WORKS: Un ballo in maschera
PERFORMER: Richard Leech, Vladimir Chernov, Michèle Crider, Elena Zaremba; Welsh National Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Carlo Rizzi
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-98408-2 DDD
One of the most perfect of Verdi’s operas is here imaginatively cast and conducted with idiomatic command by Carlo Rizzi, whose fluid, rhythmically buoyant direction helps its swiftly changing moods to register with immediacy.
The Boston setting approved by Verdi’s political censors is used, rather than the intended Sweden of the assassinated monarch Gustav III. Thus American tenor Richard Leech appears as Riccardo, Earl of Warwick, offering elegant tone and generous Italianate phrasing, as well as those sudden low notes other tenors often leave out. Another American, Michèle Crider, delivers the role of his guilty lady-love Amelia on an appropriately grand scale, her big arias proving impressive despite tendencies towards unsteadiness and even wildness.
As Renato, her vengeful husband,Vladimir Chernov’s sombre tone is vocally dominating, though his interpretation is monochrome. María Bayo sings Riccardo’s page, sidekick and alter ego Oscar with notable brilliance and easy charm, while Elena Zaremba’s fortune-teller Ulrica has the requisite depth of tone and, like Leech, a strong lower register. The smaller roles are choicely cast (Roberto Scaltriti contributes a brisk Silvano), and the WNO Chorus and Orchestra provide strong support.
The sound is generally lucid and spacious though inclined to become over-dense at climaxes. George Hall