Giuseppe Verdi’s “Giovanna d’Arco” is the seventh opera the composer wrote with its premiere coming on Feb. 15 , 1845. While the opera is considered one of the lesser works by Verdi and has at times been criticized for its choral music, the work does have a lot of merit, particularly in its writing for the character of Giovanna. It is for this reason that many leading sopranos have been interested in taking on the work.
In celebration of the opera’s premiere OperaWire takes a look at the essential recordings for Verdi’s “Giovanna.”
The live recording from Milan features Renata Tebaldi in her prime alongside Carlo Bergonzi and Rolando Panerai. Tebaldi was the first exponent of the role in the 20th century and the one who put it back into the repertoire. While this recording is chopped up and does not include some of the high tessitura that Verdi wrote for the soprano, Tebaldi does show her lyrical side. Bergonzi is also exceptional and both singers have great chemistry in their Act 1 duet.
Caballe’s interpretation is the only studio recording of the opera and it was done in 1972 with an all star cast that included Plácido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes. James Levine conducted the EMI Classics release which showcases Verdi’s music in the complete form. If there is something that distinguishes this recording it is the detail that is given to the orchestra and how Verdi’s music comes alive. Of course Caballe is a tour de force even if purists complain that she lacks the C# Verdi calls for in the first aria “Sempre all’alba.”
The live recording from the Teatro Comunale di Bologna Orchestra features the renown soprano Susan Dunn conducted by Riccardo Chailly. The version includes the critical edition that Chailly recently used at the opening night of La Scala in 2015. It also features Renato Bruson and Vincenzo La Scola in a production by Oscar nominated film director Werner Herzog. While it doesn’t necessarily feature the greatest acting, Dunn conveys her emotions with her powerful voice and Bruson is heartbreaking in his two arias.
Released alongside the Viva Verdi set, this C Major DVD features Bulgarian soprano Svetla Vassileva in a 2008 performance from Teatro Regio di Parma. Vassileva is great in the opera and she definitely excels as an actress but it is Bruson that really draws you in with his late career turn as Giovanna D’Arco’s father. No longer at his prime, Bruson still sings with so much passion and makes this recording irresistible.
The Russian soprano Anna Netrebko brought the opera to the Salzburg Festival and was featured alongside Francesco Meli and Plácido Domingo. Paolo Carignani conducted the score which features numerous cuts. However, what is exciting about this recording are the energetic tempi that Carignani takes. The biggest highlights of the recording are also seen in the second disc which includes a show-stopping concertato and the soprano and baritone duet. Netrebko later performed the role in a critical edition that was recorded from La Scala. There is no DVD of it but it is widely available on Youtube.
The British soprano known for her coloratura roles recently took on the role from the Festival Valle d’Itria and Dynamic released a DVD and CD version. The opera features Jean-François Borras and Julian Kim in supporting roles. Pratt adds vocal fireworks to the work by interpolating some very surprising high notes while still giving the role the weight for Verdi’s orchestra. Riccardo Frizza conducts with a very Bel Canto style giving the orchestra an energetic feel and a lightness that most would not be accustomed to.
Did we miss one of your favorite recordings? Let us know in the comments below!