This is a good example of the importance of the reissuing
of old recordings and making them available to a wider audience. You
can hear a style of performance just from the recent past (i.e. recorded
sound) which now seems as antique as those of 170 years ago, when Donizetti
was still composing. Since the "evolution" of the interpretation of
Donizetti and Bellini, a whole style of performance practice has been
lost, a victim of 3000 seat opera houses and scenery chewing performers.
For those of you raised on the Sutherland or Callas
Lucia standard of performance, might find this performance both surprising
and refreshing. Lina Pagliughi, our Lucia here, has a light, limpid
and beautiful soprano. Although her most important work was in the period
between the Wars, compared with Dame Joan's high-octane pipes, sounds
like those produced by Pagliughi could be from the composer's epoch
rather than ours. The style is also quite different from the high emotive
passion of the several Lucia versions by Maria Callas. Pagliughi, in
addition to brilliantly meeting the demands of the coloratura passages,
also valued the virtues of grace, elegance and careful delivery.
Tenor Giovanni Malipiero, the Edgardo, also exhibits
qualities of clarity, balance and refined vocal talent. Principally
known for his Italian repertory, he was widely popular in his native
land and sang in the opening concert at La Scala with Toscanini in 1946.
Giuseppe Manacchini, the Enrico, and Luciano Neroni, the Raimondo, also
contributed solid performances. There was also clear conducting by Ugo
Tansini and fine playing by the Orchestra and Chorus of the Italian
A word of warning: there are a lot of cuts in this
score that were common during this period. "Lucia highlights" sniffs
conductor Richard Bonynge and, indeed, his version on London with his
wife, Joan Sutherland and Pavarotti is about 40 minutes longer than
this recording. This disk makes amends by including 37 minutes of impressive
singing by Pagliughi, a full range of bel canto arias of Rossini, Bellini,
Donizetti and Verdi. My favourite is the last piece, an out of character
aria from Il Re by Giordano. There is no libretto with this set but
plot summaries are included in the notes. The surfaces are clean and
the sound is fresh and clear, as is common with a Ward Marston remastering.
In addition to introducing many to the extraordinary
talent of Lina Pagliughi, this Lucia is an imposing and vivid performance,
distinguished by the highest musical standards.