- Giovanna d'Arco, opera
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An early work from 1845, Giuseppe Verdi's "Giovanna d'Arco" (Joan of Arc) is one of his least known operas. Despite great popularity in its time, its reputation has suffered over the years, due to negative critical assessments, changes in public taste, and fewer and fewer performances. However, because this 2014 Deutsche Grammophon recording features two of opera's greatest stars -- Anna Netrebko as the warrior heroine, and Plácido Domingo, singing the baritone role of her father, Giacomo -- it is sure to gain much more attention. In 2013, Netrebko and Domingo performed this opera at the Salzburg Festival, and this live recording with the Munich Radio Orchestra under Paolo Carignani documents the concert presentation. Netrebko is in top form as the maid of Orléans, singing with full power and exquisite expressive control, and Domingo matches her throughout, with an agonized performance that is well suited to the melodramatic side of Verdi. But musically, this opera is not convincing because of its uneven mix of material: Verdi offers some highly affecting solos, and the scenes between Giovanna and Giacomo are of primary interest. Even so, too much of the opera consists of facile set pieces and choruses that seem hackneyed and rather silly. This is something Verdi's fans won't mind in the least, and admirers of Netrebko and Domingo will want this recording for their passionate interpretations, no matter how contrived the score may be.