Verdi: La forza del destino

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COMPOSERS: Verdi
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: La forza del destino
PERFORMER: Askar Abdrazakov, Galina Gorchakova, Nikolai Putilin, Gegam Grigorian Kirov Chorus & Orchestra/Valery Gergiev
CATALOGUE NO: 446 951-2
‘A quell’accento più non poss’io resistere’ (‘At the sound of that voice, I can resist no longer’) – how one’s heart stops, hearing Richard Tucker’s Alvaro sing those words to Callas’s expiring Leonora on the old Serafin set. It’s a tribute I would gladly hear paid to Gorchakova’s Angel-voiced anchorite on this release – only the line, along with the rest of the concluding trio, has gone missing, leaving the curtain to fall, not on its usual benedictory note from the Father Superior, but on a blasphemous new yelp from the suicidal ‘Father Raffaele’.

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For this is Verdi’s 1862 original, not the 1869 revision. Alas, the ‘new’ numbers offer no net gains, musically or dramatically. As with Boccanegra, Verdi’s re-think paid dividends.

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Forza (Mark I) was, of course, premiered in St Petersburg, so this new Kirov recording has some claims to ‘authenticity’. Not many, though. The booklet places the premiere at the Kirov’s own Mariinsky Theatre; history has always told us it was at the rival Bolshoi. Either way, the original cast was 100 per cent Italian. And – Gegam Grigorian’s generously can belto Inca prince and Gorchakova’s luscious Leonora apart – these Slavonic voices tend to soften the blows of Verdi’s inexorable fate (where, by the way, have all the great Russian basses gone?). Luckily, there’s always Gergiev and his orchestra – infinitely responsive to every musical twist of fate – to really set that wheel of fortune spinning. Like Alvaro (Mark II), Verdian aficionados will be unable to resist; the rest should stick to 1869, c/o Muti (EMI) or Sinopoli (DG). Mark Pappenheim