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Divos and Divas
Track and performance details at end of review
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Given the ‘cast-list’ of this double album - in terms of composers, singers, orchestras and conductors alike - it is unsurprising that it contains much that is well worth the hearing. I suspect that individual prospective purchasers will have each to decide whether, for them, this is the best context in which to hear these performances.

If your fascination is with opera’s powers, so splendidly described by Peter Conrad in the preface to his book A Song of Love and Death (1989) - “It is the song of our irrationality, of the instinctual savagery which our jobs and routines and our non-singing voices belie, of the music our bodies make. It is an art devoted to love and death (and especially to the cryptic alliance between them); to the definition and the interchangeability of the sexes; to madness and devilment; to drink when Don Giovanni sings his so-called champagne aria, to eating when Carmen invites Don José to gobble up everything in the tavern; and to blasphemy against a Christian religion that reproves this bodily glory and chastens the organism in which the voice is warmly housed” - then, surely, it is to whole operas, with (at their best) their complex studies of human emotions and social relationships, of the interaction of natural and supernatural, rather than to individual arias that you will want to listen.

If your love is primarily of great singing, you will presumably have assembled (or be trying to assemble) a collection of the recordings of your favourite singers. You won’t feel equally enthusiastic about all the singers represented here. Of those you already love, two tracks will not be enough - and you may already have the disc(s) from which they come - and it seems unlikely that you would suddenly discover a new passion on the strength of the brief examples offered here.

But - perhaps - if opera is relatively new to you this is the kind of anthology which might lead you further in, might encourage you to explore the work of particular singers or even of particular composers. Unfortunately, as tends to be the way of such things, there are no notes to help the neophyte, no summaries of arias, let alone texts or translations, no indications of dramatic context, no sense of operatic or musical history. Wouldn’t it be good if an anthology like this could, say, have its own website where such help was offered, where some such guidance was provided?

As it is, we are left with a very largely enjoyable collection which offers a sampling of some of the most popular operatic singers of today, within the inevitable limitations of one label’s back catalogue. Some of the individual choices are surely rather unfortunate - so that we get Bryn Terfel singing Mozart (excellent) and singing an uninspired number from Les Miserables. We have some absolute greats here - Domingo and Caballé spring to mind; we have some undoubtedly interesting and important figures - such as Juan Diego Flórez, Cecilia Bartoli and Anna Netrebko; we have some figures who (by the very highest standards - which a title such as this album carries seems to imply) are perhaps best described as promising - such as Erwin Schrott and Nicole Cabell. In terms of repertoire, too, the selection is fairly heterogeneous, though some might feel that Puccini looms unduly large and that Verdi has too slight a presence.

But perhaps I am being unduly serious about it all - why not just sit back and enjoy? There’s almost nothing here that isn’t likely to be found enjoyable by most listeners - unless they have a rooted objection to the very idea of so miscellaneous a collection. Still, having largely enjoyed the listenings I gave it in order to write this review, I am not sure how often I am ever likely to play it again …

Glyn Pursglove   

Details
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Una furtiva lagrima (from L’elisir d’amore) [4:42]
Juan Diego Flórez , Orchestra Sinfonico di Milano Giuseppe Verdi/Riccardo Frizza
Agustin LARA (1897-1970)
Granada [4:15]
Juan Diego Flórez, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra/Miguel Harth-Bedoya
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
La fleur que tu m’avais jetée (from Carmen) [3:56]
Plácido Domingo, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Georg Solti
Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)
Dein ist mein ganzes herz (from Das Land des Lächelns) [3:36]
Plácido Domingo, Orchestra del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma and Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Zubin Mehta
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Che gelida manina (from La Bohème) [5:07]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Morgenlich leuchtend (Prize Song) (from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg) [5:16]
Jonas Kaufmann, Prague Philharmonic Orchestra/Marco Armiliato
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Deh vieni alla finestra (from Don Giovanni) [2:13]
Bryn Terfel, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Georg Solti
Claude-Michel SCHÖNBERG (b.1944)
Stars (from Les Miserables) [2:52]
Bryn Terfel, David Hartley (piano), Steve Pearce (bass guitar), Ralph Salmins (drums), Orchestra of Welsh National Opera/Paul Gemignani
Gaetano DONIZETTI
Quanto e bella, quanto e cara (from L’elisir d’amore) [2:56]
Roberto Alagna, Elena Dan (soprano) Chœr et Orchestre de l’Opéra National de Lyon/Evelino Pidò
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Firenze e come un albero fiorito (from Gianni Schicci) [2:27]
Roberto Alagna, Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Bruno Bartoletti
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
La donna è mobile (from Rigoletto) [2:10]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Addio, firito asil (from Madama Butterfly) [2:07]
Josef Calleja, Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi/Riccardo Chailly
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
E lucevan le stelle (from Tosca) [3:13]
José Carreras, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/Sir Colin Davis
Eduardo DI CAPUA (1865-1917)
O sole mio [3:18]
José Carreras, English Chamber Orchestra/Edoardo Müller
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Non più andrai (from Le nozze di Figaro) [3:53]
Erwin Schrott, Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana/Riccardo Frizza
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
Casta Diva (from Norma) [6:48]
Cecilia Bartoli, International Chamber Soloists, Maria Goldschmidt (flute), Orchestra La Scintilla/Adam Fischer
George Frederic HANDEL (1685-1759)
Lascia la spina, cogli la rosa (from Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno) [5:53]
Cecilia Bartoli, Les Musiciens du Louvre/Marc Minkowski
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
O mio babbino caro (from Gianni Schicci) [2:55]
Renée Fleming, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras
Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Mĕsíčku na nebi hlubokém (O silver moon) (from Rusalka) [6:40]
Renée Fleming, London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Georg Solti
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Endless pleasure (from Semele) [3:32]
Daniele De Niese, Les Arts Florissants/William Christie
Alfredo CATALANI (1854-1893)
Ebben, ne andrò lontana (from La Wally) [3:41]
Angela Gheorghiu, Orchestre del Teatro Regio di Torino/John Mauceri
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Pace, pace mio dio (from La forza del destino) [5:40]
Angela Gheorghiu, Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano/Riccardo Chailly
Giacomo PUCCINI
Vissi d’arte (from Tosca) [3:33]
Montserrat Caballé, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/Sir Colin Davis
Signore ascolta (from Turandot) [2:40]
Montserrat Caballé, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Zubin Mehta
Mikhail Ivanovich GLINKA (1804-1857)
Vdali ot milogo (from Russlan and Ludmilla) [4:45]
Anna Netrebko, Kirov Chorus and Orchestra/Valery Gergiev
Gustave CHARPENTIER (1860-1956)
Depuis le jour (from Louise) [5:20]
Giacomo PUCCINI
Quando m’en vo (from La Bohème) [2:39]
Nicole Cabell, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Andrew Davis
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix (from Samson et Dalila) [5:56]
Olga Borodina, Orchestra of Welsh National Opera/Carlo Rizzi
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Porgi amor (from Le nozze di Figaro) [4:30]
Kiri te Kanawa, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Georg Solti
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
O Madonna, auf uns sieh (Nun’s chorus) (from Casanova) [3:31]
Kiri te Kanawa, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Utah Symphony/Julius Rudel
Recording dates and locations not given.

 

 


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