OP0842. I VESPRI SICILIANI, Live Performance, 9 March, 1974, w.Levine Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Montserrat Caballé, Nicolai Gedda, Sherrill Milnes, Justino Diaz, etc. (Italy) 2-GOP 746. Very Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 8012719994626
“…There is a great deal to admire and much to enjoy in the musical effort of a cast headed by Montserrat Caballé and Sherrill Milnes under the responsive leadership of James Levine….Given Levine's perceptive ear for such values and Dexter's sincere striving for essentials in direction, VESPRI asserts and undeniable claim to be truly Verdian….Caballé cannot, of course, create such an infuriated Elena as Callas was, but she is superbly qualified to go even beyond her predecessor in glorifying the older order of vocal challenge. Her exquisitely defined version of ‘Arrigo! ah parli a un core’ in the next to the last scene aroused a storm of applause that was quieted only when the singer gestured for it to stop and let the opera continue. This was an echo of the success Caballé had enjoyed a week or so before in Carnegie Hall for her finesse in seldom-heard arias of Handel and Vivaldi as well as Bellini and Donizetti. It is a reminder, too, that in works which cross stylistic lines, as VESPRI does, it is better for an impresario to cast for strength to one side or the other rather than compromise both. In this instance of the operatic bargain, the choice of Caballé purchases beauty of line and phraseology, rare at any time, at the price of dramatic credibility. It will have to do until the next Callas comes along.
The other principals had less virtuosity to dispense but a variety of alternative values. Best balanced among them was the effort of Milnes as Monforte, governor of the occupying French….Perhaps the most enduring outcome of this risky venture is the contribution of Levine to its musical success. The performance of the overture was, as has been his wont, physically forceful and a shade brutal aesthetically. But as the performance progressed, welcome variations in accent and emphasis began to accumulate. In the final scene, the adjustment of the orchestra to Caballé's finely spun sound and the implementation of Verdi's subtle contrasts of indecision and excitement compel the creation of a new timetable for Levine's emergence to musical maturity...like now?”
- Irving Kolodin, SATURDAY REVIEW, 23 March, 1974