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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Oberto - Dramma in due atti (124:00)
Cuniza - Mariana Pentcheva (mezzo); Riccardo - Fabio Sartori (tenor); Oberto - Giovanni Barrista Parodi (bass); Leonora - Francesca Sassu (soprano); Giorgia Bertagni (mezzo)
Chorus and orchestra of the Teatro Regio del Parma/Antonello Allemandi
Pier’Alli (director and designer)
rec. live, Teatro Verdi di Busseto, 16, 23 October 2007
NTSC 16:9 format
PCM Stereo & DTS 5.1
Region code 0
Subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese
C MAJOR 720008 [124:00+10:00]

Oberto was Verdi’s first opera. It had a complex history, the libretto having been initially written by Antonio Piazza as Rocester. Eventually it was revised and completed by Temistocle Solera. The action was moved and altered to the civil wars in early 13th century Italy and the impending wedding of Cuniza and Riccardo. Leonora, Oberto’s daughter, tells Cuniza that she has been seduced by Riccardo. Eventually Cuniza accepts this and insists that the latter marry Leonora. Oberto however challenges Riccardo to a duel in which Oberto is killed. Ricardo flees and Leonora enters a convent. All of this is explained in a short bonus item. It may be hard to believe in the plot as a whole, but the sheer energy that Verdi’s score provides ensures that the listener is caught up in the situation as it emerges. Although the customary arrangement into a series of cavatina/caballeta remains very obvious Verdi goes beyond that, especially in the way in which recitatives and ensembles are knitted into the whole. The themes of fathers and daughters, of fallen women and of libertine tenors all loom large in later Verdi operas but are seen here in embryo.
 
This disc forms part of the “Tutto Verdi” collection and like the rest of that series makes use of the chorus and orchestra of the Teatro Regio del Parma. However the performance here actually took place in the much smaller Teatro Verdi di Busseto which seats only about 300 people. Oberto was first performed at La Scala in Milan but with its diminutive cast, limited action and straightforward plot it works particularly well in a small theatre. None of the singers were known to me before but all are well cast and give convincing accounts of the music. Best of all are Marian Pentcheva and Francesca Sassu, both having voices of considerable beauty - and agility when required, and well contrasted. In this small theatre neither they nor the men need to force their voices. The chorus and orchestra are also admirable and alert, and Antonello Allemandi keeps the whole performance moving but without undue rushing. The staging is rudimentary but effective, with little attempt at providing more than varied groupings in which the artists for the most part can sing directly at the audience. 

Oberto
is always likely to be a rarity in the theatre so that for most Verdi enthusiasts CDs or DVDs will be the best way to get to know it. It is certainly worthwhile to do so, and I cannot imagine many better ways of doing this than through the present disc which may well prove to be one of the best issues of this anniversary year.  

John Sheppard 

see also review of the Bluray version by Robert Farr