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Editorial Board
Classical Editor
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Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
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Buywell Just Classical

Flower Duet
The World’s Most Beautiful Duets
Léo DELIBES (1836 – 1891)
1. Flower Duet: Dôme épais le jasmin [5:02]
Joan Sutherland (soprano); Jane Berbié (mezzo); L’Orchestre National de l’Opéra de Monte-Carlo/Richard Bonynge
rec. 1967
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819 – 1880)
Les Contes d’Hoffmann
2. Barcarolle: Belle nuit; ô nuit d’amour [4:10]
Joan Sutherland (soprano); Huguette Tourangeau (mezzo); Les Choeurs de la Radio Suisse Romande; Pro Arte de Lausanne et Du Brassus; L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Richard Bonynge
rec. 1971
Engelbert HUMPERDINCK (1856 – 1921)
Hänsel und Gretel
3. Evening Prayer: Abends will ich schlafen gehen [2:56]
Lucia Popp (soprano); Brigitte Fassbaender (mezzo); Wiener Philharmoniker/Sir Georg Solti
rec. 1978
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792 – 1868)
4. Alle più calde immagini [3:53]
Joan Sutherland (soprano); Marilyn Horne (mezzo); London Symphony Orchestra/Richard Bonynge
rec. 1965-1966
Hector BERLIOZ (1803 – 1869)
Béatrice et Bénédict
5. Vous soupirez; Madame? … Nuit paisible et sereine [11:52]
April Cantelo (soprano); Helen Watts (contralto); London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Colin Davis
rec. 1962
George Frideric HANDEL (1685 – 1759)
6. Io t’abbraccio [5:43]
Joan Sutherland (soprano); Alicia Nafé (mezzo); Welsh National Opera Orchestra/Richard Bonynge
rec. 1985
Gioachino ROSSINI
Messe solenelle
7. Qui tollis peccata mundi [6:58]
Daniella Dessi (soprano); Gloria Scalchi (mezzo); Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna/Riccardo Chailly
rec. 1993
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901)
Messa da Requiem
8. Recordare [4:05]
Joan Sutherland (soprano); Marilyn Horne (mezzo); Wiener Philharmoniker/Sir Georg Solti
rec. 1967
Richard STRAUSS (1864 – 1949)
Der Rosenkavalier
9. Mir ist die Ehre (Presentation of the silver rose) [7:32]
Hilde Güden (soprano); Elisabeth Söderström (soprano); Wiener Philharmoniker/Silvio Varviso
rec. 1964
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924)
Madama Butterfly
Flower Duet
10. Una nave da Guerra [2:37]
11. Scuoti quella frondo di ciliego [5:20]
Renata Tebaldi (soprano); Fiorenza Cossotto (mezzo); Orchestra dell’Accademia di Santa Cecilia; Roma/Tullio Serafin
rec. 1958
Les Troyens
12. Sa voix fait naître dans mon sein [5:17]
Franҫoise Pollet (soprano); Hélène Perraguin (mezzo); Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal/Charles Dutoit
rec. 1993
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801 – 1835)
13. Mira; o Norma … Si; fino all’ore estreme [7:56]
Joan Sutherland (soprano); Marilyn Horne (mezzo); London Symphony Orchestra/Richard Bonynge
rec. 1964


Experience Classicsonline

There is something decidedly familiar about this compilation. Similar programs with lollipops from popular operas have been issued over and over again by the big companies which have riches aplenty in their archives. And there is nothing wrong with that, since there seems to be a market for it. I do hope though that some of the buyers will become interested enough to search out what else there is by that particular composer or from that particular opera - maybe end up buying some complete recordings. The choices here are certainly, most of them anyway, of such interpretative quality that they make tempting tasters.

The most frequently heard singer is Joan Sutherland, who appears in six duets, three of them together with Marilyn Horne. These are justly famous recordings from the 1960s when Sutherland’s voice was at its most beautiful and free from the hollowness and beat in the voice that started to creep in towards the end of the 1970s. Anyone sampling the virtuoso Semiramide duet, or the wonderfully vocalized Recordare from Verdi’s Messa da Requiem, culled from Solti’s first recording, or even more alluring, the duet from Norma, will find readings that are hard to surpass. It’s true that Sutherland’s consonants are sketchy, but who really cares when everything is produced with such golden tone. The two French items that open the program are also marvellous, and especially in the Lakmé duet Sutherland and Jane Berbié blend so well. The only questionable item is the Rodelinda duet, surely the least familiar number here. It was recorded when Sutherland was approaching sixty and the voice isn’t as steady as it is in the other duets.

Golden singing is also to be heard in the little evening prayer from Hänsel und Gretel, where Lucia Popp and Brigitte Fassbaender are lovely twins; April Cantelo and Helen Watts are wonderful in the magical duet scene from Beatrice et Bénédict and Françoise Pollet and Hélène Perraguin make the most of Didon’s and Anna’s duet from Les Troyens. Qui tollis from Rossini’s Messe solennelle isn’t very solemn but it is well sung, and Renata Tebaldi and the young Fiorenza Cossotto offer grandiose Italianate singing in the flower duet from Madama Butterfly, so well known, obviously, that the track-list doesn’t even mention from which opera it comes.

The presentation of the rose from Der Rosenkavalier is worth a special comment, since this is the only number not culled from a complete set. Decca recorded the opera complete in 1969 in Vienna with Georg Solti conducting and with Régine Crespin singing the Feldmarschallin. But five years before that they had made a single LP with highlights from the opera, also with Crespin, and with Hilde Güden a delectable Sophie, singing opposite Elisabeth Söderström’s youthful Octavian. It is a pity they didn’t record this trio complete, since Crespin, good though she is on the Solti set, was even better in 1964. It could be mentioned that Ms Söderström during her career sang all three female roles in this opera – and very successfully at that. Her Feldmarschallin, which I saw in Stockholm in the early 1970s, was definitely in the same league as that of Schwarzkopf and Crespin.

Jaded collectors are likely to have many of these items on their shelves already, but those who haven’t and feel tempted by the contents here, need not hesitate. Decca’s recordings during this period were always state-of-the-art.

Göran Forsling 




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