Friday, October 21, 2011

'Trovatore' hits high note with a boost from France

In a post earlier this week, I pointed out that an extra high C that Lisa Daltirus adds to Opera Carolina's "Il Trovatore" harks back to the celebrated soprano Leontyne Price. In the meantime, I've gotten a handle on where the flourish in Act 4 -- a Price trademark -- actually originated.

I had time one night to check around through CDs and LPs on the shelves at home. Nothing bore out my original impression -- which I kept quiet about a couple of days ago, luckily -- that the alteration rose in Germany. I finally tried out the very first recording of "Trovatore," made in France in 1912.

Not only is it sung in French, but it's based on a revised version that Verdi himself crafted for use in Paris. The biggest change: Because even Verdi knew when he had to comply with the fashions of Paris -- where audiences demanded ballet -- a dance sequence pops up in Act 2. It's predominantly bright, perky and hardly recognizable as Verdi. And in Act 4, when the offstage voices of the tenor and chorus chime in with the heroine, soprano Jane Morlet lets fly with the same high C that later became fodder for Price -- who, for my money, did it better.

Shining high notes were a specialty of Price's during her heyday. In that passage of "Trovatore" -- where there are four opportunities to throw in the C -- she sometimes did it twice. Opera buffs cherish a recording made in 1962 during a fireball of a performance at the Salzburg Festival in Austra. If you enjoy full-throated singing, it's worth tracking down.