~ Release group by Verdi; Jean‐Philippe Lafont, Hillevi Martinpelto, Anthony Michaels-Moore, Sara Mingardo, Rebecca Evans, Antonello Palombi, Eirian James, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, John Eliot Gardiner
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Right from the very first notes this is a thrilling new recording; the lithe, athletic strings and crisp attack of the wind and brass propel you headlong into Verdi's comic drama...on period instruments! I had an eyebrow raised in anticipation when I slipped this into the cd player, but it was only seconds before my jaw dropped, and a delighted grin spread across my face.
It's not just the period players and John Eliot Gardiner's brisk direction: the cast feels like an ensemble. Jean-Pierre Lafont is a sort of slimline Sir John after Bryn Terfel's larger-than-life portrayal - intelligent and genuinely funny but never over the top - and the Merry Wives sound truly seductive, warmly Italian. You can hear exactly why Falstaff falls for them.
I know already this is going to be one of my favourites from this Verdi anniversary year - a facelift for a much-loved masterpiece. Sir John's Sir John: compelling!