There are times when the force of will sweeps all before it.
Such is the case with this recording of Boito's "Mefistofele". There is a reason why it is not part of the standard repertoire. Simply put, it is not a great opera. However, it is an opera that, given the right set of circumstances, IE: the right conductor, the right soloists in every part and, on stage, an imaginative production, can actually soar.
Such was the case when New York City Opera decided to mount a production of it specifically to showcase the talents of its' formidable young bass, Norman Treigle. It was a triumph all too seldom experienced in the opera house.
This recording is not a document of that production (which was repeated for several seasons). However, it owes its' genesis to that legendary production. Reunited here are maestro Julius Rudel and the great Treigle. Joining them are none less than Montserrat Caballe and Placido Domingo, both in their glorious prime. The recorded sound, always good on LP, here is a revelation. It demonstrates yet again just how very good the analog format had become. It stands today with the very best.
Although he relished his years with New York City Opera, Treigle was eager to see his career grow. He eventually left New York City Opera and pursued his career in other venues, which led him to Europe.
He made his long anticipated debut at Covent Garden as another Mephisto, this one Gounod's. He had actually lobbied for a new production of "Mefistofele" to be mounted for him, but the company was not interested in the expense involved merely to showcase an "unproven" American singer. So Gounod's Faust, which Treigle had sung countless times, it was. It is said he was bitterly disappointed in virtually all facets of the production, as well as what he found to be unprofessional, disinterested and even lazy management. The reviews of this production upon which he had put so much hope were in general, and, amazingly, for Treigle in particular, dismal.
A quiet and sensitive man, Treigle was devastated.
The rest, as they say, is history. A few days later he was found dead in his London hotel room of an apparent overdose of sleeping pills.
He was only 48 years old.
This recording is a fitting memorial.