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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Verdi: I Lombardi alla prima crociata

With it's convoluted plot of familial dramas set against the historical background of the First Crusade, Verdi's opera I Lombardi had it's premiere at La Scala, Milan on February 11, 1843.  It's had a mixed bag of a history, being Verdi's second opera after Nabucco to gain lasting popularity in Italy and then rewritten and arranged in French to appear under the title Jerusalem four years later.  It's nationalistic overtones proving popular with audiences of the time, like it's predecessor, ensured it endured well until the turn of the century.

The first time I heard any of the score I was just getting into opera, around the age of 13, and my Grandmother's husband had a much loved LP of Beniamino Gigli arias and scenes.  The excerpt was of course the great trio that forms the finale of the Third Act with Elisabeth Rethberg and Ezio Pinza.  It remains to me one of the greatest examples of early Verdian singing on disc and you can hear it below.

The way Rethberg soars lovingly over the orchestra is a pure delight and there is no other recording that captures this moment of the opera quite the same, tempos these days being on the slower side in recordings it seems (Gardelli for Phillips and Levine for Decca).  If you love early Verdi, and Beniamino Gigli do yourself  a favour and have a listen.


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