Listen to the audio preview of the opera by Saverio Mercadante I Due Figaro,
rediscovered and conducted only by Riccardo Muti


Excerpt of: “Riccardo Muti: From Mozart to Verdi with strictness and enthusiasm”

The 1988/1989 season opening at La Scala Theatre has been characterised by your production of Guglielmo Tell, put on VHS and, most of all, on CD. It was a live recording, registered directly in the theatre during the performance.

[…] There might be problems [when recording live]: the acoustic gives sharp sounds, so the audio you can get isn’t as excellent as what you can create in the recording studio, where everything can be finely adjusted, therefore you have to put up with noise, moving steps, singers approaching and leaving the microphone. These are undoubtedly negative sides for the final result. And yet we have an important positive side: there’s no trick. What you listen is exactly what happened on that stage on that occasion. There are no difficult passages or notes recorded in the morning, when everybody is fresh and rested. The recording is made following the course of the opera, with all those unexpected events and flaws typical of every human being and the tiredness that normally sets in after four or five hours of performance.

I Vespri Siciliani, opening opera of last year’s season at La Scala, was recorded live as well…

If I had recording Vespri Siciliani in a studio, I would need fifteen discographic sessions, for caring the details, for repeat a wrong chord, for calibrate a string quartet or quintet. There is benefits, of course, but this Vespri Siciliani’s CD, as well as Guglielmo Tell, allow to listen to an opera performed all in one go, with those imperfections that can inevitably happen. These recordings bring the executions which born and die. This is exactly what makes them full of emotions.
A few days ago I was listening to this recording and I heard Merritt singing the fourth and the fifth acts with that impetus, that generous voice… Whether you like the voice or not, such an aspect ends up being secondary compared to the artistic event per se. I am convinced that listening to a recording in a later moment, far from comments and stances of the first performing day (you’ll remember for sure that soprano e tenor were questioned) will do justice to the performance of this opera. Again, you might like it or not, but this is a real document, with no tricks, of the performance of a tremendously difficult opera for soprano and tenor. Sure, discs made in a recording studio have great advantages: if a note doesn’t sound right, you can repeat it ten or even one hundred times, if you have the time. In the case of live recordings, there’s nothing you can do, instead. As a result, CDs often make the ear accustomed to a spoilt and erroneous listening, because they are realized in conditions far apart from the reality of theatrical scene: a natural C sung by the tenor at midnight – when the opera began at 8 pm – is different from the same note sung at the beginning of a recording session, when everybody is fresh, with the possibility for repeating it many times until it turns out the way you want it.If I had to record Vespri Siciliani in a studio, I would need fifteen recording sessions, to take care of details, repeat a chord that didn’t sound right, adjust the ensemble of a quartet or quintet. Sure, there are benefits, but this live recording of Vespri Siciliani, as well as Guglielmo Tell, allows to listen to an opera performed all in one go, with those imperfections that can inevitably happen. Such recordings store a one-time performance. This is exactly what makes them so full of emotions.


by Fernando De Carli, 1990