Parma Opera Ensemble: Ouvertures, arias and duets
By Giuseppe Verdi. Annick Massis, Marco Berti, Alfredo Daza, Dmitry Korchak, Francesco Meli, Giovanni Battista Parodi.
Parma Opera Ensemble condcuted by Michelangelo Mazza.
POE (1 CD + DVD)

A weird CD: operatic arias and duets and some preludes by Verdi, just to introduce the ‘Parma Opera Ensemble’; a 10 men (no women) group all members of the Teatro Regio opera orchestra. Now I don’t doubt that in the overwhelming majority of the 260 Italian opera theatres performing in the late forties, early fifties (nowadays there are not 26 opera houses any more), the orchestra probably didn’t have more players but is this reason enough to produce a CD ? unless one wants to prove that 10 good players can produce enough decibels in lightly scored pieces like the Aida prelude or the third act one of Lombardi.

Most collectors of course will concentrate on  the singers and as nowadays one has often to accept recitals with a piano, 10 players will be sufficient. The singing results are somewhat of a mixed bag. Everybody, with the exception of Annick Massis and Marco Berti, is still very young and inexperienced and not always suited to Verdi. Neither tenor Dmitry Korchak or bass Giovanni Parodi has the vocal heft to sing Verdi. Korchak is even straining his voice in the tenor aria of Un giorno, easily the lightest tenor role together with Fenton written by Verdi. Baritone Alfredo Daza has the vocal goods though there is not much beauty or insight in the voice. The surprise of the youngsters is tenor Francesco Meli; owner of an exciting lyric tenor.

The voice is homogenous from bottom to top and has a clear bright sound; maybe not very voluminous as the sound is not bigger than Massis’. Meli has still to learn to phrase originally instead of copying Pavarotti but he will be a force to reckon with if he keeps that fine colour and good top. Marco Berti has already made a name though not always for the best. He too is essentially a lyric tenor and he was much over parted in the recent live recording of La Gioconda where loud noises were his only quality. He is on far better behaviour on this recording with a fine (diminuendo included) ‘O figli miei’. Foresto’s aria he sings straightforwardly without sobs but definitely without Bergonzi’s insight. And he should for the moment leave ‘Si pel ciel’ in peace, even for a recording. Annick Massis is her exceptional self. I know the voice is a little too white but it is used so intelligently I always succumb. And what a pity she was not allowed to sing the slow cadenza in ‘Caro nome’ on the words ‘Gualtier Maldé’. Now we lose the beautiful trill which is one of the glories of Massis.

Together with the CD a short DVD is included that shows the actual recording. Well, I’m sure all the members of the Ensemble will be happy that they all share the same amount of time in the picture but I would have preferred one aria by each of the singers instead of having their arias cut the moment one gets into their interpretation.

Jan Neckers, Opera Nostalgia