“Here is the great tenor-baritone duet (Quando al mio) from Act 3 [of I Vespri Siciliani]. Verdi never wrote a better duet. In this piece, Monforte [baritone] reveals to Arrigo [tenor] that he is his son. Arrigo is torn three ways. First, he fears he will lose Elena [his fiance] because he promised her he would kill Monforte who now turns out to be his father. Then he doesn’t know how to treat his newfound father. And finally, he recalls how badly his mother was treated by his father. At the end of this duet, he’s an emotional chimera. The skill with which Verdi handles this situation is Olympian. The main theme first sung by the baritone and later by the tenor is part of the overture, which incidentally is probably the finest Verdi ever wrote. Equally impressive is the dramatic tension that builds throughout the duet. Verdi was the master of the tenor-baritone duet and even by his lofty standard, this number stands alone. A work of genius.” This quotation is taken from my review of the complete opera as performed by the Teatro Regio di Parma.
Surprisingly there aren’t that many recordings of this magnificent duet that have first rate sound. This first example is from the Parma performance. Fabio Armiliato is the tenor son and the ageless Leo Nucci is the baritone who has just discovered that he has a son. Quando al mio
This version of the duet is from a 1989 performance of the opera that opened the La Scala season. Riccardo Muti conducts Chris Merritt and Giorgio Zancanaro. It starts with the introductory recitative as does the following performance. Quando al mio
Finally, this is a knock-out reading of the duet by Placido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes; its from a recital disc recorded in 1970 when both were young and immortal. Anton Guadagno conducted. Quando al mio
A bonus: the preternaturally Verdian concertato finale to the opera’s Act 3. This from the Muti performance. Cheryl Studer and Ferruccio Furlanetto are the other two principals. This great opera demands far more stagings than it gets. A masterpiece by opera’s universal genius cannot be slighted.