The Gramophone Choice
Plácido Domingo (ten) Ernani Mirella Freni (sop) Elvira Renato Bruson (bar) Don Carlo Nicolai Ghiaurov (bass) De Silva Jolanda Michieli (sop) Giovanna Gianfranco Manganotti (ten) Don Riccardo Alfredo Giacomotti (bass) Iago Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala, Milan / Riccardo Muti
EMI 381884-2 (128' · DDD · S/N) Recorded live 1982. Buy from Amazon
Renato Bruson’s Don Carlo is an assumption that’s as gripping dramatically as it is vocally. In his portrayal more than anywhere, the musical tension of Ernani becomes manifest, and everywhere Bruson offers superb Verdi-singing. Domingo’s Ernani is hardly less impressive and he benefits from being caught live onstage. His opening aria and cabaletta are full of delicate touches and obedience to the dynamic marks. In the last act, his recitative ‘Tutto ora tace d’intorno’ has great pathos, and his contributions to the final trio an overwhelming eloquence. Here, too, Freni achieves most, the etching-in of ‘Il riso del tuo volto fa ch’ io veda’ a brief utterance of happiness, most affecting, and her desperate appeals to Silva for mercy sung with brio.
In her opening aria and cabaletta, the famous ‘Ernani, Ernani’, too much is asked of a voice not really meant by nature for this kind of heavy duty, but none can quite match the sorrow and heartbreak of Elvira’s predicament that Freni manages in the theatre. Ghiaurov, rusty as his voice had become, creates a great impression of dignity and implacable strength, and many of those qualities are carried over into his singing. ‘Infelice’ is delivered with mature nobility, ‘Ah, io l’amo’ is intensely moving. Ghiaurov is denied Silva’s probably spurious cabaletta. Otherwise the work is given complete.
Muti conducts the score in exemplary manner. He has learnt when to allow his singers licence to phrase with meaning and when to press on. The La Scala chorus gives us the genuine sound of Italian voices in full flight, sounding much more inside their various assumptions than their rivals. The audience is occasionally in evidence, as are the onstage effects, but the atmosphere of being in an opera house and taking part, as it were, in a real occasion has all the advantages over the aseptic feeling of a studio.