WORKS: I Lombardi
PERFORMER: Luciano Pavarotti, June Anderson, Richard Leech, Samuel Ramey Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus/James Levine
CATALOGUE NO: 455 287-2
Recordings of Verdi’s fourth opera (1843) do not exactly grow on trees, but the work is well suited to CD; indeed, in many ways a recording or concert is the best way of appreciating the piece, set during the First Crusade. The opera’s creaky dramaturgy – clarified somewhat in the composer’s later reworking of it as Jérusalem – makes it one of the least satisfactory parts of the Verdi canon, yet the score is full of the bold strokes and excitement so typical of the composer’s early period. Happily, early Verdi is one of the few corners of the repertory in which James Levine has not turned sluggish, and here he conducts with blazing vigour.
His vision is matched by a classy cast, strong in even the smallest parts. June Anderson returns to form in one of Verdi’s most florid soprano roles, Giselda – daughter of the Crusaders’ leader who falls in love with the young Muslim prince, Oronte. He is sung with amazing freshness and ardour by Luciano Pavarotti, and Richard Leech is fine as the father, Arvino. As the latter’s estranged brother, Pagano, Samuel Ramey could be more incisive, but he creates a powerful character. The Met chorus is at its splendid best. John Allison