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Donizetti - The Three Queens (Anna Bolena / Maria Stuarda / Roberto Devereux)
Donizetti - The Three Queens (Anna Bolena / Maria Stuarda / Roberto Devereux)
18 used & new from $60.41

90 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MONUMENTAL REISSUE, November 7, 2000
Many operaphiles have been awaiting the release of these three Donizetti operas since the advent of CD (many of us despaired that they might never be reissued at all!), and it has been a long time coming. Bravo to Deutsche Gramophone for doing what EMI should have done at least a decade ago. The Donizetti "three queens" operas themselves are among the cornerstones of the Italian bel canto period of opera ------------ "Roberto Devereux", which deals with the love affair and conflict between Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex, "Maria Stuarda", which gives a fictional account of the conflict and confrontation between Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, and finally, "Anna Bolena", which tells of the events leading up to the execution of Anne Boleyn at the hands of husband King Henry VIII. All three operas are loaded with bel canto melody, and they burst with showstopping cadenzas, roulades, as well as rousing finales. All three operas demand a prima donna with sufficient dramatic and vocal virtuosity to command the roles of Queen Elizabeth I (in "Roberto Devereux"), as well as the title roles in "Maria Stuarda" and "Anna Bolena". While all three of these operas were revived from time to time over the last forty years with notable divas such as Leyla Gencer, Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, Montserrat Caballe, and most recently, Edita Gruberova, none of them made the speciality of these operas that Beverly Sills did in the years between 1970 and 1975. Arguably, it is for her work in these three operas that Beverly Sills will be remembered, and it was in the New York City productions of these three operas that Beverly Sills made her mark in several cities in the United States ----- in performances that are still being talked about. The three Donizetti queens were a vocal stretch for Sills, whose voice was not as large or dramatic as these roles really require, but by virtue of her sheer willpower, dramatic concentration, and keen musicianship, she was able to create three completely believable and compelling characterizations that all but jump out of the speakers and into your listening room. That Sills was forcing her voice far beyond its limits (she herself admitted that her assumption of these roles shortened her career by many years) lends tremendous tension and excitement to her work here (her singing of the three final scenes of all three operas graphically illustrate this point), and the final impression in all three operas is one of a great operatic artist at the virtual peak of her vocal and interpretative powers. All three operas have outstanding supporting casts, and all three are exceptionally well performed. Three standouts: Shirley Verrett's Jane Seymour in "Anna Bolena" (Verrett is in spectacular voice here -- the greatest singing, I belive, that she has ever preserved on any recording), and Eileen Farell's Queen Elizabeth I in "Maria Stuarda" ------ they are not merely supporting Sills, but are meeting her on her own ground --- and each of them alongside of Sills provide duels to the death! Tenor Stuard Burrows appears as both Lord Percy in "Anna Bolena" and as Leicester in "Maria Stuarda", and he sings beautifully in both operas. Conductors Charles Mackerras (in "Roberto Devereux"), Aldo Ceccato (in "Maria Stuarda") and Julius Rudel (in "Anna Bolena" all know what to do with this wonderful music, and they provide a wonderful framework for each of the three operas. All three operas are packaged tastefully (complete with the original artwork that appeared when these operas made their first appearance on LP) in a beautiful box which also contains a book with pictures of Sills preparing for "Roberto Devereux" at the New York City Opera. Bravo again to DGG for making these spectacular operas available on CD ----- and to Beverly Sills for providing us with what I feel to be her greatest work. This fabulous Donizetti triology belongs in every opera library and it has my most enthusiastic recommendation.

Massenet - Manon / Gheorghiu, Alagna, Patriarco, van Dam, Ragon, Rivenq, Panzarella, Koch, Schimmack, Pappano
Massenet - Manon / Gheorghiu, Alagna, Patriarco, van Dam, Ragon, Rivenq, Panzarella, Koch, Schimmack, Pappano
23 used & new from $5.98

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN OUTSTANDING RECORDING OF 'MANON", October 15, 2000
This is a truly beautiful recorded rendition of Massenet's "Manon", led by a conductor who really knows how to make music. Antonio Pappano gives us a reading that is both stylish and atmospheric (with plenty of bouncy and brisk tempi in the beginning), and yet in the end, one that is dramatic and moving as well. The Manon of Angela Gheorghiu is every bit as convincing and as well sung as that of the legendary Victoria de los Angeles on the classic Monteux version. She has a unique color to her voice that enables her to make. The unique color in her voice enables her to make her operatic characters highly individual ---- and in the end, solely her own (has there been a soprano since Maria Callas of whom this could be said?). Her husband, Roberto Alagna, while possibly not on this exaulted level, still is a des Grieux to cherish. His voice still has the sound of youth (which cannot be said of Alfredo Kraus on the deleted EMI version with Ileana Cotrubas), and his singing stands as a model of lyricism and refinement. He is especially tender and moving in the final scene of the opera, and earlier, his singing of "Le Reve" is what legends are made of. This recording stands as an outstanding representation of Massenet's beautiful opera, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants to hear this beautiful opera at its most opulent. It's a real winner!

Ring of the Nibelungen
Ring of the Nibelungen
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FURTWANGLER + FLAGSTAD = A LEGENDARY 'RING", September 18, 2000
This review is from: Ring of the Nibelungen (Audio CD)
This famous "Ring" has been in circulation for a very long time ------ it appeared on L.P. in the late 1970's and has remained around ever since. Since the "Ring" in general is so vast and awesome, it would take pages and pages to discuss any complete performance of it in detail. Eschewing all of that, I wish to convey that this Ring is truly something special. Should it be your only Ring recording? Probably not ---- especially if you are interested in state-of-the-art sonics ----- but if you want to hear how great Wagner's legendary music could sound fifty years ago, you must acquire this recording. Wilhelm Furtwangler, arguably the greatest Wagner conductor of the twentieth century, is awesome in his scope and breath of conception of this music. This is a performance of epic proportions and Furtwangler doesn't let you forget it for a moment. He is aided and abetted by the sublime Kirsten Flagstad, whose shining Brunnhilde is enshrined here in all its glory. Has there been a Wagnerian soprano before or since with a voice that so spectacularly combined both power AND radiance in equal proportions? To be sure, there is no Wagnerian singing like this anymore. Set Svanholm was no Lauritz Melchior, but he was no slouch either, and he takes on the impossible role of Siegfried with conviction and admirable vocal stamina. In "Gotterdammerung", Max Lorenz (who often partnered Flagstad in the Wagnerian operas in Europe, while also no Melchior (who was?), performs a valiant and heroic Seigfried. The Siegmund of Gunther Treptow, another notable Wagnerian tenor of the period, is competently sung as well as dramatically appropriate. The supporting singers in this "Ring" range from competent to spectacular (most notably Ferdinand Franz' Wotan).Make no mistake: this is a powerful and engrossing "Ring", and the price is right!

Massenet - Thaïs / Fleming, Hampson, Sabbatini, Shkosa, Vidal, Devellereau, Cals, Yves Abel
Massenet - Thaïs / Fleming, Hampson, Sabbatini, Shkosa, Vidal, Devellereau, Cals, Yves Abel
Price: $22.70
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75 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AT LONG LAST, A REALLY FINE RECORDING OF "THAIS", August 26, 2000
This new recording of "Thais" fills a huge hole in the catalogue of recorded opera. This opera, while never enjoying the popularity of "Manon" or "Werther", still contains some beautiful music, and it has only now finally received a recording of real value. True, it has been recorded twice over the last thirty years (on RCA in 1974 with Anna Moffo, Jose Carreras and Gabriel Bacquier and again in 1976 on EMI with Beverly Sills, Nicolai Gedda, and Sherrill Milnes), but neither recording proved very satisfying due in great part to the fact that each of the respective sopranos in the title role (Moffo and Sills, respectively) were already past their best singing days. This is certainly no issue in the case of Renee Fleming, whose gorgeous voice is ideal for the role of the courtesan-turned nun. Fleming sounds wonderfully youthful and she sings with an all-encompassing freedom ---- especially in her pivotal Mirror Aria. Equally importantly, she is deeply involved in the drama. Fleming is supported beautifully by the liquid and beautiful singing of Thomas Hampson, whose Athanael easily surpasses any of the roles previous recorded interpreters. Hampson's beautiful rendition of "O Seigneur, je remets mon ame entre tes mains" is one of the highlights of this recording, and it shouldn't be missed. Plainly, it is Hampson's work that forms the backbone of the entire production. Giuseppe Sabbatini provides a lyrical and very well sung Nicias, a great improvement over Nicolai Gedda's aged sound on the EMI recording, but still not quite on the level of Jose Carreras on the no-longer available RCA set. The conducting of Yves Abel is atmospheric and compelling. For those who have waited for years for a really fine recording of this beautiful Massenet opera, this recording will be the answer to their prayers. For those who want to experience this opera for the first time, this is the recording to do it with. Very highly recommended.
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Wagner: Love Duets - Tristan und Isolde, Siegfried
Wagner: Love Duets - Tristan und Isolde, Siegfried
Offered by cdman28138
Price: $28.99
45 used & new from $0.40

12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars DOMINGO AND VOIGHT SOAR IN WAGNER, August 19, 2000
This is a completely enjoyable and entertaining disc. The two extended Wagnerian scenes presented here showcase two superb artists at very different stages of their careers. Deborah Voight has already applied for her Wagnerian credentials with successful outings as Segliende in "Die Walkure", and I believe Elsa in "Lohengrin" as well. With her voice still developing, it is at least plausible that she might one day climb the summits to Mount Isolde/Brunnhilde. With Placido Domingo, the reverse is true: this recording is probably the closest he will ever come to the roles of either Seigfried or Tristan. While he has recorded and performed onstage the roles of Lohengrin, Parsifal, Siegmund in "Die Walkure", as well as Tannhauser (at least on discs), the roles of Seigfried and Tristan are different matters altogether. It is simply too late. The voice and power are still there, but I doubt that the sustaining power needed for these two particular roles are even possible for him at this point in his career. Whatever the case, both Domingo and Voight sound very, very good on this disc. Despite his previous assumptions in Wagner, however, Domingo does not sound terribly comfortable with the language. There's a certain stiffness in his projection that results in a loss in real authority, and at no point can he summon the linguistic assurance that came naturally to such Wagnerians as Lauritz Melchior, Wolfgang Windgassen or Set Svanholm. Still, while Domingo's voice is no longer that of a young man, it is still a powerful and beautiful instrument that is capable of some amazing things. The power and firmness remain, and the golden tone has darkened into an almost baritonal bronze, but what a sound it still is! Deborah Voight is also heard in optimum vocal condition --- she sounds considerably younger than her celebrated tenor partner and seems much more comfortable with the language as well. This 58 minute disc opens with the prelude and the "Heil dir, Sonne!" from "Seigfried" and goes all the way to the end --- in other words, the entire Brunnhilde/Seigfried duet which closes the opera ---- a good thirty minutes of powerful and rip-roaring singing. The "Tristan Und Isolde" portion of the disc begins with the Act II "O sink hernieder, Nacht der Liebe", and is also well sung, as well as ably assisted by mezzo-soprano Violeta Urmana as Brangane. Both Domingo and Voight are especially effective in the ability to build and layer their vocal power as they move towards the spectacular finale ----- a finale which holds a real surprise ------ a concert ending recorded for the first time, and one that was apparently written and approved by Wagner himself --- to enable this duet to be performed in concert. In the opera itself, of course, the duet ends on one dissonant chord that leads immediately into the following scene. This new "concert ending" sounded strange, but after repeated hearings, one will get used to it. Antonio Pappano conducts the music competently and acceptably, well serving his two star singers. This disc may not contain profound Wagner, but it does house some really fine singing from both Voight and Domingo --- a truly amazing and thrilling artist whose vocal repertoire has encompassed music that no tenor in history could match for diversity and sheer daring. Buy it, listen to it, and enjoy it.

Beethoven: Fidelio (Great Recordings of the Century)
Beethoven: Fidelio (Great Recordings of the Century)
17 used & new from $25.15

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A VAULTING AND COMPELLING EXPERIENCE, August 19, 2000
Another round of applause for EMI for issuing this fabulous "Fidelio" in their "Great Recordings of the Century" series. There is no "Fidelio" that matches this --- anywhere! Otto Klemperer has left us a monumental performance which by the finale becomes close to a religious experience. "Fidelio" is a very difficult opera for the conductor to bring off: it begins like a "singspiel" and gradually builds, scene by scene, until it evolves into a full choral finale which can blow the listener away with its power and majesty. Klemperer beautifully blends each scene into the next with increasing power and balance. The sheer joy that is felt at the end is something easier experienced than described. Christa Ludig, although a mezzo soprano, had more than sufficient power at the top of her voice to sing the very taxing role of Leonore (her rendition of "Abscheulicher" will pin your ears back!), and her considerable dramatic instincts enabled her to create a truly heroic woman whose anguish and pain is immediately obvious. This is arguably Ludwig's greatest recorded performance. The plight of Florestan has never been made as vivid as by Jon Vickers in this recording. Vickers, one of the very few tenors who made a great reputation with this role, simply IS Florestan, and no other exponent of the role comes within miles of him (his "Euch werde Lohn" in the second act would melt the heart of the devil himself). Supporting artists are all wonderful, especially Ingeborg Hallstein as Marcelline, whose clear high voice contrasts well with Ludwig's dark lower tones. There are some outstanding recordings of "Fidelio" available ---- including a radio broadcast (in decent sound) from the 1950 Salzburg Festival starring the legendary Kirsten Flagstad as Leonore under the leadership of Wilhelm Furtwangler. As outstanding as that performance is (is it still available on EMI?), I think that this 1962 Christa Ludwig/Otto Klemperer version actually surpasses it. Truly, a great recording of the century!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 1, 2009 5:37 PM PST

Strauss: Capriccio
Strauss: Capriccio
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ANOTHER LEGENDARY PERFORMANCE FROM EMI, August 19, 2000
This review is from: Strauss: Capriccio (Audio CD)
Strauss referred to his "Capriccio" as a "musical conversation piece", which may signal a red flag for many listeners. The "conversation" involves a debate: which is more important in musical art ---- words or music? And so the debate takes up a lot of time in the piece, which may prove very heavy going for many listeners who do not understand German. There are, however, many beautiful and interesting orchestral and vocal touches generated in this piece ---- none of which are sustained for any length of time. The final twenty minutes, however, does contain a beautiful and soaring scene for the soprano, which many may find worth the entire piece. For those still interested, it is definitely recommended that one follows the libretto to experience the full meaning of the piece. With that said, it must also be said that the cast of this recording is the greatest that could have ever been assembled for ANY opera ---- Strauss or otherwise. Schwarzkopf sings the last twenty five minute scene for all she's worth, which was a lot. Also on hand to lend their considerable and formidable talents are Nicolai Gedda, Christa Ludwig, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Anna Moffo, Hans Hotter, and Eberhard Wachter, all of whom portray characters involved in the great debate about words versus music. This unique and interesting Strauss piece is not for everyone, but for those who are attuned to the Strauss idiom, this recording will provide an entertaining and highly individual experience. The remastered mono sound (there is no reason why this 1957 performance could not have been recorded in stereo) is clear and fine.

Lehar: The Merry Widow [Die Lustige Witwe] (Great Recordings of the Century)
Lehar: The Merry Widow [Die Lustige Witwe] (Great Recordings of the Century)
14 used & new from $25.09

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PURE JOY FROM START TO FINISH, August 19, 2000
I'll make this short and sweet. This 1962 EMI "Merry Widow" is arguably the greatest recording ever made of an operetta. It was acclaimed with critical superlatives upon the time of its original release, and in light of subsequent versions, it shines more brilliantly than ever before. The stereo sound, already good to begin with, has been remastered with precision and care, furnishing us with a musical document that could have been recorded yesterday. Lovro von Matacic has shaped the score into a fantastic theatrical experience, evoking the Viennese spirit at every turn. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was born to perform this charming and beautiful role, and expectedly, creates a Hanna Glawari that leaves all others at the starting gate ---- including Joan Sutherland, Cheryl Studer, and Beverly Sills. Nicolai Gedda's Camille Rosillon is a vocal paragon, producing sound that conjures the illusion of honey being poured into the ear. There may be a few reservations about Eberhard Waechter's blustery and gruff Danilo, but this is but a very minor flaw in light of the beauty of the entire production. The supporting cast is excellent. If one owns no other operetta recording, this one is an absolute must. In keeping with EMI's logo, here very apt, this "Merry Widow" is truly one of the great recordings of the century. Acquire it without delay.

Price: $17.91
38 used & new from $3.43

40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a show THIS is!, June 14, 2000
This review is from: Aida (Audio CD)
This spectacular performance of "Aida", a live performance from Mexico City on July 3, 195l, has been in circulation on pirate discs (and even earlier on LP) for years, but it has never sounded as clean and clear as it does on this new Opera D'Oro release. The sound has been cleaned up to a point where it sounds almost as good as a studio monophonic recording dubbed in the early 1950's. This performance has gained legendary status because it is the only performance of "Aida" where the Triumphal Scene in act III is brought to a circus-like conclusion by Maria Callas' interpolation of a top E flat. The note itself is a stunner, and the fact that she sustains the note for a good length of time (in those days Callas had top E flats to burn!) shows what great vocal health she was enjoying at the time. Of course, Callas was at the beginning of her vocal prime here and she certainly sounds it. Her voice is much larger and darker than it was to be when she undertook the studio recording of "Aida" for EMI four years later. Her musical phrasing is exemplary, and she creates a truly tragic heroine, if not a particularly vulnerable one. Still, this is an outstanding example of Callas' early work during those still talked-about seasons in Mexico City. Her colleagues in this performance are certainly in her league. The veteran Mexican mezzo soprano Oralia Dominguez, shamefully under utilized in the recording studio, is a passionate and highly emotional Amneris. The Aida/Amneris interview scene here is like a confrontation between the Maine and the Merrimac, with both Callas and Dominguez at full throttle. Dominguez' best work is, not unexpectedly, in the last act, where she ignites all sorts of explosions. True, some of her effects may be a bit overdone, but they are certainly exciting ------ and she gives Callas a real run for her money (and that could not have been easy!). Mario del Monaco is a stentorian and warrior-like Rhadames, with a voice in it's greatest period. Subtle he never was, and he certainly lacked sensitivity ----- but has there been a tenor since to equal him in this typeof a role (excepting posssibly Corelli?) Giuseppe Taddei is a solid and reliable Amonasro, his work being especially good in the father/daughter scene with Callas in the Nile Scene. Olviero De Fabritiis conducts with power and persuasion, and never allows the music to stagnate. Should this be your only recorded "Aida"? Of course not, but given a performance this good, with singers of this caliber, and with listenable and acceptable sound ----- and at a great bargain price, how can you go wrong? A great show and a wonderful way to spend two and a half hours.

Soul of Italy
Soul of Italy
22 used & new from $0.67

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A JEWEL OF A RECORDING, May 14, 2000
This review is from: Soul of Italy (Audio CD)
The items on this outstanding CD comprise what were two separate long playing records at the time of their original release during the 1960's. The first twelve tracks came from an LP titled "The Soul of Italy", which contained fresh and beautiful renditions of Neopolitan Songs by Bellini, Lazzaro, Barbieri, and "Annunzio. They remain, owing to Richard Tucker's enduring artistry, models of style and refinement, even in light of subsequent versions by Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, etc. But it is the second portion of this disc (tracks 13-24), however, that makes this disc a necessary purchase for anyone who cherishes the art of great singing and artistry. To my ears, this is the greatest work Richard Tucker ever preserved on records, and had he recorded nothing else save for these items, his place in the history of great singing would be secured. The LP from which these selections was originally titled "The Art of Bel Canto", in which Tucker performs the "arie antiche" of Giordani, Scarlatti, Rossini, Sarti, Gluck, Durante, Caldara, Torelli, Veracini, and Pergolesi. These arias, or more aptly, "ariettas", were written for singers whose voices and techniques could do them proper justice. They demand a perfectly placed voice, a solid and effortless vocal technique, and the ability to sing a long vocal line with absolute perfect vocal control. Few are the singers who would attempt them, because they would expose the most minor imperfection in a voice and magnify it to proportions that would make the music come off as a vocal travesty. Richard Tucker sings these pieces as though he were to the manner and idiom born. He sings these gems with elegance, style, and with a vocal beauty not even he has equalled on his many other recordings. The selections themselves are ravishingly beautiful, and the tenor gets outstanding support from the Columbia Chamber Ensemble as well as by the distinguished pianist John Wustman. One can close their eyes and actually feel as though they are attending an intimate drawing room recital. This recording is a gem and would be a bargain at twice the price. The music and singingheard here is of a caliber that it must be experienced and savored than merely described and discussed. You need this one ------ and as soon as you get get it!

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