Verdi Trovatore Price Bonisolli Obraztsova KarajanGiuseppe Verdi – Il trovatore

CAST: Manrico: Franco Bonisolli, Leonora: Leontyne Price, Azucena: Elena Obraztsova, Conte di Luna: Piero Cappuccilli, Ferrando: Ruggero Raimondi, Ines: Maria Venuti, Ruiz/Messenger: Horst Nitsche, An old Gypsy: Martin Egel

Chor des Deutschen Oper Berlin
Walter Hagen-Groll, chorus master
Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan, conductor
EMI, 2006

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This recording of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Il trovatore is not impeccable from any point of view but, even after forty years, it has many interesting cues to offer and this is the reason why I decided to write few lines about it.

The major flaw of this Trovatore consists in the recording technique, which oscillates between the extremes of loud and quiet, sometimes even in the same track, making difficult to listen to it without losing patience. When the disparity of sound does not disturb the listening, anyway, it is possible to enjoy the marvellous sound of the orchestra and the nuances that conductor Herbert von Karajan have so carefully found.

Karajan’s conduction is extremely variegated and sensitive and, if on the one hand he is not reluctant to highlight the thunders of which Trovatore is full, on the other he gives result to the most delicate and intimate sides of the opera. For this reason, if moments of excitement as the finale of the first act and the famous Di quella pira reveal energy, this does not prevent the conductor to be delicate in the quietest moments. Tacea la notte placida, for example, is very slow and languid, an effect balanced by the romantic joy of the cabaletta Di tale amor, che dirsi. Some more variety is assured by the choruses of the Gypsies, in which Karajan stresses their frenetic and free spirit (as it happens in Vedi! Le fosche notturne). Therefore, as in Karajan’s other operatic interpretations, every aspect of the score is stressed with great care to achieve an original result.

Franco Bonisolli is not the best Manrico ever, but is definitely a fine one. His vocal means are powerfully and very well exhibited and his character is equally balanced between the tender and the heroic side. His two loves, for Leonora and for his mother, are clearly and warmly expressed, especially the latter, which has more chances to emerge, and are not out of place next to the impetus of Di quella pira, that is very well sung.

Leontyne Price (Leonora) is not at the peak of her vocal splendour and her beautiful voice shows signs of wear, so that her two wonderful scenes (Tacea la notte placida and D’amor sull’ali rosee) are less successful than what would be expected. Nonetheless, the primadonna is still able to fascinate with solid high notes and with a formidable interpretation.

Piero Cappuccilli has the ideal voice for Conte di Luna and he would be perfect if he had accentuate a little more his darker side. He is most realistic in the expressions of love to Leonora (both in the aria Il balen del suo sorriso and in the duet with the soprano in Act III) rather than in his menacing look, although it appears from time to time, as in Di geloso amor sprezzato. The true limit of Cappuccilli’s Di Luna is that he never places the villain before the nobleman and his elegant phrasing accentuates this psychological condition.

Elena Obraztsova as Azucena is impressive. She does not stress the hallucinated side of the Gypsy character and gives her a strong personality from the very first note of Stride la vampa. In this way, Obraztsova provides Azucena with the coherence that the libretto lacks. Her strongest point is not her low register, which is rather weak (with unpleasant effect in particular in Mal reggendo all’aspro assalto), but her booming high notes and her chthonic force are simply overwhelming. Azucena’s “refrain”, the repetition of her mother’s last words (Mi vendica!, which means “Revenge me!”), becomes a desperate and conscious scream in Obraztsova’s interpretation and will make your flesh creep – the perfect epitome of the entire role.

Ruggero Raimondi’s character (Ferrando) is the one who opens the opera and is a worthy introduction to this Trovatore. Raimondi has a melodious and expressive voice and gives prominence to every word, which he pronounces with equal care and precision (I would like to say “affection”), and offers an inspiring performance of this minor role.

This Trovatore has many beautiful things to offer, but the audio quality is a difficult threshold to overcome and unfortunately it weighs on the outcome of the entire opera, which would have been successful if it were not for this.

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