Audiophile HD-Vinyls 24/96 (Decca) Arrigo Boito – Mefistofele (Pavarotti/Ghiaurov/Freni/Caballé)

Yes, most of the major roles were taken by singers who at the time must count as “experienced”, but there is plenty of youthful vigor in the singing as well.

Phantastic sound and stellar performances…and this is the reason, why I offer this jewel in 24/96 although it is a digital production.

# Composer: Arrigo Boito
# Performer: Luciano Pavarotti, Piero de Palma, Robin Leggate, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Della Jones, Mirella Freni, Montserrat Caballé, Nucci Condò
# Orchestra: National Philharmonic Orchestra
# Conductor: Oliviero de Fabritiis

# Vinyl (1984)
# Number of Discs: 3
# Format: Flac
# Label: Decca
# DR-Analysis: DR 14
# ASIN: B000787WVK

# Size: 2.98 GB
# Scan: yes
# Server: FileFactory

This “Mefistofele” stays only a very little step behind the “millenium” recording (also by Decca) with Tebaldi/Del Monaco/Siepi, under the baton of Tullio Serafin, from 1958.

Arrigo Boito remains one of the greatest librettists of all time and must be considered partially responsible for the enduring success of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, Falstaff, and Otello as well as Ponchielli’s La Gioconda. (Could one also wish for a recording of Pick-Mangiagalli’s Basi e Bote to Boito’s libretto?) His own (only completed) opera Mefistofele also remains popular but has tended to divide opinion. Although I don’t think it is musically an unqualified masterpiece it is a splendid work – dramatically as well as musically effective, and as a take on Faust I find it in the more compelling than Gounod’s; yes, Gounod has the more immediately memorable individual numbers (and I suppose Gounod knew a trick or two with respect to creating an effective stage work), but Boito’s work is by some distance more overall convincing as a musical work, and unsurprisingly sports the better libretto.

I guess this star-studded Decca recording would be the one to have as well, though I admit that I am not overly familiar with the alternatives. To a large extent the success is due to the orchestral and choral performances. The National Philharmonic Orchestra plays beautifully under Olivier de Fabritiis, who truly has the measure of the work – it is wonderfully dramatically paced, full of color, gorgeous textures, poetry, life and vigor, superbly balanced and generating plenty of momentum. The choral forces (Trinity Boys Choir and the London Opera Chorus) are equally excellent both in terms of beauty and drama, and the Decca recording warm and full-blooded.

The rhetorically obvious next step in a review would be to admit that the soloists comprise something of a mixed bag, but despite some minor objections this is really not the case. Yes, most of the major roles were taken by singers who at the time must count as “experienced”, but there is plenty of youthful vigor in the singing as well. Pavarotti is an excellent, passionate Faust, displaying deep understanding of the role, emotionally as well as musically, as well as sensitivity to his partners in the duets and ensemble roles (the occasional hard top note is easily forgiven). My admiration for Freni remains unchallenged as well, even though she sometimes appears to be forced to work a little too hard for her voice; there is plenty of fire and drama left in the voice, however, as well as sensuousness, richness and beauty of tone. Caballé is a delight; breathtaking high notes and ravishing elsewhere.

Ghiaurov in the title role is masterly. If I were in a sourer mood I could have pointed out that some of his high notes are not ideally soft or full, but it’s hard to put any weight behind that criticism insofar as he is utterly compelling everywhere else. He is really something of an ideal Mefistofele (though some may, I admit, prefer a slightly more subtle approach to the role), bitingly sarcastic, jeering, yet mysterious and complex – and thoroughly wicked. All the smaller roles are good as well, and the final verdict must be that this is really an astounding success of a recording; enthusiastically recommended.


A1   Prologo In Cielo 25:18  
B1   Atto Primo : La Domenica Di Pasqua 24:24  
C1   Conclusion 5:09  
C2   Atto Secondo : Il Giardino 12:07  
C3   La Notte Del Sabba 2:54  
D1   Conclusion 16:57  
D2   Atto Terzo: La Morte Di Margherita 7:47  
E1   Conclusion 13:58  
E2   Atto Quarto: La Notte Del Sabba Classico 12:58  
F1   Conclusion 10:26  
F2   Epilogo 13:40  


Analyzed folder: /96kBo_Mef_Pa/96k Boito – Mefistofele – Pavarotti
DR        Peak        RMS        Filename
DR14        -0.65 dB     -20.47 dB     sideA.wav
DR15        -0.45 dB     -20.54 dB     sideB.wav
DR14        -0.65 dB     -20.56 dB     sideC.wav
DR13        -0.77 dB     -19.37 dB     sideD.wav
DR15        -0.73 dB     -21.30 dB     sideE.wav
DR14        -0.31 dB     -19.92 dB     sideF.wav
Number of files:    6
Official DR value:    DR14



  • Bass Vocals – Nicolai Ghiaurov
  • Choir – London Opera Chorus, Trinity Boys Choir
  • Chorus Master – David Squibb, Terry Edwards
  • Conductor – Oliviero de Fabritiis
  • Mezzo-soprano Vocals – Della Jones
  • Orchestra – National Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Soprano Vocals – Mirella Freni, Montserrat Caballé, Nucci Condò
  • Tenor Vocals – Luciano Pavarotti, Piero de Palma, Robin Leggate
Rec. Walthamstow Town Hall, London – August 1980 & January 1982.
This Recording is dedicated to the memory of Maestro Oliviero de Fabritiis.

Ripping Infos

  • RCM: Okki Nokki
  • TT: Clearaudio Champion Level II
  • Cartridge: Sumiko Black Bird
  • Phono amp: Pro-Ject Phono Box RS
  • ADC/DAC: RME Fireface UC
  • Pre Amp: Unison Research Unico Pre (Tube)
  • Finals: Opera Consonance 9.9 Mono (Tube)
  • Speakers: Dali Helikon 400
  • Connections: MIT Terminator, Audioquest Emerald, Audioquest Quartz
  • Software: iZotope RX Advanced v2.02, Adobe Audition CS 5.5, Twisted Wave 1.9
  • Light de-Clicking with iZotope, significant clicks manually removing, no De-Noising

If You hear some clicks and pops here and there, Who cares?
Id rather have a few light anomalies instead of destroying the music. Enjoy the music, not the ticks & pops.

  • DR-Analisys before converting to Flac
  • Converting Wave -> Flac: Twisted Wave 1.9
  • Artwork: Sony Alpha 350, Epson Perfection V750 Pro, Photoshop CS 5.5

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8 archives
PW: LaWally


13 thoughts on “Audiophile HD-Vinyls 24/96 (Decca) Arrigo Boito – Mefistofele (Pavarotti/Ghiaurov/Freni/Caballé)”

    1. I did not intend the “finalmente” toward you, but for me.
      I tried to download #8 and add it to the seven, but didn’t realize each time I tried it added a digit to the rar DL.
      So I dumped all and started over again removing the extra digit from #8, and, Eureka, it worked.

      Masterful sound, maestro. Thanks.

  1. Links all still work perfectly in 2014. This is an opera I know only a little and I have not heard this version. Look forward to my first listen after Saturday lunch of home made soup. Many thanx for ripping and sharing.

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