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Davis keeps improving with age

MICHELE PERTUSI, BASS, CARLOS ALVAREZ, BARITONE, ANA IBARRA, SOPRANO, MARIA JOSE MORENO, SOPRANO, JANE HENSCHEL, ALTO, SIR COLIN DAVIS, CONDUCTOR, THE LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS; Verdi, "Falstaff" (LSO Live)****

At 78, Sir Colin Davis shows no signs of slowing down. And arguably he's probably at the pinnacle of his career right now.

As music director of the London Symphony Orchestra, he has recorded some remarkable concerts on the orchestra's own label, LSO Live, particularly opera.

Davis is without question one of the top conductors — if not the preeminent conductor — of our day. Over a long career that has spanned half a century, Davis has brought keen insight to his interpretations.

And what is truly astonishing — and rare among conductors, especially among the younger generation of beat keepers — is that Davis has been refining and honing his craft to a point that allows him to bring a fresh perspective to works and reinvigorate them with electrifying energy, no matter how often he has conducted or recorded them.

LSO Live has, since its inception a few years ago, released a number of live performances with Davis at the helm. One of the most recent recordings is a magnificent performance of Verdi's final opera, "Falstaff." Davis has assembled a wonderful cast of singers, who bring their respective characters to life on the concert stage.

Leading off is bass Michele Pertusi's wondrous performance as the pompous and buffoonish Falstaff. His rich, commanding voice is well suited to the portly title character. And Pertusi adds just enough humor and color to his singing that one can immediately see through his blustery personality.

Baritone Carlos Alvarez is impressive as Ford. Alvarez has a rich, lyrical voice that gives his role dignity, as he vocally spars with Falstaff.

The women are also marvelous. Sopranos Ana Ibarra (as Alice Ford) and Maria Jose Moreno (Nannetta), mezzo-soprano Marina Domashenko (Meg Page) and alto Jane Henschel (Mrs. Quickly) sing radiantly, both in solo numbers and in ensembles.

The London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus are both in top form, as one has come to expect from them. And it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that this can be considered the definitive "Falstaff."

With Davis leading, one would expect no less.


E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com