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As the countess amid a superb cast, the Bulgarian Raina Kabaivanska is a joy to look at, moving with wondrous grace and holding a pose with affecting dignity apparently ad infinitum. Vocally she is in complete command, but the cameras are sometimes less than generous, when they concentrate too closely on the movements of her tongue, her teeth or chin. A more discrete distance would have lent enchantment.

Her troubadour should have been the late Franco Bonisolli and not Domingo; a contretemps at the dress rehearsal forced a panic-stricken substitution. It strains credulity in this production that the luxurious palace gardens should be lit by apparently the brightest moon in creation, thus making it impossible for Leonora not to avoid Piero Cappucilli's jealous Count and throw herself into his arms by mistake. Verdi's spitfire trio, with Count and Troubadour (Manrico) heading for a duel, cares not a rap for such improbabilities [listen -- DVD1 Act 1, 'Infida -- Qual Voce'].

Azucena (Fiorenza Cossotto). © ORF/TDK
Azucena (Fiorenza Cossotto). © ORF/TDK

As Azucena, the formidable Fiorenza Cossotto, took her part so seriously that, even at her final curtain, she glowered constant vengeance at the innocently applauding audience. Daughter of an incinerated mother who as ghost could reputedly turn herself into an owl or crow, she displayed an unfortunate lack of precision in the disposal of babies; nor does she have any time for her supposed son Manrico in his subconscious urge to spare the stricken Count during the duel [listen -- DVD1 Act II, 'Mal reggendo all' aspro assalto']. They turned out to be brothers, after all.

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Copyright © 21 November 2004 Robert Anderson, London UK


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