Aureole etc.

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1868)
Lucia di Lammermoor, (highlights)
Sir Edgardo di Ravenswood, Neil Schicoff (ten); Lucia, Edita Gruberova (sop); Lord Enrico Ashton, Alexandru Agache (bar); Raimondo Bidebent, Alastair Miles (bass); Lord Arturo Bucklaw, Bernard Lombardo (ten); Alisa, Diana Montague (mezzo)
'Preludio'… 'Percorrete le spiagge vicine'
'Cruda, funesta smania'
'Regnava nel silenzio'
'Quando, rapito in estasi'
'Sulla tomba che rinserra'
'Qui di sposa eterna fede'... 'Ah! Verranno a te sull'aure'
'Soffriva net pianto'
'Chi mi frena in tal momento?'
'D'immenso giubilo'
'Ah! cessate, ah cessate quel contento'
'Oh giusto cielo!'... 'Il dolce suono'
'Ohimè! sorge il tremendo fantasma'
'S'avanza Enrico!'
'Spargi d'amaro pianto'
'Fra poco a me ricovero'
'Tu che a Dio spiegasti l'ali'
The Ambrosian Singers
London Symphony Orchestra/Richard Bonynge
Recorded at St. Augustine's Church, London, in September 1991
Bargain Price
ELATUS 2564-60128-2 [71.49]

The Teldec recording of the complete opera, from which these highlights are derived, was issued in the U.K. in the autumn of 1992. It, and the 1990 recording featuring Cheryl Studer and Domingo (DG) which followed a few months later, vied for market share with Joan Sutherland's 1961 and 1971 recordings (Decca) and Callas's two from the 1950s. Whilst both Studer's Lucia and Domingo's Edgardo have greater tonal variety and colour than their counterparts on this issue, Gruberova's girlish Lucia, with pinpoint coloratura, appealed to many, as did Bonynge's more stylish conducting. The complete recording, like these highlights, was obviously conceived and structured to fit Gruberova's Lucia. A singer of manifest gifts, particularly in the lyric coloratura bel canto repertoire, it is to be regretted that the 'major' recording companies should have so sadly neglected her. It has been her 'own' Nightingale label that has provided us with her interpretations of some of the major roles in this fach. Often linked to theatre performances these issues have been limited in their appeal by the presence of less than top quality co-principal singers. Perhaps the international appeal of Sutherland deterred companies from featuring a singer mainly, but not wholly, based in Germanic Europe. In many ways Gruberova's voice and coloratura skills are akin to Beverly Sills; both singers lacking the depth of tone and palette of colour that Sutherland brings to the part in both her recordings. However, Gruberova's singing and interpretation are good and her diction is immeasurably superior. In the 'mad scene' she follows the flute with fluency (tr.12) and characterizes well if without the sheer impact and dynamism of Sutherland.

The surrounding 'international' cast all sing adequately if without particular distinction. Schicoff is brighter in tone and less inclined to 'can belto' than on some of his recorded interpretations. His 'Fra poco', and 'Tu che a Dio', from the final scene (trs.15-16) are well shaped and expressed, if without the tonal beauty that Pavarotti evinces (Decca, 1971). Agache as the villain brother has good tone and vocal colour but is a little blustery at times, whilst the lean bass of Miles, as the two faced Raimondo, is well tuned and characterised. What the principals lack, and the chorus too, is Italianate 'squilla'; that particular quality of colour of voice, allied to turn of phrase, of the native. In this respect, this recording is only marginally different than both of the Sutherlands or the DG. This is where the Callas recordings do score with La Scala forces and Italian co-principals. However, the later, stereo version is badly let down by the singing of both the diva herself and Tagliavini as Edgardo. The sound of the earlier mono recording is not of the best.

A competitive highlights disc from Sutherland's 1971 recording is available in Decca's mid-price 'Opera Gala' series at nearly twice the price of this issue. It is good value in that it contains over half the music that is spread over three (un-competitive) full priced discs. The only other highlights disc listed is from the second Callas version. As well as poor singing it has only sixty minutes of music. If you want the complete opera, the DG and Sutherland's 1961 recording are now available on two mid-price discs.

The present recording is in a clear warm acoustic with the orchestra forward of the singers although Gruberova's Lucia seems more favoured in this latter respect. Bonynge conducts slightly more spaciously than he did for his wife in 1971; above all he has a natural feel for the flow of this music. The leaflet gives an adequate synopsis of the story, in English, French and German, which would have been improved by being track related! All things considered, this is a generous sample of an under-recorded singer performing music she knows and loves. It can be thoroughly enjoyed.

Robert J Farr

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