Try though I may, I’ve yet to find a more satisfying version of this opera on disc, which was recorded in 1952. Other, newer recordings have featured some great singers–Leontyne Price in three, Placido Domingo in a couple, Sutherland, Pavarotti, Horne, Callas, di Stefano, Bergonzi, Corelli, Cossotto, Milnes–but our quartet here wins for glamour, style, involvement, and, invariably, sheer voice.
Of course, the sound on the recording is somewhat boxy and flat, but that, and the cuts customary at the time, are genuinely the only things one can find problematic. Renato Cellini, hardly a fascinating conductor, leads a propulsive, exciting performance that draws attention to the four protagonists, their miserable circumstances (notRead more a happy soul in the bunch), and their interactions. The big moments–the choruses, etc.–are not played for swagger, and even the RCA orchestra sounds a bit small. Somehow, it works without the bombast.
Perhaps Cellini’s approach was inspired by his title character, a true troubadour, Jussi Bjoerling. Sixty-two years later, he’s still the best-recorded Manrico, remarkable when one analyzes his voice, which is half the size of Mario del Monaco’s and certainly smaller than most of the others. But his exquisite sound, filled with youth, ardor, tenderness, and a focus that makes it seem larger than it is, makes Manrico a real character. He is rhythmically on the nose in ensembles, touchingly larmoyante in “Ah si, ben mio” and with Azucena, and thrilling in “Di quella pira”.
Zinka Milanov, an old-fashioned diva, is of course more Milanov than Leonora, and her sound is filled with poise and grandeur. To this day, no soprano (Caballé may be the exception) has floated high notes the way she does; singing with long line and a true sense of what Verdi was all about, her singing lingers in the memory. And if she occasionally dispenses with the text for the sake of the notes, who cares? Leonard Warren’s huge voice, with its easy top and stunning pianissimo (and snarl, when needed), will spoil you for all other di Lunas. And Fedora Barbieri, with her even, granitic, exciting mezzo, does what Verdi intended: she makes Azucena the opera’s most interesting character. Nicola Moscona’s Ferrando and the chorus do fine jobs. Verdi would be happy.
Il trovatoreby Giuseppe Verdi Performer:
Zinka Milanov (Soprano),
Fedora Barbieri (Mezzo Soprano),
Margaret Roggero (Mezzo Soprano),
Leonard Warren (Baritone),
Nicola Moscona (Bass),
Jussi Björling (Tenor),
Paul Franke (Tenor),
George Cehanovsky (Baritone),
Nathaniel Sprinzena (Tenor)
RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra,
Robert Shaw Chorale
Period: Romantic Written: 1853; Italy Date of Recording: 03/1952 Venue: Manhattan Center, New York City Length: 116 Minutes 54 Secs. Language: Italian
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
The voices ruleFebruary 19, 2013By J. Tatnall (West Grove, PA)See All My Reviews"For sheer star vocal power this recording has never been bettered. Others may be more complete, (standard theatre cuts here), have more orchestral presence, or dramatic thrust, but for voices that know how to put the grand Verdi line across to the listener, this recording has no equal."Report Abuse
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