LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
PERFORMER: Samuel Ramey, Vincenzo La Scola, Michèle Crider, Eleonora Jankovic, Ernesto Gavazzi; Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala, Milan/ Riccardo Muti
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68284 2 DDD
The librettist of Verdi’s Otello and Falstaff, Arrigo Boito was also the composer of two operas, one of which, Mefistofele, based on Goethe’s Faust, he composed while still in his twenties. Its first performance at La Scala, in 1868, lasted five and a half hours, and was roundly booed. Shortened and revised seven years later, it was this time a success in Bologna, and is still to be met with in Italian opera houses and occasionally elsewhere.
Much closer in spirit to Goethe than Gounod’s Faust managed to be, Mefistofele, though an uneven work, contains a number of fine scenes, most notably the Prologue set in heaven, and the garden scene of Act II. Faust, is given a beautiful aria, ‘Dai campi, dai prati’, and Margherita has a moving lament, ‘L’altra notte’. It is, however, Mefistofele who dominates the opera, and it is Samuel Ramey who dominates this new recording. Ramey was already a splendid Mefistofele on a 1991 Sony recording, but here he is even more in command of the role, and has the advantage of Muti’s masterly conducting. Crider is an affecting Margherita and La Scola a mellifluous Faust. Charles Osborne