I love Verdi's operas, and while Il Trovatore's story is on the convoluted side the characters are compelling and the music is magnificent.
Before seeing this production I saw four productions; one from 1978 which is my personal favourite, the 1988 Met production which I also loved and thought that and Eva Marton's performance is better than it is given credit for, one from 1983 with Sutherland which was good but sometimes rather dimly lit and stodgy and one from 2002 which was great and lifted by a superb Count and Azucena.
This one from 1972 is just great and helped especially by a superb cast. The costumes, settings and lighting are atmospheric without ever being too dimly lit, the story is seldom stodgy helped by some exuberant conducting and the Anvil Chorus is not too stolid or joyless either.
The orchestra play with passion and the Chorus are beautifully balanced.
The four leads I can't really find fault with. Ludovico Speiss is a very credible Manrico, perhaps not the most vivid of all actors but at least he is mobile and communicative, his Ah So Ben Mio beautifully and musically phrased, Di Quella Pira suitably heroic and his offstage stuff(the hauntingly beautiful Misere for example) audible.
Montserrat Caballe is superb as Leonora, actually of the five Leonoras I've seen, she's my favourite. She is dramatically powerful, and the Misere and D'Amor Sull'Ali Rosee show all the things Caballe is so good at, effortless legato, long sustained phrases and exquisite pianissimos and musicality. The faster rhythms of the act 4 duet between her and Glossop's Di Luna aren't quite as impressive, however her being Caballe she does what she can with them.
Peter Glossop in my opinion was a very underrated baritone and one of the better English baritones there was. Not only did he have a large rich voice but he could also act especially with his magnetic eyes(anyone see his Tonio in the 1968 Pagliacci?) He does a great job as Count Di Luna, menacing at times yet with a human touch too, and his Il Balen while not quite as musical or commanding as Ruffo's, Bastianini's, Milnes' or Tibbett's the attention to musicality and such is definitely noteworthy.
Which brings me to Irina Arkhipova. She is brilliant as Azucena, and my favourite after Fiorenza Cossotto. Of the principles she is perhaps the best actress of the four, and her Stride Le Vampa(perhaps one of the most difficult mezzo Verdi arias) is the first rendition of that aria in a long time that I'd call outstanding, so rich vocally and so technically assured.
Overall, a truly great Trovatore. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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