VERDI Giovanna d'Arco / Netrebko, Domingo, Meli 4792712

Capably conducted by Paolo Carignani, the carefully-balanced but vibrant singing of the Philharmonia Chor Wien and convincingly Italianate playing of the Münchner Rundfunkorchester are preserved in acoustics that uphold Deutsche Grammophon's long-standing tradition of sonic excellence. With fine performances by tenor Johannes Dunz as Delil and bass Roberto Tagliavini as Talbot, this recording has the sturdiest foundation of any performance of "Giovanna d'Arco" on disc . . . In the unaccompanied trio in the Prologue's finale, "A te, pietosa vergine", Mr. Meli both sings and phrases beautifully, and in the reprise of the galloping principal theme at "Or sia patria il mio solo pensiero" . . . his virile presence is winsome. His singing in the duet with Giovanna in Act One, "Ho risolto . . . E in tai momenti", is passionate . . . Mr. Meli's best singing comes in Carlo's romanza in Act Three, "Quale piů fido amico", which he shapes with true feeling and obvious attention to the nuances of the text . . . It is a satisfying performance . . . the ease with which he produces the notes required by Verdi undermines the effectiveness of Mr. Domingo's singing . . . this performance is his most accomplished outing in a Verdi baritone rôle to date . . . Mr. Domingo gives an expansive account of his aria in Act One, "Franco son io, ma in core", and his performance of the subsequent cabaletta "So che per via dei triboli" conveys the conflicting bitterness and despair of the text. He comes nearest of any of the principals to limning a genuine bel canto line in his singing of the romanza in Act Two, "Speme al vecchio era una figlia", and the power that he brings to Giacomo's denunciation of Giovanna in the Act Two finale has all the magic of Mr. Domingo at his best . . . Mr. Domingo continues to be an engaging artist, and this is among his finest performances in his adopted baritone repertory . . . "O fatidica foresta", the romanza in Act One that contains some of the most beautiful music in the opera, receives a lovely performance from Ms. Netrebko . . . [this recording is a] competent, fitfully enjoyable performance . . .

Netrebko is in top form as the maid of Orléans, singing with full power and exquisite expressive control, and Domingo matches her throughout, with an agonized performance that is well suited to the melodramatic side of Verdi . . . passionate . . .

Netrebko is in top form, acting with her usual dramatic commitment but also up to the technical challenges of the part. Domingo . . . is outstanding as Giacomo. Meli holds his own with his distinguished co-stars and sings with musicality and fire. Paolo Carignani leads the Münchner Rundfunkorchester with true style and the Philharmonia Chor Wein under Chorus Master Walter Zeh is excellent. The sound quality is very good. Since this was a concert performance, there was no movement around the stage. The audience is silent until the applause at the end of each aria and scene. The set comes with a full libretto with translations as well as informative essays about the opera . . . [a] fine recording.

. . . the point of this new release . . . is to hear the combination of grandeur and sensitivity that soprano Anna Netrebko brings to the role. Her love scenes with Carlo . . . gleam with lyricism and supple emotion, and they're beautifully complemented by Netrebko's splendid delivery of passages that show Joan at her fiercest and most militant. Also compelling is the presence of Plácido Domingo as Joan's father, sounding almost as secure and forthright in the baritone repertoire as he ever did as a tenor. And if Verdi's youthful writing tends toward the formulaic, the score includes enough dramatic fervor and subtle experimentation to make this one of the more rewarding products of his "galley years."

. . . Domingo takes the baritone role of Joan's father Giacomo, and . . . he gives a characteristically solid interpretation . . . [Francesco Meli] sings firmly . . . The supporting cast is adequate, and with Paolo Carignani wielding a firm baton, there is lively playing from Munich's radio orchestra and exuberant singing from a Viennese chorus. But it is Anna Netrebko's Giovanna which will be the deal breaker. This greatly talented . . . Russian soprano runs true to form . . . [striking] in the second act, where she produces passages both thrilling and beautiful, graced by floated pianissimos to rival Caballé's and underpinned by a wholehearted exuberance . . . there's no denying the star quality she radiates.

. . . performances that are passionate and polished, in a handsome package with full libretto. It's an excellent introduction to the opera . . . Netrebko and Domingo have moments of great dramatic chemistry . . . Netrebko's upper range delivers operatic thrills . . . [her] dramatically vivid treatment of Joan's more introspective moments make you eager for her to explore better-known Verdi . . . the circumstances of this new recording are perhaps the best one could hope for.

. . . [veteran tenor-turned-baritone Placido Domingo] sounds entirely at home in his new vocal category; his voice now fibrous in quality, he is also engaged dramatically. At his side, Anna Netrebko's soprano has expanded to embrace the stirring warrior-maiden possibilities of the title role . . . Francesco Meli's healthy and characteristically Italianate tenor creates a credibly weak but volatile Carlo. Conductor Paolo Carignani paces the score skilfully and demonstrates a good sense of style, discovering more subtleties in the piece than it is usually given credit for . . . well worth hearing.

Anna Netrebko zeigt Sinn für die Facetten von Verdis Giovanna . . . ein packendes Portrait der heiligen Johanna . . . Plácido Domingo imponiert in der Bariton-Vaterrolle, der Tenor Francesco Meli glänzt als Karl VII. und Paolo Carignani beherrscht den Verdi-Griff am Pult.

. . . [eine] glanzvolle Aufführung . . . [Netrebko gestaltet] Charaktere, und das ist selbst auf einer CD faszinierend zu hören . . . [Domingo ist noch immer] ein Publikumsliebling der Sonderklasse. Seine Stimmfarbe fasziniert, seine Präsenz ist eindrucksvoll . . . [Carignani lässt den Sängern] immer wieder lyrische, zarte, intime Momente, und die dramatischen Effekte haben nicht nur das Publikum in Salzburg hörbar begeistert. Auch der CD-Konsument kann sich mitreißen lassen.

. . . quels interprčtes! . . . Francesco Meli campe un Carlo VII superbe et altier . . . [Domingo]: quelle énergie et quelle maîtrise du bel canto! . . . [Netrebko] donne une épaisseur inattendue ŕ ce personnage, incarné avec dramatisme et sensualité . . . la générosité et la technique de la soprano russe enveloppent l'écoute d'un velours tout ŕ fait exquis.