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Opera Stars in Concert
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

I vespri siciliani (1855) - Overture. La traviata (1853) - Lunga da leic Don Carlo (1867) - Per me giunto è il di supremod.
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)

I puritani (1835) - Il rival salvar tu deide.
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)

Les contes d’Hoffmann (1881) - Barcarolle & Duetab.
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Tosca (1900) - Vissi d’artea.
Giaocchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

Semiramide (1823) - Eccomi alfine in Babiloniab.
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)

Lucrezio Borgia (1833) - Vieni la mia vendettae.
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)

Faust (1859) - Alerte, alerteace.
aKatia Ricciarelli (soprano); bLucia Valentini-Terrani (mezzo); cAlfredo Kraus (tenor); dPaolo Coni (baritone); eRuggero Raimondi (bass)
Madrid Symphony Orchestra/Gian Paolo Sanzogno.
Rec. Plaza de Toros Monumental da Madrid.
Dolby digital. NTSC. 4:3.
IMMORTAL IMM950006 [55’00]

This is the second such volume to come my way. The first left me distinctly under-whelmed, suggesting that it might only be for die-hard Alfredo Kraus fans. Well, Kraus does feature here again, but there is much less of him. Interesting, though, to see Katia Ricciarelli and Ruggero Raimondi.

But passing interest only. The same poor picture quality that marred the first version remains. The orchestra and conductor on this occasion are marginally more on the ball, and some of the repertoire choices are interesting, mixed in with well-worn favourite snippets.

Verdi’s Vespri siciliani Overture presents an orchestra whose sound is rather cramped together, with thin tuttis. Nevertheless, there is some energy that runs through the performance (although brass are under-powered towards the end). Camera-work is a little strange - who wants to watch violins and violas playing accompaniment figures?.

The first vocal work is the Bellini excerpt, with Raimondi and Coni. Raimondi has a large voice and phrases naturally; Coni is nicely tonally differentiated form his partner. Raimondi shines later, too, imparting an impressive authority to ‘Vieni la mia vendetta’ from Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia (nice to hear this).

Kraus’s Traviata excerpt features lacklustre orchestral accompaniment and an inexpressive face from the soloist redolent of Michelangeli. Nevertheless, Kraus’s good diction and pitching meant that this was enjoyable. ‘Bollenti spiriti’ is lovingly phrased. The voice is on fairly good form, if not massively strong any more.

Ricciarelli is here on good form. Interesting that her solo number is ‘Vissi d’arte’, for her Tosca with Karajan (DG, 413 815-2) represents one of Ricciarelli’s more famous recordings. Here she is rapt, floating the voice nicely at the end. The Offenbach duet (with a magnificently warm, strong Lucia Valentini-Terrani) is a similar success.

Valentini-Terrani’s solo spot (from Semiramide) is an unqualified success. She is expressive in the slower sections (it all feels as if it is entirely natural to her), and her sense of line is beyond reproach. The multiplicity of camera angles, may detract, but this remains the highlight of the DVD (worth the price alone). At the end, she looks eminently pleased with herself - and with justification!).

Paolo Coni’s excerpt from Don Carlo (‘Carlos’ on the back of the case, despite the use of Italian text) reveals impressive breath control for the long melodies.

Finally, a Gounod Trio (so not a free-for-all, this time) Ricciarelli soars magnificently over the textures, but could we not have something that included la Valentini-Terrani?.

Again, a mixed bag with some interesting items.

Colin Clarke


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