Verdi: Il trovatore

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

WORKS: Il trovatore
PERFORMER: Andrea Bocelli, Veronica Villarroel, Elena Zaremba, Carlo Guelfi; Catania Teatro Massimo Bellini Chorus & Orchestra/Steven Mercurio
CATALOGUE NO: 475 366-2
If Andrea Bocelli was not cramming them into arenas and football stadiums across the globe this recording might have slunk into the catalogue as a perfectly decent account of Il trovatore. Veronica Villarroel’s Leonora, for example, produces a thrilling top note in her cadenza in ‘Tacea la notte’ that would have brought the house down in some minor Italian city. But just as you would expect it promises things that the rest of her performance never delivers. Hers is an unsteady voice with a tendency to slip off pitch. In that respect she is well matched to her Manrico. But Bocelli’s catalogue of failings is longer. There’s little attempt to characterise the role vocally and under pressure the singer – sorry artiste – stirs up a storm of ugly aspirates. And where’s the finely spun legato that this music demands in, say, the opening phrases of ‘Ah! si, ben mio’? As for ‘Di quella pira’, it’s kinder to pass over that intrusive breath in the final phrase. Perish the thought that the extraordinary sustained final note was a recording afterthought. Mercifully, Steven Mercurio conducting the Teatro Massimo Bellini di Catania orchestra keeps everything moving along at a spanking pace. He has a dependable Azucena in Elena Zaremba and in Carlo Guelfi a light baritone for his di Luna, demerara sugar rather than dark brown muscovado. However, quite the best singing comes from the Catania chorus, though it’s a mystery why these gypsies appear to have just one anvil between them in their celebrated chorus. Doubtless it’s the same parsimony that only offers the listener a complete libretto as an add-on to the first CD. Not much use unless you listen to your music on the PC. If it’s a curiosity you want then this is your recording. But if it’s Il trovatore you’re after stick with Zubin Mehta and Leontyne Price or take a chance on Sinopoli’s 1992 live performance from Munich with Julia Varady and Dennis O’Neill. Christopher Cook