The sound's the thing
Filippo Secondo | 08/25/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This is the first of two occasions where the unlucky Carlo of Aragall - a regrettably undervalued tenor - gets poorly recorded, the other time being in 1984 at Orange conducted by Fulton (Caballe, Bumbry, Bruson, and Estes); on both sets, the performers sound as if singing with their backs to the audience, though the Orange recording is worse than the Vienna in this respect. I'm not at all frustrated by the Eboli of Cossotto (whose voice - unlike the other soloists - is only occasionally distant): on the contrary, she sings well, given the fact that this comes from 1976 (the Eboli whom I find 'painful to hear' - I quote from the previous review and wonder if the reviewer heard the same recording - is Barbieri: Cossotto does cope with the role's high notes which her predecessor fails to manage in 1956 under Votto and 1958 under Giulini). Freni, Aragall, Cappuccilli, Ghiaurov, and Sotin sing (I think) magnificently: 'I think', because it's difficult to judge the quality of 'offstage' voices. Santi has a few sloppy moments, the most disastrous occurring in the first scene: he is ahead of the Monk (Walter Fink) during his final phrases; I don't think it's the Monk's fault, the conductor also being ahead of Carlo soon after Posa is shot. For me, the overall fault with this heavily cut performance - recorded, no doubt, from the audience - is technical: I wish it were a poor transistor relay with the voices well caught. Irritating, small consolation: unlike the CARLO, the sound of Aragall's superb MANON bonus tracks is excellent, the voices exceptionally crystal clear (if only it were the other way round). A depressing release not worth acquiring at such an astronomical price."
A royal Don Carlo recording
Armindo | Greece | 02/07/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What a cast! It would be a dream to hear any of these voices in Verdi today, let alone have them singing together on stage. In one of his many Kings, Ghiaurov remains superb, creating a larger than life Filippo who overwhelms me every time, anytime. There is something royal in his phrasing and huge sound that makes him totally believable in this role. Some passages sounded smoother in previous years but never spoil the greatness.
I admire how Aragall's voice grew over the years without acquiring any annoying habits. He's one of the finest Don Carlos in my books and though he sounded more relaxed and involved a year before in Madrid with Caballe, he still sounds as attractive as Carreras and as secure as Domingo but on the whole, better than both of them. Cappuccilli matches him note for note and if Posa is not my favourite baritone role, with him I enjoy every minute of it. He offers everything I expect from a Verdi baritone.
The ladies are a step behind the men on this recording. Freni sings very, very well but I've yet to hear this great soprano sound excited in a big role. I often feel she's too occupied getting the volume and focus of her voice in place than performing the role. I also thought the late Verdi roles were a tad heavy for her voice though obviously, she was clever enough to sing them safely. It just becomes too apparent for me but it is certainly a lovely voice and one that adds a lot to the duets on stage.
In earlier performances in Venice or Verona (to name a couple) Cossotto's Eboli is as ideal as it gets. Many years have passed however and by 1976 it saddens me to admit that the role was out of her reach. The veil song is painful to hear and it doesn't get any better after it. The idea to transpose O don fatale down was I guess the only way she could make it but then the aria sounds all wrong. Cossotto is tired and angry throughout. There are a couple of moments when the old Fiorenza is still evident but the pitch problems are far too many to ignore and cost this performance 1 star.
Sotin and the rest of the cast are ok and although Nello Santi isn't an ideal conductor, at least he saves us from Karajan's ear-splitting direction, always lurking in Austria at the time. Myto filled the third disc with some beautiful Manon exerpts if you want more Aragall."