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Arrigo Boito, Verdi’s greatest librettist, was also a noted composer, best known for his Italian operatic treatment of Goethe’s tragedy Faust. His Mefistofele is much closer in spirit and letter to the original source than Gounod’s French version of a decade or so earlier. Boito seems to have been more fascinated by Mephistopheles than by the title character (he also augmented the role of another famous villain, Iago, in adapting Shakespeare’s Othello for Verdi).
There are numerous complete versions of recordings of Mefistofele on disc, but BBC Music Magazine gave its highest rating to this 1995 live recording from La Scala, conducted by Riccardo Muti: “It is Samuel Ramey who dominates this new recording.
Ramey was already a splendid Mefistofele on a 1991 recording, but here he is even more in command of the role, and has the advantage of Muti’s masterly conducting. Michele Crider is an affecting Margherita and Vincenzo La Scola a mellifluous Faust.”
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