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Alla Breve

March 13, 1994|WALTER PRICE

VERDI: "Falstaff." Jose van Dam, Luciana Serra, Paolo Coni, Elizabeth Norberg-Schultz, Luca Canonici, Mariana Lipovsek, others; Berlin Radio Choir and Berlin Philharmonic, Sir Georg Solti, conductor. London 440 650-2. Solti's approach to late Verdi is much as it has been in the past: slashing orchestral attacks worthy of "Salome" or "Walkure," and X-ray precision in place of lyrical expansion. Only in Fenton's and Nanneta's arias in the last act is any kind of repose or relaxation allowed, much less encouraged. The orchestra, which would probably stand on its head musically if asked, gives Solti everything he wants. The cast is uneven, but it does have a worthy center in the sensitive and surprisingly touching Falstaff of Van Dam. Serra is a rather acidic Alice, Coni a workaday, sometimes hard-pressed Ford, whose "E sogno?" is conducted and sung as a baritone turn comparable to "Di quella pira." Lipovsek lacks the plummy contralto of a proper Quickly, but Norberg and Canonici contribute lovely soft-edged tones as the youngsters. The sound, taken from live performances in the Philharmonie in March, 1993, is superb.

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