Verdi: La Forza Del Destino / Mitropoulos, Di Stefano, Simionato, Et Al

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This thrilling live performance, taped on September 23, 1960 in excellent stereo sound at the Vienna State Opera, owes most of its success to conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos. This somewhat ramshackle opera can all too often seem like a series of unconnected scenes, but somehow Mitropoulos manages to create a dramatically appropriate arc and keep the action flowing. The orchestra, of course, plays gorgeously for him, with lush string tone and bright brass, and the ensemble work implies many rehearsals. In addition, he gets the most from the Italians in the cast.

Giuseppe di Stefano's voice is at its most free and beautiful and Mitropoulos keeps his bad habits under control, eliciting from him one of his finest performances on disc. He offers a true pianissimo A-flat on "seno" in his big aria, sensitive phrasing throughout, and ardor that is unmatchable, without bluster or exaggeration. Antonietta Stella also is at her best. As good as she always was, you'd find yourself wishing Callas, Gencer, or Tebaldi had been in her stead, but she's memorable here. Despite a few top notes that spread, her singing is first rate, with a hushed duet with Guardiano and excitement elsewhere. But truth to tell, I wish she were someone else.

Ettore Bastianini, with a baritone voice as gorgeous as di Stefano's tenor, is ravishing once past the Inn Scene, which he sleeps through. His duets with the tenor are riveting and his legato is ravishing (it's a pity that their second duet, "Sleale", is cut). "Urna fatale" brings down the house. The feared Preziosilla/military scenes are enlivened and made tolerable by the wonderful Giulietta Simionato and Mitropoulos' lively beat.

The non-Italians are more problematic: the Guardiano of Walter Kreppel is not interesting and he wanders from pitch; Ludwig Welter's Marchese is killed just in time; Karl Dönch's Melitone is bland. But the performance is dramatically ravishing, and by the time the final trio comes around, we are in the presence of absolute greatness; I've never heard it so beautifully sung, played, and led. Highly recommended.

--Robert Levine,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: ORF-C681062

  • UPC: 4011790681221

  • Label: Orfeo

  • Composer: Giuseppe Verdi

  • Conductor: Dimitri Mitropoulos

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna State Opera Orchestra

  • Performer: Anne-Marie Ludwig, Antonietta Stella, Ettore Bastianini, Franz Bierbach, Giulietta Simionato, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Harald Pröglhöf, Hugo Meyer-Welfing, Karl Dönch, Ludwig Welter, Walter Kreppel