• CD Review: Don Giovanni (1990, Östman)

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    Don Giovanni

     1990, L’Oiseau Lyre/Decca

    (Håkan Hagegård, Gilles Cachemaille, Arleen Auger, Nico van der Meel, Della Jones, Barbara Bonney, Bryn Terfel, Kristinn Sigmundsson; Drottningholm Court Theatre Chorus; Drottningholm Court Theatre Orchestra, cond. Arnold Östman)

     

    Arnold Östman’s Don Giovanni is a quintessential example of period-instrument Mozart. The orchestral sound is light, the tempos are brisk, the voices are often lighter than we’re used to hearing, and generally it’s the type of performance that lovers of Romantic Mozart will dismiss as lacking in gravitas. But as far as I’m concerned, Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Madama Butterfly (1959, Santini)

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    Madama Butterfly

    1959, EMI

    (Victoria de los Angeles, Jussi Björling, Miriam Pirazzini, Mario Sereini, Piero de Palma; Coro del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma; Orchestra del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, cond. Gabriele Santini)

     

    This recording isn’t the definitive Butterfly, but it still counts as a classic, thanks mainly to the performance of Victoria de los Angeles in the title role. True, she lacks the power and ease in the upper register that other Cio-Cio-Sans display, and may have been in better voice in her earlier recording of the part. But all the same, her Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Il Barbiere di Siviglia (1982, Chailly)

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    Il Barbiere di Siviglia

    1982, CBS/Sony Classical

    (Leo Nucci, Marilyn Horne, Paolo Barbacini, Enzo Dara, Samuel Ramey, Raquel Pierotti; Coro del Teatro alla Scala; Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, cond. Riccardo Chailly)

     

    This charming Barbiere is recommended as a first choice by William Berger in his NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Opera, and understandably so. First of all, it’s one of the only complete Barbieres available: not a single note is cut from either the numbers or the recitatives. And Riccardo Chailly conducts every note with silky, sparkling elegance and Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Orfeo ed Euridice (1957, Monteux)

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    Orfeo ed Euridice

    1957, RCA Victor

    (Risë Stevens, Lisa della Casa, Roberta Peters; Coro del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma; Orchestra del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, cond. Pierre Monteux)

     

    I bought this recording after I read several glowing reviews of it. I now think those reviewers must have had a nostalgic attachment to it, because to my ear, this is one of the weakest Orfeos available. Using the Ricordi edition of the score (basically the 1774 Paris version, but sung in Italian, with the role of Orfeo scored for an Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Carmen (1963, Karajan)

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    Carmen

    1963, RCA Victor

    (Leontyne Price, Franco Corelli, Robert Merrill, Mirella Freni; Wiener Staatsopernchor; Wiener Philharmoniker, cond. Herbert von Karajan)

     

    This recording is the quintessential example of “Carmen as grand opera.” If you dislike Guiraud’s recitatives, or if your ideal Carmen is one performed with lithe opéra-comique finesse, this version is one to avoid. But if, like me, you sometimes enjoy the grand approach Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Die Zauberflöte (1970, Suitner)

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    Die Zauberflöte

    1970, RCA Victor

    (Peter Schreier, Helen Donath, Gunther Leib, Sylvia Geszty, Theo Adam, Harald Neukirch; Rundfunkchor Leipzig; Staatskapelle Dresden, cond. Otmar Suitner)

     

    This Flute is an obscure one (I had already loved the opera for years before I even knew it existed), but definitely worth hearing and worth owning. While not an outstanding or even especially distinctive performance, it still provides plenty for a Mozart devotee to enjoy. Otmar Suitner leads Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Rigoletto (1955, Serafin)

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    Rigoletto

    1955, EMI

    (Tito Gobbi, Giuseppe di Stefano, Maria Callas, Nicola Zaccaria, Adriana Lazzarini, Plinio Clabassi; Coro del Teatro alla Scala di Milano; Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala di Milano, cond. Tullio Serafin)

     

    This legendary Rigoletto is musically far from perfect, but I doubt its dramatic power will ever be surpassed. The mono sound is ‘50s fuzzy, the standard cuts are in place (don’t expect to hear “Possente amor”) and the singing is a mixed bag, but Verdi and Piave’s tragedy is brought to gripping, moving life. This is due Read the rest of this entry »