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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Italian Opera Arias
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

La Traviata ‘Prelude’. cond. Georges Prêtre.
Rigoletto, ‘Questa o quella’. Alfredo Kraus (ten)
La forza del destino, ‘Pace, pace, mio dio’ Leontyne Price (sop).
Rigoletto, ‘La donna e mobile’. Placido Domingo (ten).
Rigoletto, ‘Caro nome’, Anna Moffo (sop).
Aida, ‘Celeste Aida’. Placido Domingo (ten).

Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Madama Butterfly, ‘Un bel di vedremo’. Leontyne Price (sop).
La Rondine, ‘Chi il bel sogno di Doretta’. Anna Moffo (sop).
La Boheme, ‘Mi chiamano mimi’. Montserrat Caballé (sop).
Tosca, ‘Recondita armonia’..Jussi Bjoerling (ten)
La Boheme, ‘Che gelida manina’. Richard Tucker (ten).
Tosca, ‘Vissi d'arte’. Leontyne Price (sop); ‘E lucevan le stele’. Placido Domingo (ten).
Gianni Schicchi, ‘O mio babbino caro’. Leontyne Price (sop)
Turandot, ‘Nessun dorma’, Ben Heppner (ten).

Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)

Andrea Chenier, ‘Come un bel di maggio’. Placido Domingo (ten).

Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)

L'Elisir d'amore. ‘Una furtiva lagrima’. Placido Domingo (ten).

Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1858-1919)

I Pagliacci, ‘Vesti la giubba’, Placido Domingo (ten).

Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

Il barbiere di siviglia, ‘Largo al factotum’
Recorded 1957-1992. Various orchestras and conductors.
Bargain price.
RCA/BMG 09026 63978 2 [72.59]



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The booklet front, which is what captures the browsing punter’s eye, features four names, those of bjoerling, caballé, domingo and price. Yes, I know, no capital letters, nor are there any in the title, the list of contents inside the booklet or on the back of the jewel case! I thought we had outgrown such juvenilia in presentation. Nor might RCA/BMG avoid criticism under trades description in respect of the four names on the front cover. Yes, Domingo features in six extracts and Leontyne Price in four, but Caballé and Bjoerling have only one track each, the same as all the other artists except Anna Moffo who features on two tracks. I have no difficulty with Moffo’s contributions, which are elegantly sung with good expression and appropriate tonal colour, and in the case of ‘Caro nome’ (tr 10), pin-point purity of coloratura. This extract is taken from Solti’s 1962 recording of Rigoletto for RCA as is Alfredo Kraus’s elegantly sung, but all too brief, ‘Questo o quella’ (tr 3). Most of the tracks featured are taken from the extensive RCA repertoire of complete opera recordings of the 1960s and 1970s when that company’s catalogue, artist roster and regular opera recordings were second to none. Exceptions here include Domingo’s ‘La donna é mobile’ (tr 5), and ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ (tr 2), taken from a recital disc conducted by Santi, and where self-indulgence overcomes the singer’s natural musicality as evidenced in other contributions taken from complete opera recordings.

Pride of Leontyne Price’s contributions is her singing of Verdi’s ‘Pace, pace’ (tr 18) from the first of her two recordings of La Forza del Destino that she made for RCA; full refulgent tone allied to a smooth legato and smoky colouration. Price’s singing of the famous arietta from Gianni Schicchi (tr 16) is vibrant albeit a little mature sounding for the part. I was not enamoured of Richard Tucker’s throaty ‘Che gelida manina’ (tr 12). Ben Heppner’s concluding ‘Nessun dorma’ (tr 19), whilst having true tenor tone lacks expression; pleasant on the ear, he might be singing the local telephone directory! As to Caballé, she lightens her tone to make an effective Mimi (tr 8), but considering the fabulous portrayals of Bellini and Donizetti ladies that she recorded for RCA it is an unimaginative selection. However, I greatly enjoyed Robert Merrill’s rendition of Figaro’s ‘Largo al factotum’ (tr 11). It is time RCA/BMG gave us a disc devoted to this fine baritone whose even tone and fine musicality graced many of their opera recordings.

The booklet front promotes a ‘24BIT/96KHZ Sound Dimension’ logo. This is explained as ‘allowing a previously unattainable high quality to be achieved in the remastering of analogue recordings’. Comparing tracks with those from the complete operas, the sound here is set at a distinctly higher level with some extra clarity discernible in the treble. The booklet gives brief notes on the composers in English and German. No individual recording dates are given. In fact the Bjoerling, set down in Rome in 1957 is the earliest, whilst Heppner’s contribution is the most recent recording. At the price this is a good enough offering to be slotted into the car CD player when setting off on a long journey. Certainly an hour of its contents will give an opera lover a pleasant journey.

Robert J Farr



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