• CD Review: Don Giovanni (1985, Karajan)

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    Don Giovanni

     1985, Deutsche Grammophon

    (Samuel Ramey, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Gösta Winbergh, Agnes Baltsa, Kathleen Battle, Alexander Malta, Paata Burchuladze; Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin; Berliner Philharmoniker, cond. Herbert von Karajan)


    This sumptuous Giovanni is one of the opera’s most popular recordings. Indeed, the few critics who dislike the classic 1959 Giulini Giovanni often site this one as their favorite instead. While I don’t fully agree with them (I adore the Giulini recording, which to my ears has endless sparkle while this version occasionally lapses into languor), this recording is a definite favorite of mine as well. The voices of its starry cast are, admittedly, warmer and richer than Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Die Zauberflöte (1964, Klemperer)

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    Die Zauberflöte

    1964, EMI

    (Nicolai Gedda, Gundula Janowitz, Walter Berry, Lucia Popp, Gottlob Frick, Gerhard Unger; Philharmonia Chorus; Philharmonia Orchestra, cond. Otto Klemperer)


    This classic recording has been hailed again and again as the definitive Zauberflöte, yet at the same time is controversial due to its decidedly Romantic take on the score. With its lack of any spoken dialogue, use of women as the Three Boys, lush modern orchestra and slow, slow tempos, it can never be called a historically authentic performance. But in the masterful hands of Otto Klemperer, Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Don Giovanni (1959, Giulini)

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    Don Giovanni

     1959, EMI

    (Eberhard Wächter, Giuseppe Taddei, Joan Sutherland, Luigi Alva, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Graziella Sciutti, Piero Cappuccilli, Gottlob Frick; Philharmonia Chorus; Philharmonia Orchestra, cond. Carlo Maria Giulini)


    If a definitive Don Giovanni can ever be said to exist, this revered recording is probably the top contender for the title. Critic after critic has labeled it one of the greatest opera recordings of the 20th century and rightfully so. Carlo Maria Giulini leads the Philharmonia Orchestra in a virtually flawless reading of the score. The pacing is brisk yet sensitive, the sound world is always elegant yet never lacks drama, the recitatives are rapid-fire yet Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Il Barbiere di Siviglia (1957, Galliera)

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    Il Barbiere di Siviglia

    1957, EMI

    (Tito Gobbi, Maria Callas, Luigi Alva, Fritz Ollendorf, Nicola Zaccaria, Gabriella Carturan; Philharmonia Chorus; Philharmonia Orchestra, cond. Alceo Galliera)


    This Barbiere has been praised again and again as the definitive recording of Rossini’s masterpiece. Granted, by modern standards of Rossini scholarship it’s an “inauthentic” performance. All the standard cuts are in place (including, as was usual for the day, one recitative passage whose absence leaves a gaping plot hole), as are transpositions, line-reassignments, and an elaborate cadenza added to “Contro un cor” for the superstar soprano Rosina who sings it. But I defy Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Madama Butterfly (1957, Leinsdorf)

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    Madama Butterfly

    1957, RCA Victor

    (Anna Moffo, Cesare Valletti, Rosalind Elias, Renato Cesari, Mario Carlin; Rome Opera Chorus; Rome Opera Orchestra, cond. Erich Leinsdorf)


    This lightweight yet appealing Butterfly emphasizes the youthfulness of its characters, and all the vulnerability, passion and folly implied therein, by casting unusually light lyric voices in the principle roles – chiefly by casting Anna Moffo, lyric coloratura extraordinaire, as the usually spinto-voiced heroine. At age 25 and at the beginning of her career, she sings with a sweetness, purity, delicacy and freshness of tone Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: La Cenerentola (1988, Marriner)

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    La Cenerentola

    1988, Philips/Decca

    (Agnes Baltsa, Francisco Araiza, Ruggero Raimondi, Simone Alaimo, John del Carlo, Carol Malone, Felicity Palmer; Ambrosian Opera Chorus; Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, cond. Neville Marriner)


    This ever-popular recording is a true gem of the La Cenerentola discography. Under the direction of Sir Neville Marriner, the St. Martin in the Fields orchestra offers a performance full of charm, style and sensitivity. With pacing that alternates between lively and gentle, unhurried recitatives that allow for maximum emotional expression, and an excellent balance between joyful exuberance and thoughtful, delicate phrasing, Marriner’s reading of the score perfectly captures both of the two sides Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Die Zauberflöte (1955, Fricsay)

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    Die Zauberflöte

    1955, Deutsche Grammophon

    (Ernst Häfliger, Maria Stader, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Rita Streich, Josef Greindl, Martin Vantin; RIAS Kammerchor; RIAS Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, cond. Ferenc Fricsay)


    This ‘50s Flute is a bit less well known than others, but it still has its fare share of devotees. To this day the Salzburg Marionette Theatre uses it as the “soundtrack” for its Flute performances. While I wouldn’t call it outstanding, it’s still a fine way to enjoy the opera, with a solid cast and an orchestra led with superior skill by Ferenc Fricsay. His interpretation avoids the Romantic weight that his contemporaries tended to favor and makes the opera into a lively experience with Read the rest of this entry »