Decca has issued a 75 boxed set containing the complete works of Verdi. 30 complete operas, plus arias, songs, sacred works, chamber & piano pieces, orchestral, ballet & choral works. The set mines quite heavily Lamberto Gardelli's sequence of early Verdi operas from the 70's, and of course includes Giulini's classic recordings, plus those of Abbado and Solti. Both versions of La Forza del Destino are here, as is Abbado's French language Don Carlos as well as the Italian language Modena version from Solti, there is also Jerusalem as well as I Lombardi. But I Vespri Siciliani is only present in Muti's Italian language version rather than the original French, and Macbeth is present only in the revised version, as is Simon Boccanegra.
The set starts at the very beginning with Oberto sees Neville Marriner conducting Samuel Ramey, Maria Guleghina and Violetta Urmana.
Lamberto Gardelli conducts Un giorno di regno with Jessye Norman, Fiorenza Cossotto, Jose Carreras and Ingvar Wixell; Nabucco in the classic recording with Tito Gobbi and Elena Suliotis; I Due Foscari with Katia Ricciarelli, Jose Carreras, Piero Cappuccilli and Samuel Ramey; Attila with Ruggiero Raimondi and Christina Deutekom, Carlo Bergonzi and Sherrill Milnes; Il Corsaro with Jessye Norman and Jose Carreras; La Battaglia di Legnano with Katia Ricciarelli, Jose Carreras and Matteo Manuguerra; Stiffelio with Sylvia Sass and Jose Carreras (shame we could not have had the Covent Garden recording conducted by Edward Downes).
James Levine conducts Met forces in I Lombardi with June Anderson, Patricia Racette, Richard Leech and Samuel Ramey; and conducts the LSO in Giovanna D'Arco with Montserrat Caballe, Placido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes (a recording on everyone's must-have list, one of Caballe's best).
Fabio Luisi conducts the Orchestra de la Suisse Romande in a performance of Alzira from Geneva, though its a shame they could not have source Caballe's recording. He also conducts the Swiss forces in Jerusalem with Marcello Giordano and Roberto Scandiuzzi (complete with the ballet music). Luisi conducts Maggio Musicale Fiorentino forces in Aroldo with Carol Vaness, Neil Shicoff, Julian Gavin and Anthony Michaels-Moore.
Richard Bonynge conducts WNO forces in Ernani with Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti and Leo Nucci, and in I Masnadieri with Sutherland, Franco Bonisolli, Matteo Manuguerra, Arthur Davies and Samuel Ramey.
Claudio Abbado conducts Macbeth with Shirley Verrett, Piero Cappuccilli and Placido Domingo (another must-have recording); and Simon Boccanegra with Mirella Freni, Jose Carreras, Piero Cappuccilli, Jose van Dam and Nicolai Ghiaurov. He conducts the French version of Don Carlos (not quite uncut and with some of the music shunted to appendices) with Placido Domingo, Katia Ricciarelli, Lucia Valentini Terrani, Leo Nucci and Ruggiero Raimondi. (The later Modena version is conducted in Italian by Solti).
Caballe re-appears in Luisa Miller with Pavarotti, Sherrill Milnes and Richard Van Allen conducted by Peter Maag.
Giulini conducts a trio of classic recordings. Rigoletto with Ileana Cotrubas, Placido Domingo and Piero Cappuccili; Il Trovatore with Rosalind Plowright, Brigitte Fassbaender, Placido Domingo and Giorgio Zancaro; Falstaff with Katia Ricciarelli, Barbara Hendricks, Lucia Valentini-Terrani, Renato Bruson, Leo Nucci
Ileana Cotrubas re-appears in Carlos Kleiber's classic La Traviata with Placido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes.
Riccardo Muti conducts I Vespri Siciliani (in Italian) with Cheryl Studer, Chris Merritt, Ferrucio Furlanetto and Giorgio Zancaro
George Solti conducts Un Ballo in Maschera with a terrific cast that includes Margaret Price, Kathleen Battle, Christa Ludwig, Luciano Pavarotti, Renato Bruson and Robert Lloyd. He also conducts Don Carlo (in Italian, in the revised 5-act version) with Renata Tebaldi, Grace Bumbry, Carlo Bergonzi, Dietrich Fischer Dieskau and Nicolai Ghiaurov.
Valery Gergiev conducts the original St. Petersburg version of La Forza del Destino with Kirov forces and Giuseppe Sinopoli conducts the revised version with Rosalind Plowright, Agnes Baltsa, Jean Rigby, Jose Carreras, Renato Bruson, Richard Van Allen, John Tomlinson,
Karajan makes a single appearance in the set, conducting Renata Tebaldi and Carlo Bergonzi in Aida, a classic recording but as a Caballe fan, I would rather have had hers.
Otello goes to Domingo in his Paris recording conducted by Myung Whun Chung with Cheryl Studer and Sergei Leiferkus.
Of the non-operatic items there is Solti's Verdi Requiem and the Four Sacred Pieces with Sutherland, Horne, Pavarotti and Martti Talvela. Riccardo Chailly conducts the reconstruction of the 1835 Messe Solenelle and other early sacred pieces. Chailly also conducts a disc of Discoveries, including early orchestra pieces and original version of preludes and sinfonias from the operas. There is a disc of all the ballet music from the operas
The songs are performed by Margaret Price, Renata Scotto, Vincenzo Scalera and others. The Quartetto Italiano performs the string quartet.
Not every disc is the one that you would ideally want, but I think that the set has an immense amount going for it. It is a shame that Giulini's Don Carlo could not have been included and that Leontine Price is not featured at all. Anyone who buys the set ought to supplement it with the Opera Rara Verdi Originals which gives us the BBC recordings of the first versions of Macbeth and Simon Boccanegra plus Les Vepres Sicilienne (in French) and Don Carlos in the complete uncut original Paris version.
MDT are advertising the set for £121.50 which is immensely good value.