Ultimate, Definitively Forceful Forza
Monica | Romania | 08/27/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is a quasi human impossibility to get another Forza of this magnitude and it is totally unattainable to perform it any better. Because it is an almost unreal combination of the greatest singers, a very great conductor, and an excellent director, who did an exquisite job bringing forth the characters and creating the overall movement (yes, black and white and filmed with the 1958 technology, but that does not matter, once you get to hear it.)
Renata Tebaldi sings absolutely splendidly, technically and in point of interpretation. All her three arias are sung with wonderful technique based on amazing breath control, to which one must add the beautiful scene of the ceremony (beginning with Padre Guardiano's "Il santo nome di Dio"), when her piano really sounds like that of an "angelo santo" (holy angel). Not only that she creates the character with her voice, but she also does so by acting. A very elegant stage presence, moving gracefully, with round, stylish gestures, which go perfectly with her singing. Note that at first she is an extremely credible young aristocratic lady, while later on she looks like a real penitent. An achievement that would make many actresses envious.
Mezzo soprano Oralia Dominguez sings very well, but she seems to have a smaller voice. Or perhaps the old technology did not help her. By the way, the comic scenes are very well done, and the musical and theatrical intermingling of the sacred and the profane very well emphasized throughout the production.
A friend of mine who is opera educated, but was not very well informed about this production, told me Corelli was probably at his peak in this role. When I told him it was Corelli's debut as Don Alvaro, he did not believe me at first. My friend was right, because you don't get this kind of singing from experienced singers, let alone in debuts! Notice his different vocal emissions: luminous as he expresses hope in his duet with Tebaldi, both enthusiastic and tender in his marriage proposal "un sarcerdote ne asspetta all'ara" (a priest is waiting for us at the altar), wretchedly painful in the "Solenne in quest'ora" duet, and so on. Since we are at "Solenne in quest'ora," note not only that he is singing lying on his back as Verdi indicated, but also that he sounds like a dying man. And all this time, baritone Ettore Bastianini sounds alive, but without any unnecessary emphasis.
Then there is their other duet, "Invano, Alvaro": not only sung beautifully by both of them (they were so compatible vocally and stylistically!), but also very impressive in terms of acting and stage movement. Like Tebaldi, Corelli also acts the role: in Act One, the young lover, later on, the soldier musing on his tragic fate, and here, in this final duet, the monk who is striving with all his being to be humble and to refuse violence "l'inferno non trionfi" (let hell not triumph); listen to his tender singing "Sulla terra l'ho adorata/Come in cielo amar si puote" (on this earth I have adored her as one can only love in Heaven); but, when slapped, he becomes fierce -- he does so both by singing in fortissimo and with his eyes. Again, an actor would be envious, because portraying inner struggle on stage is extremely difficult in plays, and at the opera almost unheard of.
Ettore Bastianini is a great Don Carlo, singing with such ease throughout, as if this extremely difficult role was a cinch. Rich, deep, and strong, but without abusively darkening the sound and without the usual exaggerations of other baritones doing this role. He seems to have felt totally secure vocally.
Boris Christoff as Padre Guardiano sounds very good throughout. However, he does breathe differently from the rest of the cast, raising his shoulders. Either this was not good, or it was a different school.
I did not quite like the makeup they put on Corelli and Christoff, but such makeup was designed for the stage and in color, not for the television of the 1950s, so maybe the spectators in the theater saw it differently.
SUPERB, MARVELLOUSLY SUNG AND ACTED, DEEPLY MOVING
Mirna Cudic | Croatia | 06/23/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although it is in black&white, it is an important and precious historical document(Teatro San Carlo of Naples, 1958) and is definitely a must buy. The tenor Franco Corelli is outstanding as always, offering an extremely romantic and heroic interpretation of the hero (Don Alvaro) with his instantly recognizable strong, rich, dark, but highly artistically nuanced timbre. By those qualities, he manages to convey all the aspects of the character, (as Minnie observed), ranging from the romantic hero in Act I duet (+ his exquisite looks), through the doomed warrior, and finishing with expiating monk.
Renata Tebaldi is another treasure of this recording. Both her singing and acting is otherworldly, taking into account the entire character of Donna Leonora in all its complexity (aristocratic woman in love, desperate expiating woman etc.) She portrays her role both with her "voce d'angelo" with extremely nuanced timbre (forte-piano, as well as with her theatrically noble acting.
The baritone Ettore Bastianini offers an extremely convincing interpretation of Donna Leonora's manipulating brother, Don Carlo, with his unique voice possessing a rare velvety beauty. His duet with Corelli's Don Alvaro (when Don Carlo visits him in the convent) is a real treasure and immensely precious artistic achievement. The Bulgarian bass Boris Christoff offers a noble and reverent Padre Guardiano, while the mezzo Oralia Dominguez offers and extremely believable gypsy girl Preziosilla. The comic scenes are marvellously made, as well. The conducting (by Francesco Molinari-Pradelli) is also at the expected level, together with the classically excellent and convincing scenery and costumes.
In short, you won't regret if you buy it."
J. Camhi | 03/19/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What can I say about this dream production that hasn't been said for this 2001 DVD and an identical DVD that was put out in 2003?[...]
Tebaldi's voice is unbelievably beautiful and the rest of the dream cast sing like a dream. For a 1958 recording, the picture is fine and the sound is excellent. The only thing I didn't like were the cuts. The seen in which Don Carlo reveals himself to Don Alvaro was cut, so we don't see why Don Alvaro knows Don Carlo is his enemy when they meet again.
Overall, it is an amazing production, and I highly recommend it.