Following this Friday’s Roberto Alagna and Aleksandra Kurzak gala, the San Francisco Opera’s first production of the season, Il trovatore, opens a week from tonight, prompting Chris’s Cache to offer up a quintet of intriguing “forgotten” Leonora-Azucena pairings from the 1970s: Marisa Galvany and Sandra Warfield; Lotte Rysanek and Ruth Hesse; Sylvia Sass and Mignon Dunn; Giuliana Trombin and Mirella Parutto; and Tamara Milashkina and Grace Hoffman!

With the Met’s essential online archive still out of commission, I’m relying on my memory along with some internet research today, so forgive any lapses. Of the five sopranos, only Galvany and Sass appeared with the Met, though Milashkina, wife of tenor Vladimir Atlantov, appeared at the Met with the visiting Bolshoi Opera in 1975.

Galvany, a longtime star across the plaza at the New York City Opera, debuted at the Met in stressful circumstances when Shirley Verrett canceled her first local Norma, prompting Galvany to step in. In subsequent years, she made only a few more appearances including some on the Met tour. Her Leonora today was a performance I regret not attending as it took place in my hometown while I was in high school. But by then I was already a snobbish teen over the Dayton Opera!

Having created a sensation in Europe, Sass was promptly invited to the Met where her three Toscas in 1977 didn’t go very well and she wasn’t invited back. As far as I know, her only other US appearance came 15 years later when she sang Cherubini’s Medea (a perfect choice for a soprano often labeled a “Callas pretender”) in Boston in a concert performance in which her Neris was Rita Gorr!

Trombin made a single local appearance when Opera Orchestra of New York presented her Amalia in I Masnadieri in 1975 with William Lewis and Matteo Manuguerra. Neither Trombin or Lewis were Eve Queler’s first choices; does anyone recall whom they replaced at short notice? Trombin seems to have had a very brief career during the mid-1970s primarily in Italy, yet I find her Trovatore Leonora quite respectable.

Leonie’s sister Lotte sang regularly at the Vienna Staatsoper for decades. Sometimes, like today and in performances of La forza del destino, Der Freischütz or The Bartered Bride, she was the prima donna, but more often she was Musetta, Lola, or Micaela. The sisters appeared together in Vienna occasionally: as co-stars in Fidelio or Dalibor and just once in 1956 in Turandot. Most often however Lotte was Frau’s Voice of the Falcon or Elektra’s Fifth Maid, or 39 times she was Helmwige fading into the background behind Leonie’s ecstatic Sieglinde.

German Hesse and American Hoffman, both also Viennese regulars (the latter had a relatively short Met career), were primarily known for their German roles but between them they also sang other Verdi parts like Amneris, Ulrica, Preziosilla and Eboli.

Warfield, like her husband James McCracken, began in small roles at the Met. However, unlike him, she was rarely given leads at the house when they returned to the US after heading to Europe in search of stardom.

Parruto began as a soprano who can be heard as Leonora on a widely available Trovatore live recording with Franco Corelli. In the mid-1960s she transitioned to a much in-demand mezzo soprano in Italian houses. One significant US appearance was as Giovanna Seymour opposite Gilda Cruz-Romo in a 1968 Dallas Anna Bolena. Parutto’s di Luna today is Antonio Boyer, her husband.

Are there others who started out as Leonora before moving on to Azucena? Regina Resnik was one. In reverse order, veteran Azucena Grace Bumbry sang Leonora at a Met-in-the-Parks performance.

In addition to these sopranos and mezzos, today’s Trovatores present “forgotten” tenors, baritones and basses like Roberto Ilosfalvy, Pedro Lavirgen (who died in April of this year), Yuri Mazurok, Cornelius Opthof, Vicente Sardinero and Bonaldo Giaiotti. Dmitri Nabokov, the great writer’s son, often sang in Dayton: he was Raimundo with Roberta Peters and Barry Morell in Lucia di Lammermoor, the first opera I attended.

To the best of my knowledge, Milashkina, Galvany, Hesse, Sass (the youngest at 72), Dunn and Parutto are still with us. There’s a Giuliana Trombin active on Facebook whose friends include Adriana Maliponte and Anita Rachvelishvili so I think she must belong on the list as well.

Verdi: Il Trovatore

Leonora: Tamara Milashkina
Azucena: Grace Hoffman
Manrico: Robert Ilosfalvy
Di Luna: Yuri Mazurok
Ferrando: Tugomir Franc

Conductor: Horst Stein

Wiener Staatsoper
16 November 1972
In-house recording

Verdi: Il Trovatore

Leonora: Lotte Rysanek
Azucena: Ruth Hesse
Manrico: Pedro Lavirgen
Conde de Luna: Giuseppe Taddei
Ferrando: Bonaldo Giaiotti

Conductor: Anton Guadagno

Wiener Staatsoper
3 January 1974
In-house recording

Verdi: Il Trovatore

Leonora: Marisa Galvany
Azucena: Sandra Warfield
Manrico: James McCracken
Count Di Luna: Cornelius Opthof
Ferrando: Dimitri Nabokov

Conductor: Herbert Grossman

Dayton Opera
27 April 1974
In-house recording

Verdi: Il Trovatore

Leonora: Giuliana Trombin
Azucena: Mirella Parutto
Manrico: Amedeo Zambon
Conte di Luna: Antonio Boyer
Ferrando: Giovanni Antonini

Conductor: ?

8 September 1975
In-house recording

Verdi: Il Trovatore

Leonora: Sylvia Sass
Azucena: Mignon Dunn
Manrico: Giorgio Casellato-Lamberti
Di Luna: Vicente Sardinero
Ferrando: Agostino Ferrin

Conductor: Nello Santi

Hamburg Staatsoper
5 October 1977
In-house recording

No more “forgotten” salutes for a while, I promise!

Each of today’s Verdi performances can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a cloud with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

Never miss an episode of Chris’s Cache! Subscribe to this podcast via Apple Podcasts or RSS.