Only the four best singers in the world

Only the four best singers in the world


norman lebrecht

February 05, 2017

Arturo Toscanini, asked what was required to cast Il Trovatore, is said to have replied: ‘Only the four best singers in the world’.

Vienna did not quite achieve that elite distinction in its first new Trovatore of the 21st century, but it came close, breathtakingly close.

It is hard to imagine there is a more moving Leonora anywhere at the moment than Anna Netrebko, visually eye-catching and vocally incomparable. She commands the stage with ease and uses her pianissimo to even greater effect than her formidable great fortes.

Roberto Alagna gave his all as Manrico, sometimes more than his all, so determined was he to surmount the massed sound of two armies and an orchestra. In tender moments, notably in duet with his doomed mother Azucena, he was compassion itself.

Luciana D’Intino’s Azucena walked the edge of madness across four acts while simultaneously giving the impression of being the only sane person on stage, secure in her vocal serenity.

Ludovic Tezier was beyond evil as the Conte di Luna, expressing his awareness of the wrong he was doing with several shades of musical subtlety.

Daniele Abbado directed with taste and discretion, setting the opera in the Spanish Civil War; Marco Armiliano conducted with an Abbado-like cohesion; and the chorus and Vienna Philharmonic orchestra were, as so often, in a class all their own.

The bonus? Jongmin Park, was a flawless Ferrando, rolling out the complicated backstory without one superfluous gesture. A Vienna ensemble member, aged 30, he may well be the next great bass.

When opera is this intense, you wonder why it can’t always be like this.


Netrebko with conductor Armiliato. Photo (c) Michael Poehn


  • Alexander says:

    I’m glad for you that you managed to attend such a lovely opera performance.
    The only thing I would like to add to your brief review is that AN is a very positive person, a kind of huge energetic donor, who invigorates and “recharges” people via such an exquisite art as the Art of singing.
    I have never felt bad listening to her speeches in her interviews or Instagram short videos. She inspires optimism what is priceless nowadays. Just my opinion, of course.

  • Una says:

    I loved Covent Garden’s Trovatore here in England this week – so did everyone else, given too that we don’t often get the opera in repertory.

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    “Luciana D’Intino’s Azucena walked the edge of madness across four acts while simultaneously giving the impression of being the only sane person on stage, secure in her vocal serenity.”

    You must be joking. She has no middle voice whatsoever, chests up to the middle of the stave then heads thereafter. Also utterly devoid of any form of musical intelligence.

  • SoCal Dan says:

    Those of us who watch Wiener Staatsoper’s livestream (available by subscription) are well-aware of Jongmin Park’s superb singing.

  • DESR says:

    Great you enjoyed it, Normanno, but one suspects you need to squeeze in more performances to lubricate the critical faculties a tad more? Had you ingested more than your body weight in sachertorte?

  • Ungeheuer says:

    How exactly are these the 4 greatest singers? I found the performance subpar, frankly. No one has a good compass for pitch and the voices are thready and worn, old sounding, including Netrebko’s. And this hack, Armiliato, is puzzling. How is he getting gigs? The performance of 5 February is here for listening. Judge for yourselves.

  • David Geary says:

    Wasn’t it Enrico Caruso who said that only you need the four greatest singers in the world? It doesn’t sound loike something Toscanininwould have said.

  • David Osborne says:

    I remember playing in the pit for Trovatore as a teenager. The great thing about playing those early Verdi operas is that the orchestration is so basic you can relax and concentrate on what’s happening on stage. I really like it so it’s nice to see it being taken seriously again given what the Marx Brothers did to it…

  • Rowena Shepard says:

    Tézier is amazing, and he’s about the only baritone in this role today who leaves me fully satisfied. The others can be good, great even, but they just makes me miss Dima.