PERFORMER: Renée Fleming (soprano), Olga Borodina (mezzo-soprano), Andrea Bocelli (tenor), Ildebrando d’Arcangelo (bass); Kirov Chorus & Orchestra/Valery Gergiev
CATALOGUE NO: 468 079-2
From almost every point of view this is a superb version of a work whose vocal, choral and orchestral requirements, together with its distinctive idiom, make it a severe challenge. Gergiev’s mastery of Russian style is well known, but here, too, his empathy with Verdi’s extraordinary range of mood is outstanding. The Kirov Orchestra provides distinguished playing in every department, its sumptuous tone and superb virtuosity bringing off section after section with brilliance. The choral singing is equally formidable in accuracy and tonal range.
Turning to the soloists, the piercing beauty and insight of Renée Fleming’s singing make up for a lack of true Italian heft at some points, sheeny and secure though her vocalism invariably is. Olga Borodina’s grandly toned interpretation is the equal of any on disc. Ildebrando d’Arcangelo provides an excellent dramatic and vocal reading of the bass part, sung with a noble and vigorous tone.
That leaves Andrea Bocelli’s contribution. It should be said that a few rhythmical errors apart he is musically correct and some phrases go well. Others that should lift off into the air obstinately stay earthbound. The tone regularly refuses to blossom and its surface rarely gleams. The effect is awkward and sometimes wooden. It’s a shame that a new set in every other way worthy to challenge the classic accounts – those conducted by Muti, Toscanini and Giulini – should fall down in this single respect. George Hall