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on 20 December 2012
Per square inch Verdi's Il Trovatore is more packed with melody and pace than any of his operas - it delights every time I listen to it. I have skirted around this particular recording for a number of years, primarily because I already had Domingo's first studio recording under Mehta and I didn't see the need for a second (let alone a third under Levine). I bought it because of its reputation for the unusual tempi of Carlo Maria Giulini, who reportedly had studied the autograph score in preparation for the recording.

I found the pacing interesting, and nothing too startling. "Di tale amor che dirsi" is slower than would be expected as is "Il balen del suo sorriso" and "Di quella pira". All taxing the singers greatly because they are taken at so slow a pace, but ultimately I quite liked it. So it's different from that point of view.

Plowright is great. Here is an English soprano in the auditorium of Santa Cecilia in Rome - a Mecca for the great Decca recordings of the 50s and 60s (where the likes of Tebaldi recorded) - singing with assurance, sensitivity and colour. She interprets the role: you can feel her angst over her love of a stranger and then the turmoil of the desperate measures she is forced to undertake.

Zancanaro has a unique tone as a baritone: it's high, sharp and solid. There's a quiver to his voice but I don't find it disagreeable. His Di Luna is imposing and dark.

Now Domingo. He himself says that Trovatore (apart from the obligatory double top C) is a role beautifully suited to his voice, a voice that changed dramatically in the 80s. It has more steel and a cutting silver edge. He no longer sounds like he is singing above his weight, as I think he did in some of his recordings in the 70s. Here his voice positively gleams. He really sounds great but... yes it's "Di quella pira" time.

Let's be honest, the cabaletta "Di quella pira" it is one of the great operatic moments - a coup du theatre. You want satisfaction, you're waiting for it. Giulini and Domingo could have been controversial and opted out of the top Cs as Muti did in his live recording, where he demonstrates it can still be a thrill. I give Domingo ten-out-of-ten for guts and endeavour, particularly as it is played at a slow pace and I don't believe there is any recording tricky here. I think it's one take (many tenors - not just Domingo - sang the "All'armi" later, after they'd had a lie down). He goes for it, but you can hear his voice is at its limit. It's not a comfortable top C, so, I'm sorry, I prefer Corelli, Bonisolli or Bjorling.

Fassbaender is an interesting and broody Azucena, but she pushes too hard as if she is trying to be Cossotto or Simionato and doesn't need to. Nesterenko is a great extra-vendictive Ferrando to complete the great quintet of singers needed for this opera. But a final mention for Anna di Stasio as Ines, a terrific cameo singer and the nostalgic link to the glory days of the 50s and 60s - good on her.

All in all I'm glad I bought this Trovatore - it's staying in my collection. I prefer it to Domingo's earlier recording, though that's staying in on the shelf too because of Price, Milnes and Cossotto.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 1 September 2014
...(about thirty years ago, in fact) recording companies used to gather great singers, conductors and orchestras into a studio to produce near definitive recordings of major operas - and this DG production is typical. We have one of the world's two or three most famous tenors at his peak, a great Russian bass and one of the best and most overlooked Italian baritones in the business gathered together to do their stuff.

These companies were even prepared to take artistic risks such as gambling on a relatively new soprano, the Karajan protégée Rosalind Plowright and casting the distinguished German mezzo-soprano Brigitte Fassbaender slightly outside her usual Fach as Azucena - and to my ears, both gambles pay off. Plowright has a big, handsome voice and feels Leonora's pain; she fills Verdi's long phrases amply, helped by Giulini's tender phrasing and temperate speeds. I don't really hear the flaws some refer to or understand how she is so lacking; she is a little careful but does almost everything really well; her set piece arias are touching and her top notes hit home. Fassbaender is all temperament, throwing herself into her role very convincingly and pushing her trenchant lower register to its limits.

Nesterenko is monumental as Ferrando, his cavernous voice really making the listener sit up and Zancanaro's vibrant baritone is a joy; he caresses his music with superb evenness and a sustained, beautiful legato - a meltingly lovely voice. Domingo is sappy and more attentive to his words than he was for Mehta, if slightly less youthful of tone; the high C is just about there but everything else is splendid, even if he cannot stir the blood like Corelli or Bonisolli.

Thirty years on, this looks more and more like a quality cast we would love to hear today and it is also a reminder of how Giulini eschewed vulgar thrills in favour of a more subtle, detailed exposition of the score. For once, the trills are in place and not everything is blood 'n guts. His orchestra and chorus are first rate and this takes its place in the shortlist of desirable recordings of a favourite opera.
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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.
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on 18 July 2015
Lovely to listen to, good value. Recommended.
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on 6 November 2015
great singing and conducting
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on 26 June 2013
This has, for long, been one of the most highly regarded recordings of Il Trovatore. Except for those many who are great fans of Callas or Sutherland, this is the recording to buy. Domingo and Plowright, and the other singers, give an outstanding performance. And Giulini is an ideal conductor.
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