Gasparo Spontini: the forgotten genius

Sep 7, 2006 8:26 pm
La Vestale is quite sadly represented in the catalog by many recordings of almost universally poor audio quality. If any opera ever deserved a fine high fidelity recording with good singers and a strong orchestra and conductor it would be this one.

I think Callas really benefits from the lack of audio fidelity here. Her recording allows her dramatic flare to show through untainted by her grating tone. I find Rosa Ponselle’s 1935 recording to be just the opposite, her beautiful full tone sounds weak and anemic while her surprising lack of drama feels rather static to me.

While Leyla Gencer’s 1968 recording of “Tu che invoco” does not strike me as very inspired I am very happy with her, and the entire cast’s, overall performance that keeps the excitement going throughout.

Renee Mazella’s 1964 version has the best sound quality I have heard on any recording of this work—unfortunately on possibly the weakest performance.

My favorite is Renata Scotto’s 1970 version. She has a good sense of pacing—sometimes light, sometimes dramatic. The variation keeps it interesting whereas Callas seems to me to be always screaming which becomes uninteresting, even irritating after a while. I find Scotto’s voice and technique to be better up to the task than any of the others, although I think Gencer is very good in the context of the entire performance.

I have never seen an English translation of the libretto and my Italian is very limited so I never really feel like I have anything but the vaguest idea what is going on at any time. If anyone knows of an English translation online it please let me know.


~ by severalfourmany on September 7, 2006.

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