Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

VERDI Les Vêpres Siciliennes

The original version of the opera as performed at the Académie Impériale de Musique, Paris, June 1855

Guy de Montfort, Governor of Sicily, Neilson Taylor (bar); Duchesse Hélène, sister of Duke Frederic, Jaqueline Brumaire (sop); Henri, a young Sicilian, Jean Bonhomme (ten); Jean Procida, a Sicilian doctor, Ayhan Baran (bass)
BBC Chorus & BBC Concert Orchestra/Mario Rossi
Ballet music conducted by Ashley Lawrence
Recorded 1969 at Camden Theatre London

[3 CDs: 67.37 + 61.31 + 67.04]

Once again we are indebted to Opera Rara and the lavish support of Sir Peter Moores and his foundation for a delectable presentation of a unique recording, Verdi's opera about the Sicilian uprising against the French in the 13th Century, in its Parisian guise, complete with half an hour of obligatory ballet music, the excision of which Verdi authorised in 1856.

For his first grande opéra Verdi took a much-reworked libretto by Scribe & Duveyrier, which got into various troubles with a Spanish version and litigation in France, and hetreats its historical reconstruction on several levels. It is good to hear Verdi in French for once, I Vespri Siciliani (seen in Zurich last year) having continued to be one of the more problematic in the Verdi canon.

The team fielded by the BBC in 1970 does well. Neilson Taylor is impressive as Montfort and his duets with his son Henri, Jean Bonhomme, are moving high spots of the performance. Jaqueline Brumaire takes the female lead and Ayhan Baran the chief of the insurgent plotters, Procida.

The orchestra is in safe hands. Mario Rossi, an experienced Verdi stylist, gives over his baton to the ballet conductor Ashley Lawrence for The Four Seasons ballet music. The recording is satisfactory with the orchestra given full value and impact by the BBC engineers.

As always with Opera Rara, one relishes the thick booklet with its legible libretti, classy illustrations and colour photographs; I choose one of Sir Peter Moores.

© Peter Grahame Woolf