Molinari-Pradelli: Verdi - Simon Boccanegra (2 CD, APE)
Molinari-Pradelli: Verdi - Simon Boccanegra (2 CD, APE)

Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Orchestra: Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro di Roma Della Rai
Conductor: Francesco Molinari-Pradelli
Audio CD
SPARS Code: ADD
Number of Discs: 2
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Warner
Size: 307 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Simon Boccanegra – Paolo Silveri
Maria Boccanegra – Antonietta Stella
Jacopo Fiesco – Mario Petri
Gabriele Adorno – Carlo Bergonzi
Paolo Albiani – Walter Monachesi
Pietro – Giorgio Giorgetti
Un capitano dei balestrieri – Walter Collo
Un’ancella – Bianca Furlai

Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro di Roma Della Rai
Francesco Molinari-Pradelli

rough sound, but dramatically alive and historically interesting

If you know the Abbado recording of “Simon Boccanegra” (DGG, mid-1970’s), you’ll know how lovely and distinctive much of the orchestral writing is. Pretty obviously, you’re not going to get that on this 1951 recording, originally on Cetra and based on an Italian Radio broadcast that was one of a series in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Verdi’s death. When I owned it briefly on vinyl, the sound was so bad that the singers seemed to be singing duets with themselves! Well, re-mastering has cleared that up, but the sound is still pretty rough, and the choral work especially gets pretty raw treatment. So why bother getting it?

Partly for the reasons that Ralph Moore lays out — here you have the 22-year-old Antoinetta Stella and the 27-year-old Carlo Bergonzi taking the opportunity to get themselves heard, and it’s impressive. The firmness of Stella’s singing, and her fearless attack on the high notes, is quite thrilling, even if the top can sound a bit raw (though that might be a limitation of the recording). Bergonzi is impressive both for the cleanness of his line, the dramatic force of his singing (unusual for him), and, at those times when he’s in good relation to the microphone, the beauty of his voice, recognizably his at such times, even though he had only recently made the change from baritone to tenor. My other reason, in addition to Ralph Moore’s, was precisely to hear one of Bergonzi’s earliest recordings. He died in July 2014 at 90, arguably as good a tenor as any in the last 50 or 60 years. But there’s much to like in the recording apart from the younger generation: Walter Monachesi is Paolo (as he would be on the famous EMI recording with Gobbi six years later) and he is powerful and aptly dramatic and rock-solid of voice. Mario Petri is Jacopo Fiesco, and he has the firmness and the low notes to make Fiesco’s implacability palpable. Boccanegra himself is Paolo Silveri, a baritone with a sense of the authority in declamation that the role demands and an easy top of the voice for the tender moments. In other words, it’s a cast that deserves a better recording, but I’m glad to take what Italian Radio has given us. There are some cuts in the score that are regrettable — Boccanegra’s refusal of Amelia’s hand to Paolo, for one — but Molinari-Pradelli drives things along energetically. The overall impression I get from the recording is that everyone involved was committed to the project.

NOTE: the observations above give the impression that Stella and Bergonzi were youngsters in an older cast, but I have since found out that that’s not really the case. Silveri (1913-2001) was only 38 and Petri (1922-85) just 29. Moral: don’t hesitate to google!

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