Currently deleted, this 1961 La Scala recording may still be obtained via Arkiv, or as one of the operas in this Verdi: Great Operas from LA Scala/Various (Ltd) or here on the Urania label. In any case, it's scandalous that such a marvellous recording should languish in the vaults; there are many compelling reasons why it deserves to be a first choice.
First, it is the five Act version, not absolutely complete by the standards of modern scholarship but the fact that it's not shorn of Act 1 adds so much to the pathos of the plight of Elisabetta and Carlos. Secondly, it is sung and played almost exclusively by Italians who are utterly idiomatic and immersed in Verdian style - only Christoff is non-native and as Tito Gobbi's brother-in-law, he spoke Italian fluently. Thirdly, those voices are peerless. Flavio Labò's relatively diminutive frame was no bar to his possessing one of the largest, most resonant and stentorian tenors ever heard on stage, yet he is capable of subtlety and restraint. Occasionally, especially at the beginning of Act 1, there is rather too much vibrancy in his vocal production and his vibrato seems to be getting away from him but he soon settles. The concluding duet with Stella is the stuff of which operatic dreams are made. Stella's smoky tones and rich lower register are full of passion. Bastianini's singing has to be heard to be believed; his confrontation with Christoff's King Philip presents us with two of the most darkly burnished lower male voices on record. Christoff's depiction of the tormented monarch is one of the most striking and vocally alluring ever heard; he makes Philip's emotional pain audibly tangible. As if these three singers did not present riches enough, we also hear the fabulously secure and accomplished Cossotto despatch Eboli's difficult and diverse music with power and aplomb, while her husband Ivo Vinco uses his blackest of basses to invest Il Grande Inquisitore with immense authority - even if he hardly sounds old.
Santini's conducting is highly fluid, fluent and sensitive, constantly shaping and phrasing the music without sounding fussy. The playing of the La Scala orchestra is first-rate, especially the horns and brass in general.
This is Italian Grand Opera at its most compelling.