Colin Davis' 2004 recording of Verdi's Falstaff is a strong entry in the LSO Live series, anchored by Michele Pertusi's wooly but authoritative turn as the titular anti-hero. Falstaff, though immensely entertaining on-stage, is one of the hardest operas to capture in recordings: the dense interplay of characters, the busy stage action, and the general ensemble nature of the piece make it a difficult listen unless your Italian and your attention span are both top-notch. The most any recording can hope to do is capture the madcap energy and vivid vocal characterizations and leave the rest to the imagination, and in that sense this is a very solid effort. The mere sound of Pertusi's voice announces his identity from the start, and his performance is invested with a giddy, self-important raunchiness that he seems born to deliver. Similarly, the voices of Bülent Bezdüz and Maria Josè Moreno are perfectly cast as Fenton and Nanetta; even if you're lost by the time they sing their first duet, you'll know that young love is in the air. Carlos Alvarez's dark, knotty baritone is perfectly chosen to convey the self-important and jealous aristocrat Ford, particularly in his signature rant against the trustworthiness of women. The rest of the cast, led by Ana Ibarra as Alice Ford (the target of Falstaff's affection), brings liveliness and admirable clarity to the ensembles. Davis and the LSO keep up the frenetic pace without sacrificing much in the way of precision, and Davis' sense of pacing serves the piece extremely well, although he rushes Dame Quickly's cartoonish Act I "Reverenza"s in a way that robs them of their comedy. The sound engineering and production are excellent.
AllMusic Review by Allen Schrott
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2