, June 2012
The individual casting is admirable. Fernando Corena’s recordings of buffo music by Donizetti and Cimarosa had shown his ability in this field. It is surprising that this production appears to have been his first performances as Falstaff. The part is often given to a baritone but a bass voice does have the advantage of suggesting the character’s scale without needing to resort to “funny” voices. He does not play with the words in quite the detailed way of, say, Tito Gobbi or Geraint Evans, but instead he exudes a more general good humour. I found it wholly convincing, especially when set within a cast all of whom display their character’s individual “humours” musically and without exaggeration. Walter Monachesi has a voice very different from Corena’s, which helps a lot in their scene together, and if the Merry Wives are not so well distinguished from each other, neither are they in most performances of the opera or indeed in Shakespeare. The role of Mistress Quickly is a gift for a singer with the necessary power in the lower register and ability of characterisation. Oralia Dominguez has both of these qualities and stands out even in such distinguished company. All of the other, by no means minor, parts are well filled.
…it is the quality of the ensemble that distinguishes this recording. All of the big complicated ensembles which can sound simply confused or untidy are here clear and transparent.
There are many distinguished recordings of Falstaff in the catalogue, including those conducted by Karajan (with Gobbi), Toscanini, and (some years later) Giulini in Los Angeles. The present set takes its place with them, like them offering hours of pleasure and delight. If the opera has a lesson it is the composer and librettist’s sheer delight in the varied character of humanity and its many frailties. This recording captures that varied character to perfection in a wonderfully relaxed and good humoured performance in which nearly everything seemed to have gone right. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review