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Disappointing -- no better than OK
on 23 December 2013
The first voice of consequence we hear is Nesterenko's, as Ferrando, and that bodes well. The second is Rosalind Plowright's, and that's not so good. I agree with Santa Fe Listener (on US Amazon.com) about her inadequacies as Leonora. I find the middle of her voice pleasant, especially when the singing isn't stressful, but in the thrilling high parts, where Leontyne Price has us coming out of her seats, the singing is gusty and tentative. She doesn't savor her higher passages, and so we can't either. I think it's a technical weakness: she can't get up there easily and stay there. Never mind Price. Compare Plowright to Gabriella Tucci on the Schippers/Corelli recording from 1965, and it's no contest. Tucci has the goods, and the voice might be bit steely, but it's secure, reliable, and thrilling when it has to be. On the other hand, Zancanaro sings well AND characterizes well as Di Luna -- a really fine portrayal. Brigitte Fassbaender is a dramatically alive Azucena, though her vibrato can get wide under stress. Domingo is a solid Manrico, dramatically alert, but hampered in the last two acts by Guilini's tempos. "Di quella pira" needs a bit more pace; it sounds labored at Guilini's tempo, and, more damagingly, the whole fourth act goes off the boil -- the conducting just seems leaden there, and the action breaks up into sections. Mehta on RCA and Schippers give a better account of it. On the whole, Mehta's recording remains the best overall recommendation, though the best prison scene remain's the Cellini/Bjoerling/Barbieri one, with Milanov a bit approximate at times as Leonora and Warren as a great Di Luna. This one could have been better -- Guilini is aptly dramatic up to half way through Act Three -- and was there perhaps a better soprano available? The sound is fine throughout, though in places the balance of voices to orchestra can be heard to have shifted. 3.5 stars.