Verdi: Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio - Bosch
Coviello Classics COV 91702 (2 discs)
Classical - Opera
Verdi: Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio
Wooon-Jo Choi (Oberto)
Anna Princeva (Leonora)
Katerina Hebelkova (Cuniza)
Adrian Dumitru (Riccardo)
Daniela Baňasová (Imelda)
Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno
Marcus Bosch (conductor)
The young Giuseppe Verdi had his first large-scale stage work with him – Oberto – when in 1839 he embarked on his journey to conquer the home of grand opera, Milan. At just 25 years of age, he showed immense skill in his use of punchlines, timing and the musical balance of the overall work – here was a true undertaking of Verdian proportions!
A live recording from Opernfestspiele Heidenheim, 2016.
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Review by John Broggio - July 30, 2017
This is the second recording of the Cappella Aquileia (founded in 2011) and the first of Verdi's early operas to get the hi-resolution treatment in an audio-only format.
From the opening of the overture on, it is clear that the Cappella Aquileia are a fine "chamber-symphony" orchestra (their full title is Cappella Aquileia – Württembergische Kammerphilharmonie Heidenheim) and more than holds its own here. This recording derives from performances in the 2016 Opernfestspiele Heidenheim; the playing and singing is wonderfully alive and captures the performance "on the wing". For instance, in the first act duet between Cuniza (delightfully sung by Katerina Hebelkova) and Riccardo (an ardent sounding Adrian Dumitru), the ear is consistently drawn to the marvellous "burbling" clarinets and this is one of many delights that Marcus Bosch elicits from the orchestra. Bosch must be commended not just in the details such as this but in the overall balance and clarity that he obtains but also for the sympathetic pacing that grants the singers space when required while keeping the overall drama moving along convincingly.
The singing is more than a match for many modern accounts of the more famous Verdi operas, with no-one straining under pressure; this in part may well be due to the size of orchestral forces that doesn't demand so much technically of singers, allowing them to focus on making music. Anna Princeva (Leonora) wears the demands placed on her lightly and Woong-Jo Choi (Oberto, Leonora's father) sounds believably older without fearing that he is nearing his (musical) deathbed. Daniela Baňasová's Imelda is a smaller part but is well delivered. The Chorus of the Czech Philharmonic (Brno) is appropriately doleful as the challenge to a duel is thrown down after an appropriately ecstatic bridal chorus earlier on. Musically, there are glimpses of Verdi's unique and masterful mature operatic output although there is a certain sense of homage being paid to figures that must have loomed large in Verdi's formative years: Bellini, Donizetti & Rossini.
The only way one can readily identify that this recording emanates from the opera house is the capturing of the casts movement every now and again; the audience is impressively quiet. Unusually for many operatic audiences, there are no bursts of applause after each musical number and at the end of each act, the applause has clearly been excised. The acoustic of the Festspielhaus Congress Centrum in Heidenheim is ideal for this scale of works: there is never a hint of congestion in the recording, even in the finales to each act and it has a wonderfully warm acoustic signature to flatter the music. The engineers capture everything with clarity and warmth (some may prefer a little less from a few pairs of feet but this is quibbling at the margins of an otherwise fantastic achievement to these ears), there are notes, synopsis and full texts in English and German.
Very much recommended - here's hoping that the performances of "Un giorno di regno" this year are just as successful!
Copyright © 2017 John Broggio and HRAudio.net