Author Topic: Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani  (Read 6385 times)

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Offline Superhorn

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Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani
« on: September 01, 2009, 01:17:02 PM »
  I just borrowed the RCA recording of  Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani from my local library with good old Jimmy Levine conducting and Domingo, Arroyo, Milnes and Raimondi .
  It's a really good opera, if rather long by Verdi's standards, and I wonder why it's the least often performed of his mature operas written after Rigoletto,Il Trovatore and La Traviata . It's got all the juicy Verdian melodies you could want, strong dramatic situations etc.
  The RCA recording is excellent and is as far as I know, the only studio recording of the opera made so far. I've also heard the live La Scala recording on EMI with Muti and La Scala, which I believe has also been available on DVD.
  There is also a classic pirated recording from the 50s with Maria Callas conducted by of all maestros, Erich Kleiber, which I have not heard but would like to,even though I hear it is rather heavily cut.
  What do others here think of I Vespri?  We could also use another first-rate recording, but with the current state of the classical recording industry, this is pretty unlikely .
 

Franco

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Re: Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2009, 02:22:51 PM »
Les Vepres Siciliennes has not found favor with critics because of its length, written initially for the Paris opera, and being overshadowed by La Traviata and Il Trovatore - but it does have some great music (the ballet music and overture are regularly played and recorded).  Usually cut for performance, on record it is best to find an uncut version, which the one you have is, and is one of the best recordings of this opera.

There is a Callas production, live and seriously cut, done in 1951 which is worth hunting down, and Joan Sutherland has also done Elena, a role which calls for a coloratura singer.  Caballe has recorded it as well, and is another worthwhile performance.

The problem is finding these recordings.

Offline Sarastro

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Re: Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani
« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2009, 06:58:07 PM »
Joan Sutherland has also done Elena, a role which calls for a coloratura singer.

Are you sure she did? I heard the recording of Elena's Bolero on one Sutherland's recital CD, but that's about it. Never heard of performing the entire role, and do not remember her mentioning this fact in her book. The real coloratura in Elena's party takes place only in this four minute long Bolero in the fifth act, after the entire opera. This is weird because Elena has some hard spinto music, and after the soprano has sung four acts of tense verdi, it is required to twit those coloraturas. I guess it was a little naughty joke by Verdi.

The live recording with Caballe and Gedda from the MET is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Verdi-Siciliani-Montserrat-Caballe-Sherrill/dp/B000EH0TUA/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1251863376&sr=8-10

There, you can also order the only original French version ever recorded (Les Vêpres Siciliennes): http://www.amazon.com/Verdi-V%C3%AApres-Siciliennes-Giuseppe/dp/B00067ZP70/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1251863842&sr=1-1

Offline Wendell_E

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Re: Verdi's "Les vêpres siciliennes"
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2009, 02:10:59 AM »
I'm fairly certain Sutherland never sang the complete opera.

Another recording worth checking into is a live performance from the 1978 Florence May Festival with Scotto, Luchetti, Bruson, and Raimondi, Muti conducting.  It's uncut, and in the standard Italian translation:  http://www.amazon.com/Verdi-Vespri-Siciliani-Scotto-Luchetti/dp/B00000JWI0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1251889500&sr=1-1
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Offline Slezak

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Re: Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2009, 03:59:45 AM »
  For a terrific "Bolero" from this opera, listen to the recording by Miliza Korjus...it's one of those recordings that you have to hear twice, just to believe you heard it once; I doubt that it will ever be surpassed....absolutely incredible singing.  SS

Franco

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Re: Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2009, 04:37:06 AM »
Are you sure she did? I heard the recording of Elena's Bolero on one Sutherland's recital CD, but that's about it. Never heard of performing the entire role, and do not remember her mentioning this fact in her book.

I will check this in my copy of Opera on Record, I'm pretty sure that's where I read that she had - but I may very well be mistaken.

DarkAngel

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Re: Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2009, 04:43:48 AM »
For a terrific "Bolero" from this opera, listen to the recording by Miliza Korjus...it's one of those recordings that you have to hear twice, just to believe you heard it once; I doubt that it will ever be surpassed....absolutely incredible singing.  SS

Youtube has a pretty decent historical recording of that song by Korjus:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oo9Pq_DnbpI

She has a light silvery tone and very agile colortura technique, exciting delivery........yes very nice indeed!



Offline PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2009, 05:23:49 AM »
Les Vepres Siciliennes has not found favor with critics because of its length,
Probably not the reason. Don Carlo and Aida are just as long and no one really seems bothered by them. When you come down to it the libretto of Vespri isn't great and the music, although good, is nowhere as good as Verdi at his pinnacle.

Online Tsaraslondon

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Re: Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani
« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2009, 01:43:36 PM »
The Callas/Kleiber version has been issued by Testament, in much improved sound, and is certainlly worth hearing for the contributions of Callas, Christoff and Kleiber.

http://www.amazon.com/Verdi-vespri-siciliani-Enzo-Mascherini/dp/B000VX1QJA/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1251931364&sr=1-8

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Franco

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Re: Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani
« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2009, 04:51:33 PM »
I was wrong about Joan Sutherland, she's recorded the Bolero.

In looking around what recordings I had of this opera I found one I forgot about, also with Christoff, but with Anita Cerquetti, and for that reason alone a nice recording to have.  Heavily cut, and the live Turin sound is not so good, with workmanlike performances by the rest of the cast, Christoff excepted - but for Cerquetti's singing this is well worth tracking down.

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani
« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2009, 09:27:00 AM »
The ONLY Bolero for me, with La Divina:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWIpiBi-0rQ&feature=related

It may be the times I listened to Callas singing this is in the hundreds over the years, if not approaching 1000 or more... Zamyrabyrd's comment of two months ago on youtube:

For most other sopranos this aria is just another coloratura warhorse. In Callas' hands, it suddenly acquires meaning. The transition from minor to major going to the F# after the trill is a musical marvel. The latter has as many interpretations as singers, and with Callas it is spare.

Maybe Sutherland's is more technically accomplished but Callas invests more meaning. I can listen to Callas over and over again but after one listen to anyone else, it's enough for me.


ZB
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Offline Sarastro

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Re: Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2009, 02:16:39 PM »
Callas invests more meaning

Well, I don't think there is really deep dramatic meaning in the Bolero. Duchess Elena thanks her friends for the flowers, thinks about the upcoming marriage ceremony, the sunny day, and sweet yearning of love, but in Callas' version it sounds like she apprehends the catastrophe in the finale, and here and there I hear subtle irony. But I am not sure if it was what Verdi had in mind -- then he would not have written those trills and florid coloraturas. Anyway, musically, it's an enthralling performance of an aria, but to appreciate the image of Elena Callas portrayed it's better to listen to the entire recording. I think then it will make more sense what kind of character Callas' Elena is. Maybe this rendition fits her vision of Elena.... it's just hard to judge by one clip, besides, I always took the Bolero as just merry twitting, while Elena is anticipating the long-wanted peace and happiness... can't explain better. :-[


By the way, I read somewhere that it is not a bolero but a siciliana (even though it is popularly called a bolero).

DarkAngel

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Re: Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani
« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2009, 04:53:27 PM »
Very hard to find a new stereo CD version of this opera, the Levine/RCA is probably the default way to go just because there are few other alternatives.............

I really enjoyed this recital video by Erika Miklosa of the bolero, I love her visual presentation........
Besides her natural beauty she sings with confidence and is not afraid to show emotion with body movements and facial expression, absolutely charming what do you think? (I am under her spell, please use HQ version when viewing)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doQDIp6VjFw&feature=related

« Last Edit: September 05, 2009, 05:04:41 PM by DarkAngel »

Offline knight66

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Re: Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani
« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2009, 10:53:52 PM »
Odd, I have all the mature Verdi operas, most in multiple versions; but I draw a blank on this one and no idea why. I know the Bolero and agree that the Callas version seems to show ideas sitting below the surface that other singers don't seem to reach. I will have to investigate a version of the full piece; but it won't be the Levine, somehow he almost always disappoints me in opera. Everything sounds like a dark wood with Brahms blaring in my ear. I think he mistakes drama for the portentous.

I will look elsewhere.

Mike
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Online Tsaraslondon

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Re: Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani
« Reply #14 on: September 07, 2009, 12:33:33 AM »
I will have to investigate a version of the full piece; but it won't be the Levine, somehow he almost always disappoints me in opera. Everything sounds like a dark wood with Brahms blaring in my ear. I think he mistakes drama for the portentous.

I will look elsewhere.

Mike

You seem to have similar feelings about Levine in opera as I do about Solti, especially when it comes to Verdi. At least in the Verdi operas that Solti conducted, there are plenty of other recommendable versions. With I Vespri Siciliani, there are very few. The Callas/Kleiber set, even in its much improved Testament pressing, suffers from very poor sound (worse than the Callas Macbeth), so is really for afficionadoes only. EMI once issued a live performance from La Scala, conducted by Muti, with Cherly Studer and Chris Merritt, and there is the BBC version of the original French version, though none of the singers, nor the conductor, are known to me. I haven't heard either, but on paper, neither looks particularly enticing, so the Levine will suffice for the moment, though I too have misgivings about his suitability for Verdi. (Compare his loud and unsubtle conducting of Giovanna d'Arco, with Gardelli's much more naturally lyrical way in all the other early operas.)

I always think it a great pity that EMI didn't record the complete French version with Alagna, when he was at his best. Who knows? Conducted by Pappano and with Gheorghiu as Elena, we may have ended up with a thoroughly recommendable version of this rather neglected middle period Verdi opera.

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline knight66

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Re: Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani
« Reply #15 on: September 07, 2009, 10:24:48 AM »
TL, Thanks for the rundown. No, I think Levine will stay in the shops. I have his Don Carlos on DVD and have not managed to get through it. His conducting seems to me to reflect the stuffy, overladen production, corseted and heavy. I am a patient man, I will wait.

Mike
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