Magazine article Opera Canada

Il Trovatore: Parsifal

Magazine article Opera Canada

Il Trovatore: Parsifal

Article excerpt

IL TROVATORE

GIUSEPPE VERDI

Medici Arts/BBC3/ROHSO11

PARSIFAL

RICHARD WAGNER

Medici Arts/BBC3/ROHSO12

Quite apart from documenting splendid performances, these two most recent releases in the Royal Opera House Heritage Series have considerable Canadian interest, as do earlier releases in the series. Covent Garden signed contracts with a number of young Canadians in the later 1950s and into the 1960s, including tenor Jon Vickers and bass Joseph Rouleau. While Vickers sings the title role in this Wagner release (the performance actually dating from 1971), Rouleau is the Ferrando on the 1964 Verdi. The latter has a real sentimental value for me, since it was the first production I saw at Covent Garden as a teenager, and in my memory it remains vivid as a benchmark of just how viscerally exciting Verdi can be in the right vocal and musical hands.

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What's right in this release starts in the pit, where Carlo Maria Giulini was following up the near-legendary 1958 production of Don Carlo, also with Vickers in the title role and also available in this CD series (ROHSOO3). Giulini's dramatic sense never errs, carrying the listener through the opera's episodic twists and turns in what seems uncannily like one long musical breath rather than a series of contrasting musical numbers. The cast wasn't as starry as for the Don Carlo, a mix of local talent and imports that Giulini molded into a fabulous ensemble. Rouleau sets the pace beautifully, with a characterful opening narration that shows both flexibility and a keen sense of line. (Rouleau also sings A Monk in the Don Carlo; there's a lovely anecdote in a BBC interview with Lord Harewood on that release that tells of how the great Boris Christoff, singing King Philip, was immediately impressed by the young Canadian.) The late Peter Glossop sings a heartfelt, desperate Di Luna, while Bruno Prevedi, a much-underrated tenor, is a dashing, full-voiced Manrico. At the time, much of the buzz over the production had to do with the female leads. Italian mezzo Giulietta Simi-onato was at her histrionic best as Azucena, sounding every note as if this music was bred in her bones. When the originally cast Leonora, Leontyne Price, withdrew, Covent Garden turned to the young Gwyneth Jones. …

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