And then they said.....
Gramophone Magazine Alan Blythe
Il Trovatore with James Levine and the Met Opera Orchestra and Chorus. June 1994
"The Levine/Verdi cycle, as we now must term it, is turning out to be an important and worthy contender in a highly competitive field. The latest version is the most recommendable among the modern versions of Trovatore, with a reading all-round that finely balances the lyrical with the melodramatic elements of the score."
"Once Leonora appears the reading takes on a true Verdian style. Millo floats "come d'aurato" effortlessly on a fine line, then her account of "tacea la Notte" matches the very best on disc, i.e. Those of Milanov, (Cellini), Price (Mehta), and Callas (Karajan) on CD, her style and tone recalling most potently those of Milanov. Throughout her part is replete with the right kind of Verdian spinto sound, the correct phraseology, the inner feeling for the role. Outside the Convent she fills the recitative beginning, "O dolce amiche" with just the right plaintive note. Leonora's Act 4 aria is glowingly sung and, as elsewhere, the ability to manage Milanov-like pianissimos is arresting, nowhere more so then in her affecting accented "Prima che d'altri vivere" in the finale. The phrase is on a perfectly judged diminuendo. This is a reading to please the ear and move the heart."
ALAN BLYTHE AIDA JAMES LEVINE AND METROPOLITAN OPERA ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS. VERDI SERIES FOR SONY CLASSICAL
"THIS IS A DISTINCTIVELY SUNG, VIGOROUSLY, OFTEN SENSITIVELY CONDUCTED AND PLAYED, FAITHFULLY RECORDED READING OF THE OLD FAVORITE THAT SHOULD PLEASE ANYONE LOOKING FOR A MODERN VERSION."
"My enthusiasm goes rather further in the case of Millo's reading of the title role, In the Interview on page 1968, the diva tells us that she has listened to most of the notable interpreters from the past, distant and not so distant, and the study shows not in any imitative way but in an authentically spinto kind of singing that has been hard to discern in other recent renderings. The firm yet vibrant, dark-hued, voluptuous tone is leavened by an appealing brightness at the top and an ability to float that is wholly natural, never contrived. Listen to the "Pieta ti prenda" in the scene with Amneris or the "Numi pieta" at its end and you'll hear how Millo is able to shade her timbre and her phrasing that ideally suits the music.
The conflicting emotions of "Ritorna vincitor" are faithfully delineated, the reflective, elegiac mood of "O patria mia" perfectly caught, with the final awkward passage managed par excellence. Still better is the instinctively right shading in "La, tra foreste vergine" in the Act 3 duet with Radames and the poised singing of "O terra addio" in the finale. In these examples the voice is all a piece and the legato is seamless. All this confirms the excellent impression Millo made on me when the opera was televized from the Metropolitan Opera a few years back, a performance that not a few seasoned buffs. After hearing the whole interpretation, I took down form the shelves some famous prima donne on disc:
Millo was shown more youthful than Milanov on the Perlea/RCA (but it's that great diva at her best that Millo most potently recalls), more vocally appealing than Tebaldi for Karajan Decc, more reliable of voice than Callas for the Serafin/EMI (though not as unique in accents) more involved and technically skilled than Price (in her first version on Decca under Solti), fuller of tone than Caballe (Muti/EMI). I wouldn't claim that in every respect Millo is superior to these great sopranos or to Giannini on the old HMV set now on Rodolphe/Harmonia Mundi and Pearl, simply she is at least their peer based on this evidence. Millo is the most urgent reason for acquiring this set.....
I shall not be dispensing with my Callas/Serafin set or my Caballe/Muti or the readings headed by Gianinni (Sabajno) and Milanov (Perlea), all of which are well tried treasurable experiences. But the new contender, which has many similarities with the grandly sung Solti (down to the feeling that one is sitting rather near the brass), deserves to be heard in their company, most of all for its very special Aida.