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Verdi: Il Trovatore / Guilini, Jones, Bainbridge, Et Al

Release Date: 10/28/2008 
Label:  Royal Opera House Heritage Series   Catalog #: 11   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Peter GlossopDame Gwyneth JonesBruno PrevediGiulietta Simionato,   ... 
Conductor:  Carlo Maria Giulini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden ChorusRoyal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 2 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

VERDI Il trovatore Carlo Maria Giulini, cond; Gwyneth Jones ( Leonora ); Giulietta Simionato ( Azucena ); Bruno Prevedi ( Manrico ); Peter Glossop ( Count di Luna ); Joseph Rouleau ( Ferrando ); Covent Garden Royal Op House O & Ch ROYAL OPERA HOUSE Read more HERITAGE 11, mono (2 CDs: 127:08 Text and Translation) Live: London 11/26/1964

Beyond the individual contributions of all involved, what makes this Trovatore ultimately so terrific is how vivid, compelling, and convincing it is—in short, how much it actually matters . This 1964 production brought a reunion at Covent Garden of conductor Carlo Maria Giulini and director Luchino Visconti, following their historic 1958 Don Carlo in that house (also available on Royal Opera House Heritage CDs; see James Miller’s review in Fanfare 31:1 for September/October 2007); and I would say unhesitatingly that, as the drama progresses, Visconti’s impact as director is every bit as clear from these discs as is Giulini’s musical presence. There is an almost uncanny sense of the story unfolding as if for the first time, and a degree of involvement on the part of each principal that serves consistently to ratchet up the tension level as the performance proceeds.

Though for much of her international career the Welsh soprano Gwyneth Jones was associated primarily with such roles as Sieglinde, Brünnhilde, Isolde, Leonore in Fidelio , Salome, the Marschallin, and even Turandot, she also sang a fair amount of Verdi, including (early on) Lady Macbeth for both Welsh National Opera and Covent Garden. I vividly recall hearing her sing Aida and then Sieglinde just three days apart, equally impressively, at the Vienna Staatsoper in June 1973, half a year after I first heard her during her Met debut engagement as Sieglinde. Over the years, the sheen, power, and impact of her singing, combined with her commandingly dramatic but always very human presence, made her one of my favorite performers, despite a vocal production that could lead to a wobble of frightening amplitude, possibly due to the sheer size of the voice, which was one of the biggest I’ve ever heard. (As Paul Jackson put it in Start-up at the New Met: The Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts, 1966–1976 , “During the last years her vocal vagaries would become legendary.”) According to the notes by the late Alan Blyth—to whose memory this release is dedicated—this new Covent Garden Trovatore was to have featured Leontyne Price, but, for reasons left unexplained in the essay, Jones replaced her at short notice. Thus we’re fortunate now to hear her taking on the role of Leonora with utter stylistic surety and success, the quiet moments proving every bit as effective as the louder ones, even if her voice is not what one would consider typically Italianate in timbre.

The great Italian mezzo Giulietta Simionato, heard here at 54, two years before her retirement, is a riveting Azucena, thrilling in every one of her scenes, making the most of every word and mood, equally in command of her vocal and dramatic resources. Italian tenor Bruno Prevedi invests every moment with the appropriate energy and meaning. He may not fulfill each and every vocal requirement—his offstage serenades sound flat (which may be a trick of the recorded acoustic), he lacks a trill in “Ah! sì, ben mio,” and he can’t sing the quick notes in “Di quella pira”—but he’s an extraordinarily invested ensemble player and proves a key component of the drama whenever he’s onstage. It’s a pity he gets only one statement of “Di quella pira.”

Peter Glossop, on the other hand, gets both statements of his cabaletta to “Il balen” (“Per me, ora fatale”), though to no apparent purpose, since his solo scene is the one real lapse in the entire performance. “Il balen” is stolid and characterless, eliciting no more than a smattering of seemingly obligatory applause after a somewhat embarrassing silence (at least to my ear) from an audience that’s otherwise notably and appropriately enthusiastic throughout the evening. I would surmise that the cabaletta repeat was justified by some sort of stage business, since the baritone is largely off-mike for the first statement. (While on the subject of cabalettas, let me note here that Jones gets to sing one statement of the in-those-days frequently omitted “Tu vedrai che amore in terra” following the “Miserere.”) Elsewhere, however, Glossop holds up his end of the dramatic proceedings quite well, even if his vocalism, however solidly grounded, never comes anywhere near to matching the specificity of his colleagues. As Ferrando, Joseph Rouleau helps get things off to an impressive start, and Giulini gives him the requisite space to sing rather than merely negotiate the end of the first scene. The Covent Garden chorus and orchestra contribute impressively throughout the performance.

For those seeking leads on other recordings of Trovatore , head to the online Fanfare Archive for reviews by me and James Miller from Fanfare 26:3 of the EMI set led by Antonio Pappano, and reviews by Miller and Bob Rose from Fanfare 25:5 of the Muti-led set on Sony. But returning once more to the performance at hand: this is a significant, distinguished release. I’ll finish by quoting, from Alan Blyth’s booklet essay, Harold Rosenthal’s Opera magazine review of this production, which he called “one of the greatest single performances of Italian opera we have heard at Covent Garden in recent years.” By the time I was finished listening, I had absolutely no reason to doubt that assessment.

FANFARE: Marc Mandel
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Works on This Recording

Il trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Peter Glossop (Baritone), Dame Gwyneth Jones (Soprano), Bruno Prevedi (Tenor),
Giulietta Simionato (Mezzo Soprano), Joseph Rouleau (Bass), Elisabeth Bainbridge (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Carlo Maria Giulini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853; Italy 

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