It is appropriate that the first recording of the first version of Forza should come from St Petersburg, where the work had its premiere in 1862. However, whilst the premiere was predominantly an Italian affair, this set is given entirely by Russian artists. The differences between this version and Verdi's 1869 revision for La Scala are marked: they are delineated by two essays in the accompanying booklet but even more discerningly in Julian Budden's indispensable The Operas of Verdi (in this case Vol. 2, Cassell: 1978). So it isn't necessary for me to rehearse here all the changes (even if I had the space to do so), only the main ones.
“This marks the final offering from Opera Rara's laudable restoration of BBC broadcasts from the 1970s and '80s of Verdi's first thoughts on specific operas, and it is quite up to the standard of the series. It differs only in being given without an audience, and was broadcast two years after the recording. On disc we know the 1862 original Forza from Gergiev's Philips set recorded, appropriately enough, in St Petersburg. That version is by and large finely cast with Russian singers and excitingly conducted, but this one, featuring British artists and one North American, need hardly fear the comparison. John Matheson may be a slightly more measured interpreter than Gergiev but he is perhaps even more adept at disclosing the many subtleties in shaping the slightly sprawling score as a unified whole. His orchestra provides fine playing – special praise for the first clarinet before Alvaro's Act 3 solo – and the BBC Singers nicely characterise their roles.
Verdi at the Met captures the drama of Verdi's greatest operas as they were performed live at The Metropolitan Opera in New York. These ten recordings cover four decades starting with La Traviata in 1935 and feature some of the best-loved voices and conductors of the twentieth century. The famous pairing of tenor Richard Tucker and baritone Leonard Warren can be heard in Simon Boccanegra and La Forza del Destino.
Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was an Italian Romantic composer, mainly of opera. He was one of the most influential composers of the 19th century. His works are frequently performed in opera houses throughout the world and, transcending the boundaries of the genre, some of his themes have long since taken root in popular culture - such as "La donna mobile" from Rigoletto, "Va, pensiero" (The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves) from Nabucco, "Libiamo ne' lieti calici" (The Drinking Song) from La traviata and the "Grand March" from Aida. His work has sometimes been criticized for using a generally diatonic rather than a chromatic musical idiom and for being essentially melodrama during his early years. He was an atheist. Verdi's masterworks dominate the standard repertoire a century and a half after their composition.