LABELS: Deutsche Grammophon
ALBUM TITLE: Verdi: Il trovatore
WORKS: Il trovatore
PERFORMER: Plácido Domingo, Anna Netrebko, Marina Prudenskaya, Gaston Rivero, Adrian Sâmpetrean, Anna Lapkovskaja, Florian Hoffmann; Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim; dir. Philipp Stölzl
In his green and tenor days he was a magnificent Manrico, and now as a baritone he’s a sturdy Conte di Luna, so how long before Plácido Domingo adds Leonora to his repertoire? Watching Anna Netrebko here sing the role in a flaxen wig that even a provincial Marguerite would have discarded, there will be those who cherish that thought. There’s no doubting the Russian soprano’s vocal gifts, but in recordings there can be a rasp to her voice and in ‘D’amor sull’ali rosee’ she is glacial where the tone should be warm and round. Domingo knows how to do it and delivers Di Luna’s great aria ‘Il balen del suo sorriso’ with grace and style.
Gaston Rivero is a serviceable Manrico, which is praise in an age when a good Manrico is hard to find. But it’s Anna Lapkovskaja’s Azucena who steals the show with a chilling ‘Stride la vampa’ and a heartbreaking final scene with a chest register that sounds like gravel rolling over velvet.
Being Berlin, this is a production with a konzept, though one cannot always be sure what Philipp Stölzl’s point is. It’s almost impossible to read the digital projections on the severely functional set with two stone walls. It makes sense to dress Di Luna’s followers in Spanish 17th-century black, but why do the gypsies appear as refugees from a commedia dell’arte costume party baiting a bear when they should be beating their anvils? But much can be forgiven for the sake of the singing. And naturally Daniel Barenboim gives us a confidently personal reading of Verdi’s great score. Christopher Cook