WORKS: Il trovatore (in English)
PERFORMER: Sharon Sweet, Dennis O’Neill, Anne Mason, Alan Opie, Clive Bayley; Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, LPO/David Parry
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 3036(2)
The high standard of the Chandos Opera in English series is well maintained in this performance of one of the most quintessentially Italianate of all Verdi’s operas. The title role of the troubadour Manrico calls for a tenor who can sound both virile and tender, and Dennis O’Neill, though his voice is no longer at its freshest, is impressive from his opening off-stage serenade to his last-act duet with Azucena, phrasing impeccably throughout. However, his top C in ‘That fierce inferno’ (which is how Tom Hammond translates ‘Di quella pira’) is hectic. Anne Mason sings well as Azucena, though her voice is too light for the role, and she fails to convey the gypsy woman’s ferocity of feeling. She is at her best in the resignation of her Act IV duet with Manrico.
Alan Opie is a sturdy Count di Luna, at his best in his Act IV confrontation with Leonora. Sharon Sweet brings an attractive voice to Leonora, but she is occasionally slightly below pitch and, more damagingly, her diction is not ideally clear. There are moments when she might as well have been singing in Italian. I longed for the clarity that Joan Hammond used to bring to Leonora’s arias in English. The diction of the other singers is much clearer, and the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir and London Philharmonic Orchestra are in top form under David Parry.
It’s difficult to decide upon a benchmark recording. If one restricts one’s recommendation to the opera in English, then this is a perfectly decent performance, which is just as well for there is no other. But if the language question is not important, then Plácido Domingo and Aprile Millo in Italian, conducted by James Levine, are hard to beat. Charles Osborne