Verdi - Falstaff / Terfel, Pieczonka, Hampson, R?schmann, Shtoda, Diadkova, Berlin Phil., Abbado
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A common failing of recent Falstaff recordings is the hole in the middle--the larger-than-life Sir John sung by baritones several sizes too small for the role, both vocally and dramatically. That problem doesn't exist here. Bryn Terfel's outsized singing personality perfectly matches Verdi's conception. Whether bellowing in rage, preening in praise of his fleshly abundance, or crooning sweet nothings to his intended conquests, Terfel dominates this performance as a Falstaff should. As his adversaries, Thomas Hampson's Ford is outstanding, well-sung and characterized, and Adrianne Pieczonka's Mistress Ford is quite good, too. Indeed, there's little to complain about with the rest of this well-assembled cast. If some older recordings of the opera boast more distinctive touches (e.g., the way Cloe Elmo's Mistress Quickly relishes her repeated "reverenzas" for Toscanini), few are as well-matched. Claudio Abbado gets the Berlin Philharmonic to play well in music it can't have done before. The engineering is adequate, if opaque, with orchestral details too often fading into the background. In sum, while Abbado's Falstaff doesn't match the classic Toscanini (RCA), Karajan (his first), or Solti, it's by far the best of the current crop and indispensable for Terfel's and Hampson's performances. --Dan Davis
own this one for Terfel This one doesn't compare to Giulini's landmark recording or Karajan's...Terfel is terrific and the rest of the cast simply cannot compete...Hampson bellows and bawls his way as usual...he is no match for the memory of Warren, Merrill or Nucci...save your $$$...more info
Bravo Messer Claudio! If Bryn Terfel excellent performance of Sir John Falstaff weren`t enough reason... if Thomas Hampson, Daniil Shtoda, Dorothea R?schmann, Adrianne Pieczonka, Larissa Diadkova or Stella Doufexis weren`t enough... there we have Claudio Abbado`s glorious conducting of BPO and a master reading of Verdi`s partiture.
Many reasons can be given to recommend this set, but believe me, Abbado`s conducting is a real diamond....more info
Surprising disappointment A couple of days after I attended the live performance in Salzburg under Maazel, I arrived home and listened the so marketed recording by Abbado. I was suprised how a singer and a conductor can combine so bad as to obtain a disaster. Terfel is practically in other world and he doesn't use the whole power of his voice in favour of some sort of acting that's not necessary after Gobbi's, Valdengo's, Bruson's, Evans's and Taddei's. Furthermore, pronounces bad -that's not perceptible in live performance anymore-. Hampson is a disaster with troubles in the diaphragm for singing middle register notes as, for example, compared with Pannerai, that's unsurpassable in this character. Ladies are excelent. I strongly recommend not to buy this recording because it doesn't have absolutely any merit. It is not a myth like Toscanini's and doesn't offer anything new except mistakes. If somebody, as many, like to buy Cd's just for their sound, go ahead, but, clearly I don not understand why it would have to be precisely this jewell called Falstaff by Verdi. I do not want to give my copy for not being judged as stupid, then I think I will trash it for the box occupies too much large a space in my collection. As a matter of fact I'm listening and attending Falstaff performances since 49 years ago....more info
The Perfect FALSTAFF Recording! Verdi's FALSTAFF is an opera that continues to surprise us. Those who associate Verdi with opera's of twisted, nearly indecipherable plots, or tales of death and intrigue, of love gone wrong - all the material that serves as fodder for Verdi's sublimely beautiful, show-stopping arias - usually have a tough time with a Verdi comedy where there are almost no arias that allow for disruptive applause in the storyline. Yet FALSTAFF (based on the Shakespeare character) is probably one of the most fully integrated, finely written pieces of musical theater in the repertoire. Rich in characters, glorious orchestral and vocal writing, and some of the finest ensemble music ever written, FALSTAFF is a masterpiece.
To make the opera come to life requires a conductor who can mold the gigantic orchestral score from opening to finale, a supporting cast of exceptional singer/actors, and a baritone who can demand stage center at all times. Many of us felt the old Giulini recording was as fine as they come - until this recording. Here Claudio Abbado reigns in the Berlin Philharmonic to a note perfect, gorgeous and solid execution of the multifaceted score, romping with the comedy, and creating filigree magic of the forest setting in the final act.
Bryn Terfel simply inhabits the title role. His glorious voice is never anything but beautiful and rich and his comic timing and fully realized portrayal of Falstaff has no rivals. Of course, having the opportunity of seeing him in the current Los Angeles Opera production fleshes out the visuals of his center of the target interpretation! The others in this stunning cast are exemplary, especially Adrianne Pieczonka as Mistress Ford (this is a gifted soprano to watch carefully!) and Thomas Hampson as Ford, and that is mentioning only two. While Larissa Diadkova as Mistress Quickly may not erase everyone's indelible memory of Regina Resnik's interpretation, these are very negligible (and doubtless personal) asides.
The sound is spacious and rich and in every way this recording manages to capture the genius of this comedic magnum opus. It is a delight! Grady Harp, May 05...more info
A recording that changed how I think about this opera Despite liking most of Verdi's operas, I had never warmed to this one. In fact, one of the few concerts in my lifetime that I've walked out on (a slightly embarrassing admission), was a concert "Falstaff" years ago -- my friend and I looked at each other with a sort of "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" stare, and we fled.
So revisiting with older and wiser ears, I must say that, although this opera will probably not rise to my "top ten" list (but who knows?), this recording is one of the finest operatic productions I've ever heard. The outstanding cast, headed by Bryn Terfel in a role that seems made for him, is excellent in every way, including Thomas Hampson as Ford, Adrianne Pieczonka as Alice, and everyone else. The Berlin Philharmonic plays the score with both passion and precision, and it's all directed with great brilliance by Claudio Abbado, who seems to be having a personal renaissance in the last few years, after some terrifying health problems.
Conventional wisdom: no, this opera doesn't have "big tunes" as such. It's more declamatory, with small jewel-like moments of orchestral color in between the exquisite characterizations offered to the singers. If you're looking for say, Richard Strauss, then this won't be your cup of tea. If you want the rhythm and drive of Mozart, this probably won't suffice there, either. But if you're wanting a great story, with terrific acting that happens to be sung, it would be hard to find a better example.
The DG sound is excellent -- "velvety" is the word that comes to mind -- and suits the opera, the singers and Abbado's vision beautifully. Highly recommended, especially for those who may not have responded to this piece in the past. ...more info
A sore disappointmentm , but there is another Terfel version I expected pre-fab greatness given the lead singer and conductor. But Terfel blusters and overacts, showing too much fussiness in his phrasing and not enough simple Italian brio. He has lots of color in his voice, more than anyone since Taddei and Gobbi, but there's also an alarming wobble at times to mar the pitch. Nobody else in the cast does anything special, and Abbado reverts to his unsmiling, proficient style in Verdi. For a set that clearly was supposed to be a classic, this is more or less a dud unless you simply accept what everyone here has to offer on its own terms.
Fortunately, as of Nov. 2007, the Metropolitan Opera has made a deal to provide online versions of many broadcasts, and one from April 6, 2002 features a Falstaff with Terfel in muh better form, with James Levine giving one of the funniest, most lively accounts of the score that I have ever heard. The rest of the cast is also satisfying, more comic and in better voice than DG's cast (few of the suporting singers on either set are stars). Only the sonics fall short of Abbado's set, although they are good enough. The online source is Real Rhapsody. ...more info
An excellent achievement The long awaited collaboration of Terfel and Abbado in a recording of Falstaff has finally been realized. The recording demonstrates the depth of perception Terfel has achieved in this role following his performances at the Salzburg Festival. With Thomas Hampson as Ford, the interaction between soloists and conductor brings endless illumination. The quality in all departments of the Berlin Philharmonic provides continuous pleasure. The only thing that bothers me in this set is how Anthony Mee uses English vowels in his Italian. But it must be said, with the recording industry in a decline, that this is a remarkable achievement and in my opinion the most generous contribution on record to mark the centenary of Verdi's death....more info
The best of the last It's hard to believe that Claudio Abbado hasn't recorded a Verdi opera in almost 17 years, but then, where are the great Verdi voices these years? Here he was fortunate enough to grab the best possible cast of our time. True, both Terfel and Hampson are still rather young for their roles, and neither is a natural-born verdian, but at least both are individual artists with first class voices. Terfel makes a jolly Sir John, and he pours a lot of sound to go with the belly, it's only the sense of fun of a Giuseppe Taddei that is missing. Hampson too makes a young and yuppy Ford, missing the sheer gusto that the great Rolando Panerai brought to a role he made his own. Abbado recorded this opera after a long and serious illness, but you would never know it. The Berlin Philharmonic play like gods and most of the rest of the cast is very good. Of all digital versions this stands next to the 1982 Giulini for all around excellence. In general I would still prefer Giulini's cast, and even though Bruson is a little too-serious knight, he is the genuine article as a Verdi baritone. The Karajan digital recording suffers from his unidiomatic conducting, but Taddei and Panerai make it indispensable. The Gardiner recording has a very provincial cast that is hardly memorable (except for Sara Mingardo as Quickly)....more info
Falstaff and Verdi at the very best Abbado, an Italian former La Scala conductor, has Verdi in his blood and he gives an blood trans to the Berliner Philharmoniker here on this fantastic recording of Falstaff.This is easy listening but it is the most difficult opera Verdi ever made for an conductor and orchestra to manner and if this not works the singers going in too serious troubles too. This is not the case here because Abbado, like the rest of the Italian opera loving people (and it is a lot of them) know Verdi very well.
Abbado is, by the way, an overall very good conductor meaning he is great with modern composers, post romantic and romantic composers too but for me he and Verdi is the most perfect match.
This was Verdis last opera, a comic one with a happy end in typical Shakespeare manner, meaning Shakespears comedys of course because this is a counterpart to Verdis (and Shakespears) tragedy Otello, that Verdi did a cople of years before Falstaff.
Falstaff is a GREAT opera from the maestro of the operas himself -Verdi. By the way... if you are looking for chorus "hits" like "Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate" (from Nabucco) this is not for you because this story has only a few minor chorus in it but if you are in need for great conducting, a great story and great opera voices this Falstaff is one of the best opera records out there.
Terfel is the perfect Falstaff in my opinion but ALL do a great job, from the conductor, rest of the singers, orchestra, choir members too sound engineers (yes sound is great too) and the libretto package is one of the nicest and most informative I have ever seen. Its a pleasure reading it.
Sum up: you cant go -in my opinion- wrong grabbing this one. Falstaff by this team makes ME feel happy....more info
A Falstaff for the new millenium When Bryn Terfel first performed this work here in Australia, many critics believed he would rise to become one of the great Falstaffs of our age. They were right. Terfel's cheeky nature makes him the ideal person to portray the big oaf with the required amount of non-humility. His arias (for want of a better word) are some of the finest singing on this set. He is superbly matched by Thomas Hampson as the jealous Ford. His second act aria is an absolute highlight for me and nearly made me burst into spontaneous applause at the conclusion (until I realised I would have looked stupid clapping a cd). Hampson brings both fear and humbleness to the role which is rare, but not in Hampson who, along with Terfel, must surely be one of the great male voices of our time. The ladies fare well too, headed by Adrienne Pieczonka as Alice. Although, at the risk of sounding like a Gramophone Magazine pedant, she does occasionally lose some of the brightness and sparkle in her middle register- not that it matters a lot to the untuned ear, it is still a memorable performance nonetheless. The supporting roles are all sung superbly with the right choice of character voice for each one. Vocally, the only drawback is Daniil Shtoda's Fenton who has a rather annoying vibrato when pitching his top notes. It's almost as if he's trying a little TOO hard. Commanding it all is the skillful hand of Claudio Abbado. Being a Verdi veteran (and having created, arguably, two defenitive recordings of Verdi operas- "Simon Boccenegra" and "Macbeth") he brings all his wealth of knowledge to this score. At no time does he sound forced with tempo and the Berliners respond with their usual finesse and grace. The set is well worth the money, and it more than compliments the old Karajan, Gobbi, Schwarzkopf set from the 50's. I believe that this recording will surely go down as one of the finest releases of the year....more info