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Opera Highlights - Volume 1
Antonio VIVALDI (1678–1741)
Orlando furioso
1. Sorge l’irato nembo [9:47]
Marilyn Horne (mezzo)
San Francisco Opera Orchestra/Randall Behr
rec. San Francisco Opera
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792–1868)
La Cenerentola
2. Nacqui all’affanno [9:43]
Dame Ann Murray (mezzo)
Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Riccardo Chailly
rec. Salzburg Festival
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797–1848)
Lucia di Lammermoor
3. The Mad Scene [9:32]
Dame Joan Sutherland (soprano)
Australian Opera Orchestra/Richard Bonynge
rec. Australian Opera
L’Elisir d’amore
4. Quanto è bella, quanto è cara
5. Una furtiva lagrima [9:45]
Roberto Alagna (ten)
6. Prendi, prendi, per me sei libero [9:24]
Angela Gheorghiu (soprano)
Orchestra of the Opéra National de Lyon/Evelino Pidò
rec. Opéra National de Lyon
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801–1835)
7. Casta Diva [9:51]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)
Il trovatore
8. D’amor sull’ali rosee [9:05]
Dame Joan Sutherland (soprano)
orchestra of the Australian Opera/Richard Bonynge
rec. Australian Opera
 La forza del destino
9. Son giunta! Grazie, o Dio! [9:39]
Galina Gorchakova (soprano)
10. Morir! Tremenda cosa! … Urna fatale del mio destino [9:45]
Nikolai Putilin (baritone)
11. La vita è inferno all’infelice [9:57]
Gegam Grigorian (tenor)
Orchestra and Chorus of Kirov Opera/Valery Gergiev
rec. Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834–1886)
La Gioconda
12. Suicidio! [9:45]
Eva Marton (soprano)
Vienna State Opera Orchestra/Adam Fischer
rec. Vienna State Opera
Sound format: PCM Stereo; Picture format: 16:9; 4:3
ARTHAUS MUSIC 102 047 [107:00]

As can be seen from the heading, Arthaus have gathered some of the foremost opera stars of today and yesteryear in a collection of well-known arias, culled from actual performances. The gimmick – if that is what it is – is that the singers also give spoken introductions to their excerpts, in several of the cases recorded much later. The booklet gives no clue as to when the excerpts were recorded, the copyright years presumably relate to the introductions. They are of variable quality but it is of course nice to get to know the person behind the character. Real charmers are Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu, who really communicate, not only with the viewers but also between themselves, warm, infatuated and tongue-in-cheek, sometimes teenager giggly. Their vocal and scenic contributions are also among the best, Alagna’s sulky country boy to a T and Gheorghiu fresh and alluring in red 1950s polka-dot dress. Alagna sings Una furtiva lagrima in the original key and also embellishes it quite extensively but tastefully.

Marilyn Horne opens the programme with the one rarity, Vivaldi’s Orlando furioso, and she sings magnificently with her breathtaking technique at breakneck speed. The acting is old-fashioned with sweeping gestures, maybe trying to recreate baroque practice. Ann Murray is of course a very different mezzo: light and elegant and giving a lovingly nuanced reading of Cinderella. Her coloratura technique is just as assured as Horne’s.

Joan Sutherland introduces her three arias in extremely well articulated Queen’s English; a contrast with her largely consonant-bereft singing. She is deeply involved in two of her signature roles, Lucia and Norma and her technique is as superb as ever. That beat that crept into her voice with advancing age is a bit annoying. Her Trovatore Leonora is less well-known and others have been more natural exponents of this role. That said, she has a trill to put most others in the shadow.

There are three excerpts from Gergiev’s Kirov production of La forza del destino in the original version as it was first presented in St Petersburg in 1862. Galina Gorchakova is an exciting Leonora and the sturdy-looking Gegam Grigorian is an involved and very nuanced Alvaro. The otherwise so reliable Nikolai Putilin unfortunately sounds worn but no one can deny that he has stage presence.

The final number, Suicidio! from La Gioconda, is a knock-out with Eva Marton letting loose her turbo voice. This is among the best singing I have heard from her.

There is a volume 2 waiting in the wings and ideally I would prefer more real scenes with action and interaction between the singers instead of monologues as here. The duet that concludes Angela Gheorghiu’s aria is by some distance the most engaging part of this DVD. Still it is nice to have these excerpts with favourite singers when I am not in the mood for a full opera. I will not want the spoken introductions every time.

Göran Forsling 



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