to this extremely well prepared recording of Verdi's long and involved opera. The problem, for me anyway, regarding this recording is that the conductor, Molinari-Pradelli, completely fails to generate the real excitement (as Tullio Serafin does on the 1954 EMI recording with Maria Callas, whose contribution is also legendary) which should ignite this particular opera. Thus the real satisfaction comes from the singers. Tebaldi, a few blasting top B's apart, sings reasonably well (easily surpassing anyone who would try to attempt this role today) ---- but she is a pale imitation of herself when compared to her work two years earlier on the live Dimitri Mitropolous version (which explodes with passion) from the 1953 Florence May Festival (available right here at Amazon), where her singing is possibly the greatest she ever preserved on any recorded document. Mario del Monaco, also in the Mitropolous cast, can be heard to better advantage there than here, where he sounds loud, unsubtle, and occasionally unpleasant. Plainly, their singing on the Mitropoulos set spoils one with respect to their work here. The other singers here are all excellent - Ettore Bastianini on this recording is probably better than Aldo Protti is on the Mitropoulos set, and Simionato and Siepi are also excellent. Yes, this is a good representation of this opera, but it's not the ultimate. For that you need to acquire the Mitropoulos live performance. And for anyone who REALLY enjoys hunting, there's a live 1952 Metropolitan Opera broadcast with the legendary prime Zinka Milanov (to my ears the only equal of Tebaldi on the Mitropoulos set) partnered by Richard Tucker and Leonard Warren.
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