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Verdi Reductions for small orchestra

Parma Opera Ensemble, leader Michelangelo Mazza

Annick Massis soprano
Marco Berti ,   Dmitry Korchak & Francesco Meli tenors
Alfredo Daza baritone
Giovanni Battista Parodi - bass

Michael Storr Music MSM0001 [ 60 minutes 2005/2006]
+ bonus DVD

Un giorno di regno :   Overture;   Deh ! Lasciate a un'alma amante
Rigoletto :   Caro nome
Macbeth:   Come dal ciel precipita ;   O figli . Ah, la paterna mano
I Lombardi:   Prelude to Act III;   La mia letizia infondere
Attila:   Che non avrebbe il misere
Don Carlo:   Per me giuntoLa traviata :   Prelude to Act III;   Parigi o cara
Aida:   Prelude to Act I
Simon Boccanegra :   Propizio ei glunge !
Falstaff:   E sogno , o realtaOtello :   Si, pel ciel

Before the dawn of recorded music it was accepted practice for versions of popular composers' works to spring up arranged for piano or small groups of instrumental players.   It is fitting that a modern instrumental group, comprised of 10 players, should be formed in Verdi's home town to revisit these charming salon pieces.   

The selection is a far ranging one, spanning more than 50 years of Verdi's operatic writing, from his first unsuccessful attempt at comedy, Un giorno di regno to his final triumphant crowning glory with Falstaff .   The items are presented in sufficiently chronological order to trace the development of his genius.  

A first class line up of singers has been assembled for the occasion, notably Annick Massis with a superbly lyrical Caro nome , Marco Berti a tower of strength in his duets from Attila and Otello , and the honey toned Francesco Meli who is heard in five items.

The recording has an attractively bright sound, and my only reservation is the absence of texts or translations.

The bonus DVD contains footage of the recording sessions and is makes an interesting extra.

Puccini, Leoncavallo, Catalani , Franchetti , Pietri & Zandonai

Marco Berti tenor
Parma Opera Ensemble, leader Michelangelo Mazza

Michael Storr Music MSM0002

1 CD - 34 minutes Recorded April & September 2006

Puccini -   La Villi : Ecco la casa;   Edgar: Orgia,Chimera dall'occhio vitreo
Leoncavallo -   La bohème: Non Parlate cosi ;   Musette ! O gioia della mia dimora !   Chatterton:   Non saria meglio
Catalani -   La Wally: M'hai salvato ;   Loreley : Nel verde maggio
Franchetti -   Germania :   Studenti ! Udite !
Pietri -    Maristella : Io conosco un giardino
Zandonai -   Giulietta e Romeo:   Giulietta , son io

Hard on the heels of the excellent Verdi selection described above, is an even more tempting CD bringing together a gourmet's delight of delicacies from verismo period. Texts and translations are included this time, but no great detail about the operas, as these will be new to many listeners I feel a few comments on the repertoire are in order.

Starting off with little known Puccini the recital moves appropriately Leoncavallo's Boheme , which still has the power to surprise with the switch of tenor role to Marcello. But then we venture into near uncharted territory with Chatterton¸ the uneven product of the 19 year old Leoncavallo, but clearly boasting at least one fine aria.  

A purist might argue that Catalani worked outside the v erisomo movement, writing operas more reliant on mysticism than true life, and following in the tradition of Weber rather than Puccini. However, it is a pleasure to hear something from La Wally other than the well known Ebben ? Ne andro lontan and even more so, Walter's dreamy nocturne from Loreley .

Stirring epics were Franchetti's forte usually with a firm historical base. Germania is just such a piece, regarding the underground resistance movement during Napoleon's occupation of Germany, and is peppered with traditional German patriotic songs as evidenced in this aria.

Giuseppe Pietri found success by blending the Italian verismo style with the more chocolate-box qualities of Viennese operetta with Maristella arguably the most popular following a successful debut in Naples in 1934.  

The final composer to be represented is Zandonai , firmly at the centre of verismo , although his Giulietta e Romeo strays quite a way from Shakespeare's original - a transgression that easily forgotten as one listens to this seductive love song.  

Marco Berti clearly relishes all this music, and the beauty of his tone is perfectly balanced by the POE's refined forces.   At 34 minutes this may appear short measure by CD standards, but the richness of the fare makes it more than satisfying.  

Serena Fenwick