WORKS: Il trovatore
PERFORMER: Salvatore Licitra, Barbara Frittoli, Leo Nucci, Violeta Urmana; La Scala Milan Chorus & Orchestra/Riccardo Muti
CATALOGUE NO: S2K 89553
This fine recording is more than just a memento of a live performance, but not a serious challenge to the best Trovatores in the catalogue. It is based on the La Scala production of December 2000, a worthy prelude to the Verdi centenary events. Even Milan’s high temple of opera has trouble casting this repertoire in the way it used to, though harking back to such a formidable combination as Callas and Karajan there in 1956 is perhaps setting impossible standards for today, and this cast gives mostly fresh and alive performances.
Muti’s mission to restore Verdi to La Scala and strip away layers of bad-habit ‘tradition’ has reaped the results heard here in his rich, sculpted account of the score. His intense, high-octane approach is matched by the orchestra, which he has turned into one of the best in the operatic world. The chorus, too, is thrilling in such set pieces as the Anvil Chorus.
Hopes have been pinned on Salvatore Licitra, seen by some as a contender for the soon-to-be-vacant tenorial throne. He is certainly worthy of the great Italian tradition, and sings with dark-toned power but perhaps not enough individuality; at least he remembers that the troubadour of the title role calls for lyricism. Barbara Frittoli is a lovely and unfailingly musical Leonora, Violeta Urmana a powerful, dusky Azucena and Leo Nucci characteristically solid as Di Luna. Even though it is culled from five different evenings, and comes with the first-night heckling edited out, this recording has the spirit of a real performance. John Allison