On This Day: Five Essential Verdi Recordings By Baritone Renato Bruson

By David Salazar

Renato Bruson is one of the famous Verdi baritones of all time. His rotund sound had such tremendous range that allowed him to tackle all of the composer’s major roles, almost all to resounding success. He also had such a fantastic technical mastery of his voice that, despite being born on Jan. 13, 1936, he could still be heard singing well into his late 70’s.

Thankfully he also left behind an extensive discography that allows everyone an opportunity to continue enjoying his enduring art. While Verdi is not the only thing he ever sang, it is what he dominated throughout his career. Here are five recordings that Bruson made that are simply indispensable.

Macbeth With Mara Zampieri & Giuseppe Sinopoli

This recording is a treasure on so many levels. It exists as a hard to find DVD and even hard to locate DVD. One could point to Sinopoli’s mastery of the orchestral texture throughout or Zampieri’s ever-evolving Lady Macbeth. Of course the highlight in this particular piece is Bruson’s youthful performance in the title role. His voice is able to give the character a tremendous sense of emotional depth, exploring at times Macbeth’s emotional weakness with a more vibrant and vigorous assertiveness.

Rigoletto With Riccardo Muti, Roberto Alagna, Andrea Rost

This is a later recording in his life and while the entire cast might create reservations for some, there is no denying the potency of Bruson in the title role. His voice has a more granular edge, the result of age. But he still wields it effectively, his Rigoletto more brittle and vulnerable than in his earlier versions of the role.

Nabucco With Ghena Dimitrova, Muti

Bruson gives the mythological ruler a hard edge with a thicker vibrato. His work with Ghena Dimitrova in this particular aria is a titanic vocal battle and a testament to his ability to make magic as a collaborator.

Falstaff With Carlo Maria Giulini, Katia Ricciarelli, Leo Nucci

Carlo Maria Giulini claimed that Bruson was the best Falstaff around. The recording certainly makes argument with the baritone showing a rather unique facet of his vocal range. The thick granular qualities that are so characteristic of his singing are displaced by a lighter and flightier sound that at times sounds like a completely different singer. And yet it works wonderfully for the role.

Ernani With Muti, Domingo, Mirella Freni

Bruson’s role as Carlo is not as big as the other roles on this list, but this might be his most elegant polished singing in a Verdi opera. The phrasing in the “Oh, de’ verd’anni miei,” is nimble and refined, suiting the character of the ponderous king perfectly.


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