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Superficially, the overt theatricality of showpiece arias, ensembles, and choral sections in Gian Carlo Menotti's The Saint of Bleecker Street could easily be construed as ersatz Puccini but with an updated harmonic language. Immerse yourself in the work from beginning to end, however, and you'll come away with a grand opera experience that's got everything: a compelling story line, three-dimensional characters from ordinary life, richly idiomatic vocal writing, perfect pacing, and sumptuous but never cloying orchestrations.
A contemporary CD edition of this masterpiece has long been overdue, and Chandos's engineers reproduce the vibrancy and spirit of the 2001 Spoleto Festival production in a recording that captures a palpable synergy between pit and stage. The cast is first rate. Julia Melinek shines in the title role, heroically rising to the big Act One aria's formidable demands (notwithstanding wobbly, sustained high notes). As her brother Michele, Timothy Richards's colorful tenor voice takes the role's rangy compass in stride, and resists showboating in his harrowing, confessional Act Two aria so that we can hear Menotti's words. Playing Don Marco, John Marcus Bindel's sonorous bass-baritone rivets one's attention, as does the characterful Carmela of soprano Sandra Seltzer. The Spoleto Festival Orchestra give their all for conductor Richard Hickox, and the extensive, complex choral writing has obviously been prepared with a fine-tooth comb. No fan of American opera should miss this important release. --Jed Distler
I have always loved this opera ever since I heard the original recording on vinyl. This recording is exceptional as well. Read morePublished on December 18, 2008 by Jeffrey R. Lipiec
There's no one with a greater passion than I for uncovering contemporary examples of great romantic opera, and I was really looking forward to listening to this one, since I'd... Read morePublished on January 31, 2003 by Eric D. Anderson