Joan Sutherland was at the height of her career when she took on the role of Leonora – arguably the most dramatic of all Verdi heroines – in 1983. Elijah Moshinsky’s production, in which he was ably supported by the Australian artist Sidney Nolans (set design), Luciana Arrighi (costumes) and Nick Chelton (lighting), was tailor-made for Sutherland, allowing Leonora to develop into a truly tragic heroine occupying the opera’s central ground. This performance at the Australian Opera, Sydney – and featuring a high quality cast under the baton of Richard Bonynge – was recorded by Australian Television on 2nd July 1983. Verdi’s powerful and passionate opera tells a tale of civil war and treachery.
Joan Sutherland first sang the role of Alcina in 1957 and continued to sing it until 1983. The role allows her to display her technical agility, the breath control on long phrases and her stunning trill. It must be admitted that her diction is not clean – but what glorious singing. Teresa Berganza as Ruggiero is Sutherland's equal throughout the entire opera. Her approach is less overtly spectacular but her "Verdi prati" is an object lesson in classic vocalism. With a glorious contralto voice, Monica Sinclair attacks the role of Bradamante with gusto. The three octave scale which concludes her Act 1 aria is not stylistic, but it is exciting. In the shorter roles Mirella Freni and Graziella Sciutti are excellent. Freni was at the beginning of long and glorious career. The male roles are of less importance in this opera but they are very well sung by Luigi Alva and Ezio Flagello.
Luciano Pavarotti (12 October 1935 – 6 September 2007) was an Italian operatic tenor who also crossed over into popular music, eventually becoming one of the most commercially successful tenors of all time. He made numerous recordings of complete operas and individual arias, gaining worldwide fame for the brilliance and beauty of his tone—especially into the upper register—and eventually established himself as one of the finest tenors of the 20th century…
It is appropriate that the first recording of the first version of Forza should come from St Petersburg, where the work had its premiere in 1862. However, whilst the premiere was predominantly an Italian affair, this set is given entirely by Russian artists. The differences between this version and Verdi's 1869 revision for La Scala are marked: they are delineated by two essays in the accompanying booklet but even more discerningly in Julian Budden's indispensable The Operas of Verdi (in this case Vol. 2, Cassell: 1978). So it isn't necessary for me to rehearse here all the changes (even if I had the space to do so), only the main ones.