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
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
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
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.