This CD is currently out of print, but it's worth a search. Unlike virtually everything else of Gencer's that has appeared on CD, these are all studio recordings in excellent sound (no prompters, no noisy audiences, no singing off mike). The four Donizetti items, conducted by Gianandrea Gavazzeni, are from 1974, while the four Verdi selections and the Catalani are from 1956 (with Arturo Basile conducting). Jeffrey Lipscomb, Amazon.ca
Il Trovatore was always one of Herbert von Karajan‘s favourite operas. He conducted it at the very beginning of his career and his first studio recording in 1956 was made in Milan with Maria Callas and Giuseppe di Stefano, but „his“ Trovatore really made its mark in the legendary performances given at the Salzburg Festival in 1962, which formed the basis for this successful revival in Vienna. He once declared in an interview that what he loved about this opera was its archetypal human passions, its compression of highly dramatic situations into the smallest conceivable space and Verdi‘s genius for translating such situations into music. This 1978 performance is steeped in scandal. Franco Bonisolli was originally cast in the lead role but abandoned the cast during a rehearsal where the public had been admitted entry, and, after throwing his sword at the conductor, left the stage in fury, to be later replaced by Plácido Domingo. What this performance makes so special: Karajan not only conducted the opera, but he was also responsible for the stage direction.
Verdi, child of the people, king of popular opera, began life as the son of an innkeeper. He was brought up in modest circumstances. He first received lessons from the village priest, who was amazed by the young musician’s talents. Verdi’s musical education was rounded and complete: at the age of sixteen, the composer wrote fugues, masses and symphonies, which he would later destroy. As he met with reticence in Milan, he settled in Busseto where he fell victim to the pettiness of the town. However, his strong willpower enabled him to pursue his musical path without paying heed to what people said.
Il Trovatore was based on the play El Trovador by Antonio García Gutiérrez and was an instant success. The cast is here led by Marcelo Alvarez, Norma Fantini and Leo Nucci and is conducted by Yuri Temirkanov.
Large symbols…make an effective home for a serious Il Trovatore, precisely paced and balanced by Yuri Temirkanov…Especially notable is his handling of what one might term 'old' Verdi orchestral tricks (ironic Bellinian wind counterpoints of parodistic military brass). The casting here is led by a Manrico from Marcelo Alvarez worthy of vocal and dramatic attention. (Gramophone Magazine)
The imposing grandeur of the Arena di Verona is the setting for Il Trovatore, one of Verdi's greatest masterpieces, with stage designs by the distinguished sculptor Mario Ceroli. For many years Il Trovatore has been an opera of worldwide popularity and the cast in this production is worthy of the opera's perennial success. It features the talents of the British soprano Rosalind Plowright in her Verona debut, a wealth of vocal experience from Fiorenza Cossotto as Azucena, matched with Giorgio Zancanaro's strong portrayal of the Count and Franco Bonisolli in fine voice as Manrico, the troubadour.
This is a perfect cast. Bergonzi and Gencer at their best and the young Cossotto as you never heard her. Really wonderfull. The sound is very good but not the image. Anyway it does not matter when you hear them singing. This is history and a valuable document. Actually you can try but never find an AIDA like this, not even Pavarotti's at la Scala.By Chilean Opera lover
Joan Sutherland was at the height of her career when she took on the role of Leonora – arguably the most dramatic of all Verdi heroines – in 1983. Elijah Moshinsky’s production, in which he was ably supported by the Australian artist Sidney Nolans (set design), Luciana Arrighi (costumes) and Nick Chelton (lighting), was tailor-made for Sutherland, allowing Leonora to develop into a truly tragic heroine occupying the opera’s central ground. This performance at the Australian Opera, Sydney – and featuring a high quality cast under the baton of Richard Bonynge – was recorded by Australian Television on 2nd July 1983. Verdi’s powerful and passionate opera tells a tale of civil war and treachery.
In memory of Elena Obraztsova (7 July 1939 – 12 January 2015)