The Opera Show with Mairi Nicolson

Track-listing at end of review
rec. 1959-2011
ABC CLASSICS 480 5629 [75.40 + 71.48]

ABC is the record label of Australian Broadcasting. It boasts an appropriate history of promoting artists from the home country and neighbouring New Zealand. It also has a link with the Universal stable. So, when it comes to collections such as this which relates to the menu, as it were, of the Saturday afternoon Opera Show, there is always, depending on the selections, the possibility of class acts to be heard. That’s very much the case here.

Many opera buffs look down on such collections. I on the other hand am always on the look-out for the odd item that I have not heard before in my sixty years of opera-going and collecting. More importantly, I look to hear a singer who is new to me and has that certain quality which marks him or her out as having potential. I tend also to give each item a definition, a gem, a turkey, a golden oldie, a welcome rarity or just OK. Whoever made this selection did well: the number of gems and golden oldies I marked was phenomenal. I note from the leaflet that the programme, whilst taking in the German, Slavic and French traditions, tends towards la bella Italia. This is wholly appropriate as this was where opera was born in the late sixteenth century. This collection is also notable for the inclusion of live recordings, many being rarities which I was enchanted to find and might not otherwise have heard.

The collection opens, not unreasonably, with the ultimate Australian vocal gem, Joan Sutherland. She sings alongside the incomparable tasteful tenor Carlo Bergonzi in the vivacious brindisi from La Stupenda’s first recording, 1963, of La Traviata (CD1 Tr1). I suppose that its vivacity replaces the overture, but I couldn’t help wishing that the act three duet Parigi, o cara had been chosen with the two of them so well matched for tonal grace and elegance … and it is longer too, greedy! Sutherland appears with Pavarotti elegantly introducing the quartet from Rigoletto (CD2 Tr.15). She also sings with him and her other great vocal companion, the American coloratura mezzo Marilyn Horne. This is in a too brief live recording extract of the trio from Bellini’s penultimate opera Beatrice di Tenda (CD2 Tr.17). Horne herself gives full justice to the Rossini gem Di tanti palpiti from Tancredi, a tune that, whistled and sung, dominated popular Italy until Verdi’s La donna e mobile forty years later (CD2 Tr.11). Italian dramatic mezzo Fiorenza Cossotto, soaring above the orchestra in Mascagni’s Easter Hymn under Karajan is a performance to savour (CD 1 Tr.10). Renée Fleming’s Song of the Moon (CD2 Tr.2) glistens in any collection as do the contributions of Jonas Kaufmann alongside her in Puccini’s La Rondine (CD1 Tr.13) and solo in Walter’s Prize Song (CD1 Tr.8). Likewise Nicolai Ghiaurov’s sonorous tones are always welcome either as Galitzky or as Basilio (CD1 Tr.11 and CD2 Tr.16). Whilst I could have lived without Pavarotti’s constantly repeated Nessun Dorma, from his studio recording (CD2 Tr.1), it is interesting to hear him in something utterly different singing Ernesto from Bononcini’s Griselda (CD1 Tr.9).

Of the golden oldies? Well, the warm tones of Tebaldi in Tosca’s prayer (CD1 Tr.8) and Wunderlich’s plangent singing of the Portrait Aria from the Magic Flute (CD1 Tr.14) do not come much better. Just to remind us that there are some very good singers around today Juan Diego Florez pings out the high Cs in the famous aria from Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment with his customary aplomb (CD1 Tr.3). Welcome rarities come with Vivaldi, Purcell and Handel (CD2 Trs 7-9) with Australians not being put to shame by Cecilia Bartoli in the first of those.

Any turkeys? I wasn’t over enamoured by the acoustic or singing in Offenbach’s Scintille diamant (CD 1 Tr.4) and, to a lesser extent, New Zealander Teddy Tahu Rhodes’ dry higher notes in the Toreadors Song (CD 1 Tr.17). Otherwise this collection will assist my efforts on the treadmill at the gym and provide diversity and enjoyment in the car.

Robert J Farr

A well thought out collection of variety and diversity that will lighten many a car journey or trip to the gym.



CD 1
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
La Traviata, Brindisi - Joan Sutherland and Carlo Bergonzi [3.00]
A Masked Ball, Di' tu se fedele - Carlo Bergonz [3.26]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
The Italian Girl in Algiers, Cruda sorte! Amor tiranno - Teresa Berganza [4.13]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
The Daughter of the Regiment, Ah! mes amis... - Juan Diego Florez [6.59]
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
The Tales of Hoffmann, Scintille, diamante. - John Wegner 2.36][
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)PUCCINI
La boheme O soave Fanciulla - Angela Gheorghiu / Roberto Alagna [4.03]
Tosca, Vissi d'arte - Renata Tebaldi [3.16]
La rondine, Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso - Renee Fleming and Jonas Kaufmann [2.57]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Der Freischutz, Huntsmen's Chorus - Leipzig Radio Chorus [2.40]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, Walter's Prize Song - Jonas Kaufmann [5.09]
Giovanni BONONCINI (1670-1747)
Griselda, Per la gloria d'adorarvi.- Luciano Pavarotti [4.28]
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
Cavalleria Rusticana, Easter Hymn - Fiorenza Cossotto and Mariagrazia Allegri [7.34]
Alexander BORODIN (1833-1887)
Prince Igor, Galitzky's Aria - Nicolai Ghiaurov [3.50]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Romeo et Juliette, Ah! Je veux vivre! - Amelia Farrugia [3.23]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
The Magic Flute, Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schon - Fritz Wunderlich [4.37]
Piotr TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Eugene Onegin, Vot tak syurpriz! - Bernd Weikl and Stuart Burrows and John Alldis Choir [6.32]
Georges BIZET (1838-1870)
Carmen, Toreador's Song - Teddy Tahu Rhodes [5.05]

CD 2
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Turandot, Nessun dorma - Luciano Pavarotti [2.58]
Antonin DVORAK (1841-1904)
Rusalka, Song to the Moon - Renee Fleming [5.45]
Georges BIZET (1838-1870)
The Pearl Fishers, Je crois entendre encore - Leopold Simoneau 3.54]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Aida, Triumphal March - Opera Queensland Chorus [5.11]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Tannhauser, Elisabeth's Greeting - Birgit Nilsson [3.18]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Der Rosenkavalier, Di rigori armato il seno - Jose Carreras [2.39]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Dorilla in Tempe, Dell'aura al sussurrar - Cecilia Bartoli [2.01]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Dido and Aeneas, When I am laid in earth - Fiona Campbell 4.56]
George Frederic HANDEL (1685-1759)
Julius Caesar, Va tacito e nascosto - Graham Pushee [6.44]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Cosi fan tutte, Soave sia il vento - Lucia Popp / Brigitte Fassbaender / Tom Krause 2.37]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Tancredi, Di tanti palpiti - Marilyn Horne 2.53]
The Barber of Seville, La calunnia e un venticello - Nicolai Ghiaurov [5.05]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Faust, Le veau d'or - John Wegner 2.03]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Rigoletto, Un di, se ben rammementomi (Act III Quartet) - Joan Sutherland/Huguette Tourangeau/Luciano Pavarotti/Sherrill Milnes [5.32]
Georges BIZET (1838-1870)
Carmen, La fleur que tu m'avais jetee (Flower Song) - Placido Domingo
Erich KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
Die tote Stadt, Marietta's Song - Kiri te Kanawa
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
Beatrice di Tenda, Angiol di pace - Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne, Luciano Pavarotti [2.35]
Adrien BOIELDIEU (1775-1834)
La fete du village voisin, Bolero. Sumi Jo [2.31]