Arturo Toscanini's relationship with one of the greatest librettist's of all time has remained legendary and the conductor's understanding of the man's music is clearly demonstrated in this hugely desirable set. The only major gripe is the quality of the recorded sound that is quite recessed at times and this definitely detracts from the wonder and great beauty of the interpretations.
It is an even greater pity that we do not have the complete performance of this particular air check of 'Mefistofele'. Cesare Siepi is simply overwhelming as the devil, whilst Herva Nelli's pure singing as Margherita is also quite ravishing. However the magnificence and glory of this opera remains in the big choral and orchestra scenes with the conclusion of the Prologue suitably apocalyptic on all levels. This is definitely an important addition to the Toscanini discography and is better than the previous Guild issue of the 'Mefistofele' prologue with American forces.
'Nerone' is a slightly more complex opera and I remember being fascinated by the LP set issued on the defunct Cetra label which for many years was the only recorded performance of this great work. Again we have the indefatigable Cesare Siepi as Simon Mago and the young Giulietta Simionato as Rubria with Nelli in the forefront in the role of Asteria. Toscanini is pensive in his interpretation but there are also moments of great drama throughout. The preludes from 'La Traviata' and the singular recording of Beethoven's First Symphony are fine bonuses.
As usual, Guild provides excellent notes and backup information with a wealth of historical photographs. If you are a fan of great opera then you obviously won't want to be without these great recordings although the sound is slightly problematic at times.
Copyright © 2004, Gerald Fenech