|About this Recording
8.111280-81 - VERDI: Trovatore (Il) (Callas, di Stefano, Karajan) (1956)
Great Opera Recordings
Libretto by Salvatore Cammarano
Manrico - Giuseppe Di Stefano (tenor)
Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala, Milan
The present recording of Il Trovatore, produced at La Scala, Milan, in August 1956, was the twelfth complete opera recording Maria Callas took part in for EMI [Columbia/Angel]. She had been singing it often since 1950 and with notable success. Although it may not have been the title-rôle yet, as earlier live recordings indicate, unlike either Aida or Leonora in La forza del destino, it perfectly suited her and did not expose her vocal warts. When she sang it at Covent Garden, London, in the second season she appeared there in 1953, whatever caveats may have been made over her Aida, and even her Norma, her Leonora earned golden opinions. The Times critic considered the opera should have been styled Leonora '[she] sang and acted everyone off the stage. That she could dispense roulades and fioriture was a foregone conclusion after Norma, but that she was also able to make a vivid and touching figure of Leonora, whether transported by tempests of the heart, or racked with anguish outside the Aliaferia Palace, or calmly sinking into death, or calmly sinking into death. She is not an artist given to gesturing, but … when she moves an arm the audience sits forward, gripped by the stimulus of a dynamic personality in action. The beauty of her line, its plasticity, and its strength, and the easy richness with which she unfolds long phrases, was memorably shown in 'Tacea la notte', and especially in the last melody she sings, 'Prima che d'altri vivere', when her voice soared up the scale of E flat with a breathtaking blend of tension and effortlessness'. Stage director John Copley, who was then working backstage, cannot forget 'the way she sang the cadenza in 'D'amor sull'ali rosee'. It was the first time I ever heard a cadenza, or any of the scales and arpeggios that made it mean something. Instead of a lot of top notes, à la Milanov, Callas linked them together and phrased it so that it was completely expressive… It was not just the clarity and separation of the notes which was exemplary but she actually sang it as if it really meant something.'
Callas undertook it, earning similar receptions at Mexico City, Naples, Milan, Verona, Rome and Chicago. On this last occasion, the last time she would sing it on stage, Manrico was Jussi Björling (1911-1960); he called her 'Leonora perfection, I have heard [it] sung often, but never was there a better one'. Coming from him, a man not noted for loquacity and one of the finest Manricos of the twentieth century, as complete recordings confirm, a compliment indeed. This recording followed nine months later. Throughout Callas's singing of Leonora's music, it is no exaggeration to say, is superlative. In 'D'amor sull'ali rosee' her delivery is so musically authoritative she is able to make the maximum effect shaping the long phrases with subtle use of rubato and perfectly drawn portamenti, each differently weighted according to the dynamics, the interval accomplished, and the speed of the music. The trills, an integral part of the aria, are not only forwardly placed, clearly defined and correctly resolved, but each is coloured differently, according to the weight of tone she deploys.
This recording is conducted by Herbert von Karajan; his symphonic style is carried out with exemplary polish, even if his tempi do occasionally sound mannered. The company includes: Fedora Barbieri's Azucena, in such a gift of a rôle she gives a big, brassy performance - but do not expect any trills in 'Stride la vampa'; Giuseppe di Stefano, who is rather out of his depth as Manrico, a pint mix in a quart jar, but then he was deputising for Richard Tucker who cried off because of Karajan's Nazi associations; and Rolando Panerai, whose singing is effective though he was not a noted exponent of di Luna. Callas demonstrates something that had been forgotten by her time: Leonora has a great deal of florid music in it, as much if not more than either Gilda or Violetta. Whereas in the nineteenth century Adelina Patti (1843-1919), for example, had sung all three rôles, by the middle of the twentieth century, Leonora had become a part of the more dramatic repertory; florid music by then having become unfashionable, with much of the more exacting music either cut or sketchily performed.
Karajan's presence may account for the restoration of a short cut made in Act III between Leonora and Manrico, and in Act IV, after the Miserere, when Leonora completes the scene adding one verse of the cabaletta, 'Tu vedrai che amore'. However it is indicative that this recording was made only months after the Decca album with Tebaldi and del Monaco was published in which they were first included. The move towards complete recordings was started by John Culshaw of Decca.
Possessing a big voice, although she used it somewhat coarsely, the Triestine Fedora Barbieri (1918-2003) was one of a number of front-ranking Italian mezzo-sopranos active in the 1950s and 1960s, including Ebe Stignani (1903-1974), Giulietta Simionato (b.1910), Elena Nicolai (1912-1993) and Fiorenza Cossotto (b.1935). In her home town she studied with Federico Bugamelli and Luigi Toffolo, and in Milan with Giulia Tess. In 1940 she made her début at the Comunale, Florence as Fidalma in Il matrimonio segreto, then in 1943 married the Director of the Florence May Festival. Although the war did interrupt her career, in those years she appeared in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, The Netherlands and Austria. No sooner was peace declared than her international progress was rapid: she first appeared at La Scala, Milan in 1946, and the following year she travelled to the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires; in 1950 to Covent Garden, London and the Metropolitan, New York, and also to San Francisco and Chicago. Her repertory in her palmy days included rôles such as Dalila, Azucena, Amneris and Eboli, which she sang under de Sabata and Giulini. She created Dariola in the première of Alfano's Don Giovanni di Manara at the May Festival in 1941 and in 1942 was Telemaco in Dallapiccola's revision of Monteverdi's Il ritorno di Ulisse in Patria. In Siena that year she sang Giustina in Pergolesi's Flaminio, and in 1943 at Cremona, Orfeo in Vito Frazzi's edition of Monteverdi's opera. She undertook a number of rôles with Callas, including Brangania in Tristano, Adalgisa, Amneris, Neris in Medea and with her recorded as well as Amneris, Laura in La Gioconda, Azucena and Ulrica.
Giuseppe di Stefano, born in 1921 near Catania, Sicily, had a brilliant but short career. His was one of the most beautiful lyric tenor voices of the last century. He began singing light music then, following a brief period of study with the baritone Luigi Montesanto, made his opera début in 1946 as Des Grieux in Massenet's Manon at Reggio Emilia, after which his rise to fame was rapid. In 1947 he appeared at La Scala, Milan, also as Des Grieux, and in 1948 at the Metropolitan, New York, as the Duke in Rigoletto. At first his repertory included Fenton in Falstaff, Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi, Alfredo in La traviata and Faust, but it did not take long before he began undertaking heavier rôles, such as Cavaradossi, Don José in Carmen, Radames in Aida, Canio in Pagliacci and even Alvaro in La forza del destino. Sadly the great years of his career were soon over, and by 1961, trying to make more out of his voice than nature had put in, he made his last appearance at La Scala. From 1944 for HMV he recorded songs and arias, and from 1953 for Angel/Columbia, with Callas, Edgardo, Arturo, Cavaradossi, Turiddu in Cavalleria rusticana, Canio, the Duke, Manrico in Il Trovatore, Rodolfo, Riccardo in Un ballo in maschera and Des Grieux in Puccini's Manon Lescaut.
The baritone Rolando Panerai (b.1924), born at Campi Bisenzio near Florence, had a long and distinguished career. After completing his studies in Florence and Milan with Armani and Tess, he made his début at the Communale, Florence, in 1946 as Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor. Thereafter his progress was rapid and extensive; in 1947 he appeared at the San Carlo, Naples; in 1952 at La Scala, Milan; in 1957 at the Salzburg Festival; in 1958 at San Francisco and in 1960 at Covent Garden, London. He sang elsewhere throughout Italy, and in Austria, Germany and France. His substantial repertory included Apollo in Gluck's Alceste, the High Priest in Samson et Dalila, Mozart's and Rossini's Figaro, Masetto in Don Giovanni, Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, Paolo in Simon Boccanegra, Marcello in La Bohème, di Luna in Il Trovatore, Silvio in Pagliacci, Germont in La traviata and in 1962 at La Scala he created the title-rôle in Turchi's Il buon soldato Svejk. Later in his career, in traditional fashion, he graduated from Ford to Falstaff and undertook Don Pasquale, and Dulcamara in L'elisir d'amore. In a 1950 RAI broadcast he is Amfortas in Parsifal with Callas's Kundry and, nearly half a century later, Germont in a telecast of La traviata conducted by Mehta. His voice was an attractive sounding but lyric instrument. For EMI [Columbia/Angel] with Callas, he recorded, as well as di Luna, Silvio in Pagliacci, Alfio and Marcello.
Born in Athens after studying at the Conservatory, Nicola Zaccaria (1923-2007), made his début in 1949 as Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor. Four years later he appeared at La Scala, Milan, as Sparafucile in Rigoletto. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s he appeared in many leading Italian opera seasons: at Florence, Verona and Rome in the typical Italian repertory. In 1956 he was a guest at the Vienna Staatsoper and at the festival in Salzburg; and in 1957 at Covent Garden with Callas's Norma he was Oroveso and in 1959 Creon with her Medea. His career was wide and embraced Cologne, Brussels, Ghent, Moscow, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Monte Carlo, Berlin and Dallas, which he returned to often until the 1980s, as well as festivals at Aix-en-Provence, Edinburgh, Orange and Athens. He sang rôles such as Zaccaria in Nabucco, Silva in Ernani, Rodolfo in Sonnambula and Sarastro in Zauberflöte. For EMI he appears with Callas in recordings of Aida, Un ballo in maschera, Il Trovatore, La Bohème, Il barbiere di Siviglia, La Sonnambula and Norma.
Act I. The Duel
Scene 1. Courtyard in the palace of Aliaferia. There is a door to one side, leading to the apartments of the Count di Luna.
No. 1 Introduction. [CD 1 / Track 1] Ferrando, a captain of the guard in the service of the Count di Luna, tells his companions to be alert (All'erta! All'erta!), since the Count is jealously watching for his unknown rival in the love of Leonora, the mysterious troubadour.
[1/2] Ferrando goes on to explain how the old Count had two sons (Di due figli vivea padre beato) and how the younger, Garcia, had been kidnapped. One day a swarthy gypsy woman had been found near the child's cradle (Abbietta zingara, fosca vegliarda!) and had bewitched the boy, who fell ill. The old gypsy woman was seized and burned to death, but the woman's daughter survived and seems to have stolen the child, whose charred body was found where the witch had been burned. The ghost of the gypsy still haunts the place, it is said, during the night. The bystanders agree.
[1/3] They claim that others have seen the apparition, in one form or another (Sull'orlo dei tetti alcun l'ha veduta). Midnight strikes and they disperse in fear.
Scene 2. The palace gardens. To the right is a marble staircase leading to the apartments. Thick clouds cover the moon.
No. 2 Scena & Cavatina. [1/4] Ines, Leonora's companion, urges her to come in and wait no longer (Che più t'arresti?), but Leonora remembers the unknown knight whom once she had crowned champion of the tournament, but who had disappeared when civil war broke out.
[1/5] Once, Leonora tells her, in the silence of the night, the sound of a lute was heard from her garden and the sad song of a troubadour (Tacea la notte placida e bella in ciel sereno). This is the one she loves.
[1/6] In spite of the misgivings of Ines, Leonora goes on to tell how she will live and, if she must, die for this love (Di tale amor, che dirsi). They go together into the palace.
No. 3 Scena, Romanza & Terzetto. [1/7] The Count comes into the garden, observing the silence of the night (Tace la notte) and telling of his love for Leonora, who still watches.
[1/8] As he turns towards the steps, he hears the sound of the troubadour's song, Deserto sulla terra (Nothing is left me on earth). The Count shudders in jealousy and wraps his cloak around him, as he hears Leonora approaching. She, thinking him the troubadour, seeks to embrace him, while Manrico, the troubadour, exclaims on her apparent perfidy. The moon emerges from behind the clouds and the troubadour, his face covered by a visor, comes forward. Leonora realises her mistake (Qual voce!) and throws herself at the feet of Manrico, declaring her love for him, to the Count's jealous rage. At the Count's urging, Manrico reveals himself, known as a follower of the rebel Urgel, and is challenged to a duel.
[1/9] The Count rages in jealousy (Di geloso amor sprezzato). Leonora tries to deflect his anger, turning it towards herself, while Manrico bravely declares his intention of killing his enemy. Leonora swoons, as the two rivals rush out, with drawn swords.
Act II. The Gypsy
Scene 1. A poor dwelling in the foothills of a mountain in Biscay. In the background there burns a great fire. It is dawn. The old gypsy Azucena sits near the fire, while Manrico lies nearby on a mattress, wrapped in his cloak. His helmet is at his feet, his sword at his hand. The gypsies are all around.
No. 4 Gypsy Chorus & Canzone. [1/10] The gypsies welcome the break of day (Vedi! Le fosche notturne spoglie), as they start work, with their anvils, praising the beauty of their women.
[1/11] They break off, however, as Azucena begins to recount the story of her mother's death (Stride la vampa!), the sound of the flames and her mother's cries, as she was burned. The gypsies find this a sad song (Mesta è la tua canzon!), but Azucena seeks from Manrico one thing, vengeance (Mi vendica!). The gypsies prepare to leave to seek food, and their song is heard as they move away into the distance, leaving Manrico and Azucena alone.
No. 5 Scena & Racconto. [1/12] Now they are alone, Manrico seeks to hear Azucena's story (Soli or siamo!).
[1/13] Azucena tells him how her mother was led in chains to her fate, followed by Azucena holding her son in her arms (Condotta ell'era in ceppi). In vain she tried to stop and bless her daughter and her last words urged her to vengeance. In reply to Manrico's question she goes on to tell how she seized the Count's son, but in her frenzy threw her own child into the flames. Azucena falls back in anguish, and Manrico is silent, struck with horror and surprise at what he has heard.
No. 6 Scena & Duetto. [1/14] Manrico now asks who he is, if he is not Azucena's son (Non son tuo figlio?), but she tells him that he is her son: did she not nurse him back to life when the Count di Luna left him for dead on the field of battle.
[1/15] Manrico goes on to recall how he was about to kill the fallen Count, when a cry from heaven bade him hold (Mal reggendo all'aspro assalto). Azucena finds no such mercy in the Count (Ma nell'alma dell'ingrato / Non parlò del cielo un detto!) and Manrico swears that another time he will take his revenge. The sound of a horn is heard and Azucena again bids him avenge her. Manrico turns to a messenger, who has appeared with written orders for him to lead the defence of Castellor (Inoltra il più) urging haste, while telling him that Leonora, thinking him dead, is to take the veil that evening at the Convent of the Cross nearby. Azucena asks what troubles him and tries to hold him back, but he insists on leaving at once. She again bids Manrico stay (Ferma … Son io che parlo a te!), but he tells her that a moment's delay may cost him his beloved.
[1/16] She still insists that his blood is her blood, but he must away.
Scene 2. The cloister of a convent near Castellor. There are trees in the background. It is night. The Count, Ferrando and some followers enter cautiously, wrapped in their cloaks.
No. 7 Scena & Aria. [1/17] The Count finds all deserted (Tutto è deserto), as he and his men make their way into the convent, intent on abducting Leonora, who must be his alone.
[1/18] The Count sings of the light of her smile (Il balen del suo sorriso), which conquers reason, of his love and of the tempest that rages in his heart.
[1/19] He hears the bell that announces the coming ceremony (Qual suono! … Oh ciel! … La squilla vicino il rito annunzia!), and tells his followers to hide themselves, while he himself observes secretly the approach of Leonora. Ferrando and the Count's followers conceal themselves, while the Count anticipates his joy in seizing Leonora, away from God, his rival. They hide among the trees.
No. 8 Second Finale. [1/20] The voices of the nuns are heard, preparing the daughter of Eve, Leonora, for her vows (Ah! Se l'error t'ingombra, o figlia d'Eva). The Count exclaims that no God can take Leonora from him, while the ceremony continues.
[1/21] Leonora and Ines come in, the former asking her confidante why she is crying (Perchè piangete?). Leonora tells her that life now has nothing for her; she has turned her thoughts to a life of penitence. At this the Count rushes forward, vowing that it must be only the altar of marriage that holds her. At this moment Manrico appears.
[1/22] Leonora is overjoyed (E deggio e posso crederlo?) and can hardly believe her eyes, thinking that this must be a dream. The Count is horrified, since he thought Manrico dead in battle. Ruiz and his men appear, proclaiming the rebel Urgel, and Manrico, accompanied by Leonora, leaves in their company, once the Count, who has drawn his sword, is disarmed, furious as he is.
Act III. The Gypsy's Son
Scene 1. An encampment. On the right is the pavilion of the Count di Luna, carrying the commander's standard. The towers of Castellor are seen above. Soldiers are gambling, while some polish their weapons and others pass to and fro. Ferrando comes out of the Count's pavilion.
No. 9 Introductory Chorus [2/1] Some of the soldiers call for another game (Or co'dadi, ma fra poco / Giuocherem ben altro gioco), while others see the banner of the Balestrieri, the reinforcements they had awaited. Ferrando assures them of certain victory, when the new day dawns.
[2/2] The men await the call to arms (Squilli, echeggi la tromba guerriera), eager for the spoils of battle.
No. 10 Scena & Terzetto [2/3] The Count is tormented by the thought of Leonora in the arms of his rival (In braccio al mio rival!). A tumult is heard and Ferrando comes in, telling him that a gypsy woman has been caught by their men. The noise comes nearer and Azucena, her hands bound, is dragged in, protesting at her treatment. The Count interrogates her, asking where she was going, and she tells him that gypsies wander aimlessly; she comes, however, from Biscay, information that disturbs the Count and Ferrando.
[2/4] Azucena tells them of her poverty and contentment and how now she seeks her son (Giorni poveri vivea / Pur contento del mio stato). The Count asks her if she remembers a son of the family, kidnapped some fifteen years before. She asks him who he is, and he tells her that he is that boy's brother. Ferrando observes her reaction and now accuses her of stealing the child. She tries to quieten him, but he declares that this is the woman that burned the child. She denies it, but the Count orders the men to tighten her bonds. In pain she calls on her son Manrico, and the Count now realises he has the mother of his hated rival in his power. Azucena bids them desist, warning them of the anger of God, who will punish the Count (Ah! Deh! Rallentate, o barbari). He reproaches her, a base gypsy, with that traitor. Now he can strike his enemy through her suffering and avenge his dead brother. At a sign from the Count his men, threatening her with the fires of hell, drag her away, while he withdraws into his tent, followed by Ferrando.
Scene 2. A room adjacent to the chapel of Castellor, with an open gallery in the background.
No. 11 Scena & Aria [2/5] Leonora seeks to know the meaning of the warlike preparations (Quale d'armi fragor poc'anzi intesi?). Manrico tells her of their imminent danger and the assault expected at dawn: he, however, is certain of victory, since his men are as brave as the enemy. Leonora thinks this bodes ill for their marriage. Manrico sings of the strength his love gives him (Amor, sublime amor).
[2/6] He is hers, and she his and this will make him the stronger. If it is his fate to be killed, yet his thoughts will turn to her, for death will only mean that he will be in heaven before her.
[2/7] The organ is heard from the nearby chapel. Now they must go there together, as the mystic sounds touch their hearts (L'onda de' suoni mistici). Ruiz calls to Manrico, telling him of the capture and imminent death by burning of Azucena.
[2/8] Manrico now reveals to Leonora that he is the gypsy's son. He can already see the flames in which Azucena must die (Di quella pira l'orrendo foco) and feel them: he must save her. The men are called to arms, to fight or die with Manrico, who rushes out, followed by Ruiz and his soldiers. The sound of battle is heard.
Act IV. Torture
Scene 1. A wing of the palace of Alaferia. At the corner is a tower with barred windows. It is deepest night. Two people come forward, cloaked, Ruiz and Leonora.
No. 12 Scena, Aria & Miserere. [2/9] Ruiz shows Leonora the cell where the prisoners are kept (Siam giunti, ecco la torre). She tells him to leave her, since she may be able to save Manrico. She looks at a jewel she holds in her hand. Now she is near her lover, although he does not know it.
[2/10] Love, she says, will bring comfort to the mind of the prisoner, like a breath of hope (D'amor sull'ali rosee / Vanne).
[2/11] The sound of the death knell is heard. Voices within sing the Miserere (Miserere d'un alma già vicina / Alla partenza che non ha ritorno!), praying for mercy on those about to die. Leonora exclaims on the sound of these prayers. The voice of Manrico is heard from the tower, bidding his Leonora farewell, as the chant goes on.
[2/12] Leonora declares that she will never forget him (Di te! Di te! Scordarmi di te!).
No. 13 Scena & Duetto. [2/13] A door opens and the Count and some of his followers come out. Leonora steps aside. The Count now gives orders for the execution of the son and his mother (Udiste? Come albeggi, / La scure al figlio ed alla madre il rogo!), lamenting that he cannot find Leonora. At this she comes forward, telling him she has come, at the last moment, to ask for mercy, but he refuses her. The Count starts, as he hears Leonora's voice.
[2/14] She throws herself in desperation at his feet, pleading with him to have mercy on her tears (Mira, di acerbe lagrime), but this only increases his thirst for revenge. Now she offers him herself, if he will only release Manrico. He swears that he will do so, and she pledges herself to him. The Count now calls to a guard in the tower and speaks in his ear, while Leonora takes the poison secreted in her ring: the Count will have her, but she will be cold, not living.
[2/15] Leonora is now happy (Vivrà! Contende il giubilo / i detti a me, Signore): she will die, but Manrico will live. The Count seeks her assurance that she is his and she pledges her faith.
Scene 2. A wretched dungeon. There is a barred window and a door in the background. A dim lamp hanging from a wall-ring sheds a pale light on the scene. Azucena is lying on a rough mattress and Manrico sits near her.
No. 14 Last Finale [2/16] Manrico asks Azucena why she does not sleep (Madre, non dormi?), and wonders if the cold troubles her, but she tells him that the air chokes her: soon, though, she will be free, for the mark of death is upon her. She sees in her mind the burning fire, and Manrico tries to comfort her, as she falls back in his arms, and he lays her gently down on her mattress. Weariness comes upon her (Sì, la stanchezza m'opprime).
[2/17] Now she dreams of her home, the hills and the ancient peace. She falls asleep, Manrico kneeling by her side. The door opens and Leonora comes in.
[2/18] Manrico thinks that the light deceives him (Che! Non m'inganna quel fioco lume?), but Leonora assures him that now he will be safe: he can escape, but she must stay. Manrico has no desire for life without her and asks her what price she has paid for his freedom. She dare not answer and he reproaches her (Parlar non vuoi?), understanding what she must have done. She finds his reproach unjustified, urging him to escape, while Azucena is heard again in her sleep recalling her own country. Leonora falls at Manrico's feet.
[2/19] Manrico tells her to go (Ti scosta!), but she begs him not to blame her, falling to the ground and telling him at last that she is dying, the force of the poison quicker than she had supposed. Manrico is now remorseful. At this moment the Count comes in, as Leonora dies, seeking the grace of heaven, and he realises he has been deceived. He now orders Manrico to be taken to his death, and the latter bids his mother farewell. The Count drags her to the window to see her son die, but Azucena tells him that Manrico was his brother (Egli era il tuo fratello!), as she falls to the ground, her revenge achieved.
This recording was transferred from the best portions of two first-edition British LP pressings, with one section (from the second verse of "Stride la vampa" to the end of "Il balen") patched in from a later American pressing due to stamper defects on Side 2 of both of the copies I had of the earlier edition. Some overload distortion at the loudest passages appears to be inherent in the original master tape.
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901): Il Trovatore
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