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An Evening with Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
La traviata, Act 3
Joan Sutherland (soprano) - Violetta; Luciano Pavarotti (tenor) - Alfredo; Leo Nucci (baritone) - Germont; Hillary Johnsson (mezzo) - Annina; James Courtney (bass) - Doctor Grenville
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Lucia di Lammermoor, Act 1, Scene 2; Act 3, Scene 3
Joan Sutherland (soprano) - Lucia; Luciano Pavarotti (tenor) - Edgardo; Ariel Bybee (mezzo) - Alisa; Julien Robbins (bass) - Raimondo
Giuseppe VERDI
Rigoletto, Act 3
Joan Sutherland (soprano) - Gilda; Luciano Pavarotti (tenor) - The Duke of Mantua; Leo Nucci (baritone) - Rigoletto; Isola Jones (mezzo) - Maddalena; Ferruccio Furlanetto (bass) - Sparafucile
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus/Richard Bonynge
rec. live, Metropolitan Opera, New York, 11 January 1987
Picture Format: 4:3; Sound Format: LPCM Stereo; DTS 5.1 Surround
DECCA 0743229 [115:00]  


Experience Classicsonline

The gala evening filmed here was given in aid of the Met's Pension Fund. Contrary to most such evenings we are here given four fully-staged scenes from three operas that were central to Sutherland's and Pavarotti's repertoire. We are spared the usual haphazard bits and pieces out of context from sundry operas. Of course there was a lot of nostalgia surrounding this event. Sutherland was nearing the end of her illustrious career, giving her last appearance at the Met less than three years later, and she was past sixty here. Pavarotti, who was nine years younger, was still in mid-career and his last appearance in the house was as late as March 2004. The two megastars often sang together in these roles, both at the Met and elsewhere. There is undoubtedly excellent rapport between them, which can be seen in the many close-ups. What is also all too obvious from the scrutiny of the cameras is that neither of them looks their role any more. All these characters are supposed to be quite young and even though we have got used to this age anomaly in the theatre, where the distance and good make-up can work wonders, here in close encounter we are mercilessly aware of the passing years. In Sutherland's case the actual sounds also reveal the same fact. Her technique, her impeccable runs and trills, are still there and the voice is as smooth as ever but it has paled and that beat on many sustained notes is quite prominent. Her notorious lack of consonants is less disturbing than on many of her recordings and she sings with a lot of feeling. She is very convincing as Violetta, whereas Pavarotti is more neutral but in the final outbursts he becomes quite impassioned and he sings the opening of Parigi, o cara softly as it should be. Leo Nucci is excellent as Germont. Richard Bonynge draws impassioned playing from the strings in the prelude but the string sound, on my equipment anyway, is over-bright. 

Lucia was the role that brought Ms Sutherland to world fame and she was uncommonly well attuned to the part, sounding still youthful. I remember hearing her at Covent Garden two years before this - singing opposite an inspired Carlo Bergonzi - and was surprised at her rejuvenation. Pavarotti obviously had the same effect on her and the duet is glowingly sung by both. Pavarotti on his own is heard in the final scene of the opera and is in wonderful vocal shape, softening his voice admirably at ... per te. I wish though that he had economized on his fortes and saved them for the climaxes - which Bergonzi did so superbly - but the intensity is tangible. 

In the last act from Rigoletto Pavarotti is ebullient and charming in La donna e mobile and the quartet is thrilling but not very nuanced. Ferruccio Furlanetto and Isola Jones are splendid in their roles. Isola Jones is the sexiest Maddalena I've ever seen. As for Leo Nucci he is a properly tortured Rigoletto and the final scene is deeply moving. Sutherland sings well as Gilda and the whole evening is a splendid document of three of her and Pavarotti's best roles. There’s also first class assistance from the rest of the cast. Filmed recitals are normally quite a dull business but this is something quite different. I am sure I will return to this DVD quite often. 

Göran Forsling 




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