Verdi recording roundup

by Avital Rabinowitz
October 13, 2013

This October, we celebrate a musical milestone — the bicentennial of Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi.

Verdi composed a wealth of operas throughout the 19th century, many of which are some of the most beloved operas in the entire western musical canon.

Often compared to fellow operatic composer Richard Wager (who celebrated his 200th in May), Verdi's operas, though strikingly different than Wagner's, are no less magnificent.

Verdi enjoyed a long career, and the theatrical depth of his operas as well as his compositional style changed as the years progressed. A consummate storyteller obsessed with theatricality and drama (particularly Shakespearean), Verdi created operas that endure today as a synthesis of beautiful sound and raw emotion.

In honor of Verdi's upcoming bicentennial, several of today's most prominent opera singers and ensembles have recorded albums devoted entirely to Verdi's music.


Tenor Jonas Kaufmann's latest CD, 'The Verdi Album'. (Sony)

Kaufmann's new album, The Verdi Album, is just that — a selection of highlights from Verdi's operas. This album represents previously uncharted territory for Kaufmann; he learned the majority of the arias specifically for the recording. As such, the album will certainly appeal to Kaufmann's fans, who will need to wait for several years before he performs these roles onstage (notably Otello).

The album spans the range and depth of Verdi's repertoire (and Kaufmann's voice!), from a jaunty rendition of Rigoletto's 'La donna e mobile' to Otello's heartbreaking 'Niun mi tema.'




Tenor Placido Domingo's newest album of all-Baritone arias, 'Verdi'. (Sony)

Placido Domingo is one of the most famous opera singers of our time. One of the Three Tenors, his career has spanned five decades thus far, and Domingo shows no sign of retiring from the stage anytime soon! As his voice has changed in recent years, Domingo has begun to embrace baritone roles and arias. His latest offering, Verdi, is a culmination of this new vocal exploration.

Domingo explains that this album is, for him, a personal celebration of Verdi's music. "Verdi is a wellspring of great music, and every lyric singer is grateful to him. So for me, this recording is a special celebration and an act of thanksgiving and love toward Giuseppe Verdi."




Soprano Anna Netrebko's latest CD, 'Verdi'. (Deutsche Grammophon)

Like Kaufmann and Domingo, Anna Netrebko's latest album, Verdi, comprises arias outside her typical repertoire. As her voice has matured and darkened, Netrebko has begun to gravitate toward weightier and more dramatic roles, such as Lady Macbeth of Macbeth, one of Verdi's most vocally and emotionally challenging roles.

About this role, Netrebko stated, "I don't think it always has to be sung by the huge dramatic sopranos; important is to have the range and energy, to have something special in your voice to make this character. It does not necessarily have to be that badly evil and arrogant. I think you can find so many other things in the Lady to portray her believable, like Shakespeare wanted."

Netrebko will be performing the role of Lady Macbeth onstage in the coming years, but until then, her portrayal of this darkly complex role can be enjoyed in the comfort of your living room.




'Verdi Requiem' featuring the Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala. (Decca)

This standout live recording of the often-recorded Requiem features soloists Anja Harteros (soprano), Elīna Garanča (mezzo-soprano), Jonas Kaufmann (tenor), René Pape (bass), and the Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala led by conductor Daniel Barenboim.

Interestingly, La Scala was the venue of the Requiem's original concert debut in 1874. It is a fitting tribute to Verdi that this energetic and emotional portrayal of one of his most significant masterworks is performed at La Scala in celebration of his bicentennial.




'Otello' from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. (CSO Resound)

Conductor Riccardo Muti is well-known for his expertise in interpreting Verdi's works. This live recording of Otello features Aleksander Antonenko as Otello, Krassimira Stoyanova as Desdemona, and Carlo Guelfi as Iago together with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

Also, on Oct. 10 at 7:30 p.m., classicalmpr.org will present a live webcast of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing Verdi's Requiem, hosted by bass-baritone Samuel Ramey.

Finally, enter below for your chance to win a copy of Anna Netrebko's latest CD, Verdi! Don't forget to read the rules.

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