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Verdi: Il Trovatore / Kabaivanska, Cossotto, Domingo

Verdi / Kabaivanska / Cossotto / Domingo
Release Date: 01/26/2010 
Label:  Arthaus Musik   Catalog #: 107117  
Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Fiorenza CossottoPiero CappuccilliPlacido DomingoJosé van Dam,   ... 
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera ChorusVienna State Opera Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Giuseppe Verdi

Il Conte di Luna – Piero Cappuccilli
Leonora – Raina Kabaivanska
Azucena – Fiorenza Cossotto
Manrico – Plácido Domingo
Ferrando – José van Dam
Ines – Maria Venuti
Ruiz – Heinz Zednik
Un vecchio zingaro – Karl Caslavsky
Un messo – Ewald Aichberger

Chorus and Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera
(chorusmaster: Helmuth Froschauer)
Herbert von Karajan, conductor

Herbert von Karajan, stage director
Teo Otto, set design
Georges Wakhewitsch, costume design
Robert Stangl, lighting

Recorded live from the Vienna State Opera, 1978.
Read more /> Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese
Running time: 151 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)

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VERDI Il Trovatore Herbert von Karajan, cond; Piero Cappuccilli ( Conte di Luna ); Raina Kabaivanska ( Leonora ); Fiorenza Cossotto ( Azucena ); Plácido Domingo ( Manrico ); José van Dam ( Ferrando ); Vienna St Op Ch/O ARTHAUS MUSIK 107 117 (DVD 151:00) Live: Vienna 1978

Herbert von Karajan returned to the Vienna Opera in 1977 with a Trovatore very similar to this one, but it wasn’t videotaped at that time. The following year the production was mounted again with minor changes, save the replacement of Leontyne Price with Raina Kabaivanska. Late in production—during a dress rehearsal, in fact—Franco Bonisolli walked out, and Plàcido Domingo, who had sung the role for many years, took his place. This pushed the broadcast date back a bit, and as a result, it wasn’t seen through a good part of western and central Europe, but only on Austrian television. That is the production we have here, and it’s a very fine traditional one.

The leads range from good to excellent. Kabaivanska is at her best in a superb “Tacea la notte placida,” floating the high notes you’d expect from a top-flight lyric soprano, along with the kind of dramatic inflection that can’t be easily assumed. Fiorenza Cossotto’s top is short in “Stride la vampa,” but the voice evens out later, and her act IV duet is first-rate. Domingo’s “Di quella pira” is strained, but “Ah sì, ben mio” is one of the finest live versions I’ve heard: urgent yet lyrically persuasive, graced with both heroic metal when briefly required and a pair of genuine trills. (At least, if they did use the pulse of his vibrato, it was a very different, much faster vibrato than he regularly employs.) Piero Cappuccilli isn’t always well focused, and “Il balen” lacks ideal smoothness, but he makes an imposing presence and a strong voice in the louder, more threatening pages of his part. Aside from one rushed breath and a couple of gulped notes, José van Dam is excellent in his single number.

I’ve left out all mention of acting so far because it’s difficult to speak of it and Il Trovatore at the same time. It’s an opera of stereotypes, not people: the mad Gypsy, the put-upon lover with two suitors, the vengeful aristocrat, the gallant hero of the people. Nor did Karajan, who stage directed as well as conducted the work, ask his cast to do more than stand in place or move when absolutely required. On the other hand, the spare but attractive sets of Teo Otto do a fine job of emphasizing all the stage’s spatial elements, while Georges Wakhewitsch’s superb costumes really bring the period to life. Günther Schneider-Siemssen’s camerawork focuses almost entirely on close-ups and medium shots, for once to good advantage, since it breaks up Karajan’s dull, fixed blocking, and creates a visual movement to match the music where none exists on stage. The film’s age isn’t apparent, with next to no artifacts, loss of detail, or over-contrast.

Karajan’s own conducting was, as often in live opera during his late years, not nearly as dull as his often soporific studio recordings. Act IV seems a bit sluggish—the Miserere sequence never catches fire—but most of the performance finds rhythms well supported, along with some small degree of flexibility where his singers are concerned. Accommodating Cappuccilli’s wish to lengthen some phrases was repeatedly ignored, but Cossotto’s need to get quickly off a few poor high notes was acceded to.

Sound formats are PCM stereo and DD 5.1, with a 4:3 picture ratio. Subtitles are available in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Chinese. In short, a fine Il Trovatore , with some knockout performances. Recommended.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

Il trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Fiorenza Cossotto (Mezzo Soprano), Piero Cappuccilli (Baritone), Placido Domingo (Tenor),
José van Dam (Bass Baritone), Heinz Zednik (Tenor), Maria Venuti (Soprano),
Ewald Aichberger (Tenor), Karl Caslavsky (Bass), Raina Kabaivanska (Soprano)
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna State Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1978 
Venue:  Vienna State Opera 

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