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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Il Trovatore - Opera in Four Acts (1853)
Manrico - Marcelo Álvarez (tenor); Leonora - Teresa Romano (soprano); Count Di Luna - Claudio Sgura (baritone); Azucena - Mzia Nioradze (mezzo); Ferrando - Deyan Vatchkov (bass); Ines - Christina Giannelli (soprano); Ruiz - Roberto Jachini Virgili (tenor)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Regio, Parma/Yuri Temirkanov
Stage Director: Lorenzo Mariani
Set and Costume Designer: William Orlandi
Video Director: Tiziano Mancini
rec. live, Teatro Regio, Parma, 5 and 9 October 2010, Parma Verdi Festival
Sound Formats: DTS-HD MA 5.1; PCM Stereo. Filmed in HD 1080i. Aspect ratio: 16:9
Booklet languages: English, German, French
Subtitles: Italian (original language), English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese
C MAJOR 723504 [140:00 +10:00: bonus]

This recording is numbered seventeen in C Major’s “Tutto Verdi” series of twenty-six of Verdi’s operas plus his Requiem Mass. The series is being issued to celebrate the bicentenary of Italy’s most celebrated composer. Not included are two additional titles, Jérusalem and Aroldo which are re-writes of earlier operas using some of the original music. The former derives from I Lombardi,the composer’s fourth opera (see review of a performance in this series). Written to a French libretto for the Paris Opera, it can well be considered a distinct work. This DVD series is built around Parma’s Verdi Festival, resurrected in 2007 but with a handful of performances from elsewhere.
Verdi had considerable problems with the composition and staging of Il Trovatore. It was the second of his great middle period trio - Rigoletto, Il Trovatore andLa Traviata - all premiered over a two year period from March 1851. Trovatore was originally intended for librettist Cammarano’s hometown theatre of the San Carlo in Naples. However, the theatre found Verdi’s fee too steep for its cash-strapped situation. The composer proposed the opera be premiered in Rome if the censors accepted Cammarano’s libretto. At that point Verdi learned, through a friend, of Cammarano’s death. The Young poet Emmanuele Bardare, who had converted Rigoletto into Clara di Perth for Naples, undertook the completion. Verdi paid Cammarano’s widow the full fee, plus a premium, as she was poorly provided for. These delays explain the part contemporaneously composed Il Trovatore and La Traviata reaching the stage within seven weeks of each other.
The various additions to the libretto of Il Trovatore, required of Bardare, show that Verdi was intent on a two-diva opera, with the voices concerned being of distinctly different ranges and colour. Needless to say the Rome censor quibbled about details. A burning at the stake was considered to be too vivid a reminder of the Inquisition and the words of the Miserere were altered, as strict Liturgical phrases were not allowed. With these relatively minor problems sorted Trovatore was premiered at the Teatro Apollo, Rome, on 19 January 1853. It was a resounding triumph with the final scene being encored in its entirety. Despite odd cavils about the gloomy subject and the number of deaths, Il Trovatore spread rapidly and was even parodied with baby-swapping figures in two of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular works. Seven weeks after the premiere of Il Trovatore, and despite it having an entirely different orchestral patina and key as well as vastly different vocal requirements for the tenor and soprano, La Traviata was premiered in Venice.
Caruso famously said that Il Trovatore required the four greatest singers in the world for the principal quartet; that in a generation when big-voiced singers capable of meeting the vocal and dramatic demands of the roles seemed to grow on trees. Nowadays such voices are too rare for comfort. Given that Parma is very much a provincial Italian theatre and not able to compete with the likes of La Scala or Rome, casting was likely to be a challenge and it was. With production and sets, shared with La Fenice, Venice, not finding favour and the singers far too often left to their own devices, the opening night was set for a fiasco. So it proved, with a vociferous audience showing their displeasure. It seems the soprano and mezzo took the brunt, the producer and designer escaping more lightly. Singers are more easily replaced than sets and the soprano and mezzo were changed before the performances from which this recording was made.
Verdi purists at Parma, which considers itself Verdi’s local house, were not pleased at the conductor’s decision to excise the cabalettas. How Marcelo Álvarez, the best singer in the production, viewed the excision of showcase aria Di quella pira (CH.29), which he was well capable of singing, I do not know. Elsewhere, his varied phrasing and vocal characterisation, allied to his virile lyric-toned spinto tenor provided the best singing as recorded from three performances. As Di Luna, Manrico’s competitor for Leonora’s love, Claudio Sgura sang strongly without exactly ravishing Verdi’s phrases in Il Balen (CH.16). Deyan Vatchkov was a satisfying and imposing Ferrando (CHs. 2-4 and 23).
The two replacement women must have been better than the original cast, as the gallery did not boo them off the stage at the end. As Leonora, Teresa Romano has an appealing vocal tone. Her voice can soar to the heights that Verdi demands in the big showcase arias Tacea la notte in placida (CH.6) and D’amor sull’ali rosee (CH.31). Regrettably that is the good news. Her choppy phrasing and abbreviation of the end of lines added up to a lack of the required legato. It was perhaps a relief all-round that the cabalettas were not included. As Azucena, the gypsy whose name very nearly became that of the opera, Mzia Nioradze looked far too young to be Manrico’s mother. What’s more, she lacked the vocal wherewithal to create the towering dramatic figure that inhabits Verdi’s music for the role.
Add to these vocal limitations matters of direction and set. The former was notable by its absence. The singers seemed to be left to their own devices and waving of arms was the limit. The spartan minimalist set created little mood. A full moonlit night and a few branches made Leonora’s mis-recognition of Manrico in Act One quite implausible. The full red moon of Act Two added nothing to a vacuous set for the gypsy camp whilst that outside the convent lacked any sense of situation. The rescue of Leonora by Manrico’s troops was laughable. On the rostrum Yuri Temirkanov seemed unduly keen to get to the end with a tendency towards hard-driven tempi. When not standing about aimlessly the chorus sang with vibrancy.

Robert J Farr