- Falstaff, opera
33.99 In Stock
"Excellent! Excellent! One couldn't do better," wrote Giuseppe Verdi after he received Arrigo Boito's libretto to Falstaff, the "lyric comedy in three acts" that would become the composer's final masterpiece. Here, in a performance led by Claudio Abbado, bass-baritone Bryn Terfel stars in the title role, and Verdi's comment is just as apt for this stellar recording as it was for Boito's inspired lyrics. If ever there were an operatic character custom fitted to Terfel's talents, it is Sir John Falstaff, and his performance is, quite simply, a major achievement, rivaling Tito Gobbi's 1956 version with Schwarzkopf and Karajan -- until now the one of choice. Falstaff is a demanding role, both vocally and dramatically, but the bearish Terfel is in every way up to the task, vividly rendering the opportunistic, scheming, and comically unsuccessful character with his distinctively rich and sonorous baritone. Thomas Hampson, a major star in his own right, is similarly impressive as Ford, and Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka delivers the part of Alice with a beautifully lustrous tone and without a hint of strain. In fact, the depth of the supporting cast is one of this recording's most impressive aspects. Only Daniil Shtoda's Fenton comes up somewhat short in such impressive company. Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic are in top form here, the orchestral playing given with an organlike precision and weight that is indeed a pleasure to experience. Times have not been good for old Sir John, with many classic recordings out of print and none to take their place -- until recently, that is. This Falstaff comes hard on the heels of John Eliot Gardiner's fine release on Philips with Jean-Philippe Lafont in the lead role. Gardiner's version is airier and more sprightly than Abbado's, which may appeal to some, but as far as this listener is concerned, Terfel is tops.