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Len Mullenger:

The Best of Opera, Volume 4.

Various Works.

Various Artists.

Naxos 8.554682 [DDD] [77'58]

Crotchet  Amazon UK   Amazon USA

Compilations of well-known operatic arias are two-a-penny these days, and it is only to be expected that Naxos delve from time to time into their opera archives for your sixteen (or so) best loved tunes. Given the variable quality Naxos provide, ranging from the must-buys to the risible, it will come as no surprise that this disc is variable in the extreme. The relentless Meistersinger Overture that opens the compilation is uncomfortably harsh and is driven too hard by Johannes Wildner (presiding over the Polish NRSO). Hardly the most auspicious beginning.

Perhaps it's fairest to point out the highlights of the highlights first. Miriam Gauci's Sola, perduta, abbandonata is all the more powerful because of its admirable restraint. Unfortunately even this does not persuade us we are even vaguely in the vicinity of an opera house. Korngold's Glück, das mir verlieb from Die tote Stadt weaves a magical web of sound over which Katarina Dalayman and Thomas Sunnegardh spin their vocal web. Ewa Podles is glitteringly virtuoso in Nasqui all'affanno from Rossini's Cenerentola.

Vincenzo La Scola's Una furtiva lagrima from L'elisir d'amore is impressive in its refusal to rush. But taken out of its present context and set against multitudinous competition, it shrivels up and dies. Maria Dragoni shows some tenderness in Ritorno vincitor (Aida), which is more than can be said for Herbert Lippert's crass, unmusical, strained and rushed Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön (from Mozart's Zauberflöte, and not 'bezaubernd' enough, obviously). Maurizio Frusoni's Di quella pira from Trovatore is a competent run-through. The disc ends with in good old verismo fashion with Giacomo Aragall's version of Mamma, quel vino è generoso from Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana.


Zzzz Colin Clarke

Performance ** (overall)

Recording ***

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