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Giuseppe VERDI (1813 Ė 1901)
Il Trovatore (1853)
Pierro Cappuccilli (baritone) ... Il Conte di Luna
Raina Kabaivanska (soprano) ... Leonora
Fiorenza Cossotto (mezzo) ... Azucena
Placido Domingo (tenor) ... Manrico
Jose van Dam (bass-baritone) ... Ferrando
Maria Venuti (soprano) ... Ines
Heinz Zednik (tenor) ... Ruiz
Karl Caslavsky (bass) ... An Old Gypsy
Ewald Aichberger (tenor) ... A Messenger
Vienna State Opera Chorus and Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan.
Recorded live at the Wiener Staatsoper, 1 May 1978
Stage Direction Ė Herbert von Karajan.
DVD. (Dolby Digital Stereo 5.1, DTS 5.1 and LPCM Stereo).
TDK DV-CLOPIT [151:00]

Il Trovatore is another of Karajanís favourite operas. He has conducted and recorded it on many occasions. This DVD is based upon a production for television and might never have materialised, given the problems the production experienced.

All artists, sets, orchestra and chorus, together with Karajanís specific lighting instructions particularly for television transmission had been assembled, even the audience for the night of transmission had been arranged. There was only one dress rehearsal available before the scheduled televised performance. The original lead tenor, Franco Bonisolli, had an off-night at the rehearsal. It was Karajanís requirement that the dress rehearsal was held in front of an audience. The audience showed their satisfaction with the tenorís rendition of "Ah sì, ben mio, coll'essere", without waiting for the stretta and Bonisolli walked off the stage in disgust refusing to perform further.

The television broadcast for the next evening had to be delayed, with recriminations and stories of mutiny and worse flying around the media (nothing changes). Suitably good looking romantic heroes who can sing are fairly short on the ground but miraculously Placido Domingo was available for two performances, one of which was on the evening which Austrian Television could transmit the delayed opera. All went very well and the problems were seen to be resolved.

As with the Don Carlos, reviewed recently, this is also a traditional Karajan production, with all that that entails. Superb sets and costumes, traditional in nature - i.e. in keeping with the time of the action of the original opera. Instead of the Berlin Philharmonic we have here the Orchestra of the Vienna Staatsoper, (the Vienna Philharmonic). The standards of playing between the two ensembles is indistinguishable.

The hero of the production is undoubtedly Placido Domingo who gives a superb rendition of Manrico. I am sure, that once all the dust had settled, Karajan must have been very pleased with his replacement hero. Fans of Domingo will not feel short-changed, as his ringing tones and sensitive projection is well up to his normal standard. His photogenic appearance must have warmed the hearts of his many female fans as well.

The remainder of the cast are first rate, with special mention to be made of the Bulgarian soprano, Raina Kabaivanska in the lead. Hers was a voice not heard of very much in Vienna since the 1960s after which she had spent most of her time in Italy and had been persuaded to return to Vienna for this performance. She slotted in to the role without a problem being one of those artists who had benefited from Karajanís celebrated ability to support those singers he liked.

Many of the other roles are taken by Karajanís celebrated "team" which he used for many of his recordings and live performances. Perhaps some will yearn for a more dramatic presentation of the various roles, but that is not one of Karajanís main concerns. His line was always to have singers who sounded good. They had to be able to blend in to his orchestral backcloth, which he was able to modulate very successfully to enable his singer to be heard clearly. This meant that by and large, the singers did not need to shout to be heard, and this in turn gave a more "musical" effect. His control of the orchestral forces was always so secure that when passion was needed the players always delivered and so his productions became legendary.

This DVD is a worthy souvenir of what must have been an absolutely superb evening. Although the notes are more to do with the performance than the story, multilingual sub-titles make the action easy to follow. Another of TDKís Opera Videos well worth purchasing. It should give hours and hours of enjoyment. Very highly recommended.

John Phillips

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