• CD Review: Carmen (1970, Maazel)

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    1970, RCA/Sony

    (Anna Moffo, Franco Corelli, Piero Cappuccilli, Helen Donath; Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin; Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin, cond. Lorin Maazel)


    This Carmen seems to be universally despised by critics, but personally, I think most reviews of it are too harsh. It’s a flawed recording, but hardly a total train wreck… I may be biased, though, because it was the first Carmen I ever heard. Yes, Lorin Maazel’s tempos are slightly erratic, sometimes switching in an Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Turandot (1966, Molinari-Pradelli)

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    So many people love this Turandot… why has EMI neglected it all these years? The original LP packaging was sumptuous enough, but the CD release doesn’t have a proper booklet (Italian-only libretto, despite coming from a British record label!) and that’s all there has been – just one CD release. While all the other classic EMI recordings have been repeatedly trotted out (Barbirolli’s “Butterfly,” Giulini’s “Don Giovanni,” Maria Callas’s whole discography, etc), this one hasn’t. I don’t get it. Even though my personal favorite Turandot is Mehta’s, this is the one I always use in my Opera Quest presentations for elementary school classes, mainly just to give them a chance to hear it.



    1966, EMI

    (Birgit Nilsson, Franco Corelli, Renata Scotto, Bonaldo Giaiotti; Coro del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma; Orchestra del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, cond. Francesco Molinari-Pradelli)



    Of the “big three” most widely acclaimed Turandot recordings (the other two being Leinsdorf’s and Mehta’s), this one gives the most emphasis to the score’s raw, visceral thrills. Francesco Molinari-Pradelli has been called a decent but not outstanding conductor, and Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Il Barbiere di Siviglia (1993, Gelmetti)

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    barbiereIl Barbiere di Siviglia

    1993, EMI

    (Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Suzanne Mentzer, Bruno Praticó, Samuel Ramey, Amelia Felle; Coro della Toscana; Orchestra della Toscana, cond. Gianluigi Gelmetti)



    It surprises me that this first-rate Barbiere isn’t better known. Every member of the star-studded cast gives his or her all, both musically and dramatically, and conductor Gianluigi Gelmetti shapes the score with expertise from beginning to end. His interpretation may not quite Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Carmen (1964, Prêtre)

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    Finally! It’s taken me a long time to finish this review – it took me about three full listens to “get into it.” I think the problem was that I’d read the negative review of this recording in the book Opera on Record too recently and it unfairly colored my first impression. One of these days I’ll have to write a piece about that book and others like it!









    1964, EMI

    (Maria Callas, Nicolai Gedda, Robert Massard, Andrea Guiot; Choeurs René Duclos; Orchestre de Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris, cond. Georges Prêtre)


    If this recording featured any Carmen other than La Divina, Maria Callas, I would consider it just a good, solid performance, less than remarkable but effective all the same, and refreshingly French for an Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Rigoletto (1979, Giulini)

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    I’ve written this review in honor of the movie “Quartet.” When Maggie Smith’s character listens to her younger self singing “Caro nome” on recording, the voice we hear actually belongs to Ileana Cotrubas, from this recording.




    1979, Deutsche Grammophon

    (Piero Cappuccilli, Plácido Domingo, Ileana Cotrubas, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Elena Obraztsova, Kurt Moll; Wiener Staatsopernchor; Wiener Philharmoniker cond. Carlo Maria Giulini)



    This popular Rigoletto is excellent in almost every way. Its main drawback doesn’t involve any of the performances, but the sound engineering. Whoever thought it was a good idea for the dance music in Act I to be barely audible? Yes, it makes us feel as if we were in one room of the palace Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Die Zauberflöte (1984, Davis)

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    ProductImage-1450777davis_magic_flute_bookletgAltyDie Zauberflöte

    1984, Philips

    (Peter Schreier, Margaret Price, Mikael Melbye, Luciana Serra, Kurt Moll, Robert Tear; Rundfunkchor Leipzig; Staatskapelle Dresden, cond. Colin Davis)


    This was the first Flute recording I ever heard and one of the first complete opera recordings I ever owned. Part of my attachment to it may be nostalgic, but still I think I can safely call it one of the best Flutes available. Sir Colin Davis offers an excellent, quintessentially modern reading of the score: slower and heavier than a period instrument performance, yet lighter and livelier than  Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Turandot (1959, Leinsdorf)

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    1959, RCA Victor

    (Birgit Nilsson, Jussi Björling, Renata Tebaldi, Giorgio Tozzi; Coro del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma; Orchestra del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, cond. Erich Leinsdorf)


    This beloved recording has been credited with raising Turandot from the curiosity file to the standard repertoire, and to this day, many opera lovers label it the definitive Turandot. While it isn’t my personal favorite, it definitely deserves the praise it gets. Erich Leisndorf’s conducting may not always be perfectly elegant (some of the Read the rest of this entry »