PERFORMER: Neil Shicoff, Carol Vaness, Anthony Michaels-Moore, Roberto Scandiuzzi; Florence Maggio Musicale Orchestra & Chorus/Fabio Luisi
CATALOGUE NO: 462 512-2
This is the opera that began life as Stiffelio, whose eponymous hero, a 19th-century married Protestant clergyman, was too much for Italian audiences of its time to comprehend. The opera did not catch on, and Verdi decided to fit the music to a new libretto, with Stiffelio turned into Aroldo, an English Crusader. Most of the score is common to both operas, but the final act of Aroldo, set in Scotland on the
banks of Loch Lomond, is completely new. Its storm music is magnificent, and its final trio, which leads into a quartet, is beautiful, albeit somewhat perfunctory.
Neil Shicoff’s voice has lost much of its once youthful splendour. However, that is no serious disadvantage in the role of Aroldo, and Shicoff gives a forceful, authoritative characterisation. Carol Vaness, too, has a more mature vocal timbre than formerly, but she is a perfectly acceptable Mina, and Anthony Michaels-Moore brings a firm, rich baritone voice and elegant phrasing to the role of the elderly knight Egberto. Fabio Luisi’s conducting is lively and fully engaged.
The only competition comes from a CBS live recording of a Carnegie Hall performance in 1979, with Gianfranco Cecchele an adequate Aroldo, Montserrat Caballé in patchy voice as Mina, and Eve Queler conducting lifelessly. This new recording is vastly superior. Charles Osborne