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Bel Canto - The Beautiful Voices of Italian Opera

Release Date: 10/16/2007 
Label:  Bravissimo Opera Library   Catalog #: 9803   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Gioachino RossiniVincenzo BelliniGaetano Donizetti
Performer:  Melchiorre LuiseAnna Maria CanaliLuigi AlvaMaria Callas,   ... 
Conductor:  Carlo Maria GiuliniClaudio AbbadoTullio SerafinGianandrea Gavazzeni,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala OrchestraMilan Teatro alla Scala ChorusFlorence Maggio Musicale Orchestra,   ... 
Number of Discs: 14 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Once we get the obvious out of the way--that from 1950 to 1964 (and arguably both before and since) Maria Callas was the greatest Norma available--we have at least a half-dozen of her performances to choose from. Two were recorded in the studio, there's another from London, one or two from Milan, and a couple of others (along with this 1955 performance) from Rome. Here she was in her vocal prime. The voice is in control at all volumes, and from blazing top to cruel/tragic low notes her coloratura is flawless, idiomatic, and always at the service of the music and text. And this security allows her to "read" the role with searing insights, offering us equal parts Norma the Woman and Norma the Warrior. In short, it's as nearly Read more perfect a performance of this role as we're ever going to hear. Her fury and hatred in her last-act confrontation with Pollione is as terrifying as her tenderness with her children is touching... Ebe Stignani's Adalgisa is the best combination of girlishness and knowing; she partners Callas well. Giuseppe Modesti's Oroveso is properly booming. Tullio Serafin was a master of the score, and he brings both tautness and lyricism to it. The sound is good enough. This epic performance has been available on many labels (and still is); this is the only one I know of that is pitched properly--the others are sharp. [5/10/2004]

-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
reviewing Norma, previously released as Opera d'Oro 7003

Luciano Pavarotti very rarely sang the role of Arturo in I puritani. Next to Elvino in Sonnambula and Arnold in William Tell, it probably is the highest-lying role in the tenor repertoire--and by the late 1970s the very highest notes were somewhat beyond him. Conductor Riccardo Muti cuts about 20 minutes of the almost three-hour score--not very much for 1969 when this was recorded live in Rome, when cuts of almost an hour were the usual course in order to spare both tenor and soprano. And, indeed, Muti's two stars are almost up to their roles' demands. Mirella Freni was not a born Elvira--she's a lyric soprano with some coloratura ability rather than the true coloratura with all the needed very high notes (her top Ds are tentative)--but she's at her vocally most impeccable and emotionally most communicative and her Elvira is a lovely creation. Pavarotti sings with grace, ease, and when needed, great power. The highest he goes is a C-sharp: the final act duet is transposed down so that both singers can avoid the Ds, and Pavarotti totally skips the high F (!) in his final aria. Muti allows the tenor to bend the vocal line in a somewhat verismo manner, but it's still a fine, gleaming performance. Sesto Bruscantini and Bonaldo Giaiotti are splendid in their rousing Act II duet; elsewhere they're a bit woolly. Muti's leadership is lacking energy at times--perhaps he's being considerate of the singers--but aside from these criticisms, this is a satisfying and recommendable set, especially for Freni fans since the soprano never recorded the role commercially.

-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
reviewing I puritani, previously released as Opera d'Oro 1141

This is one of the most remarkable Donizetti productions of the 20th century. The previously released DVD of the same performance (taken live from a 1967 production) has already received acclaimed recognition for its professionalism, great singing, and utmost perfectionism... This performance reflects all characteristics that a reference recording needs; the quality of the singing is superb: no cast has ever fit so well together as this one—all of these singers were in the prime of their career at the time. Carlo Bergonzi was praised for his reliable singing, his refined phrasing, and his remarkable musicality. His performance of Nemorino is one of the finest ever. Renata Scotto’s Adina is warm and round, except for some unstable notes in the high register. Together, they form the enchanting center of the opera, around which the rest of the cast constructs their story—an impressive and ever-reliable Giuseppe Taddei in the role of the soldier Belcore. Carlo Cava and Renza Jotti both sound extremely pleasing in the roles of Dulcamara and Giannetta.

-- Bart Verhaeghe, FANFARE
reviewing L'Elisir d'Amore, previously released as Opera d'Oro 7044

This was a radio broadcast from RAI in Turin in l967, when both soprano and tenor were at their freshest. Of course, recordings of them are abundant, but this set is interesting insofar as what's right and wrong with them at this stage in their careers. Scotto had been singing for ten years already, Pavarotti only a few (and this was before his Metropolitan Opera debut); she had the role of Lucia well in hand by '67, while it sounds as if Pavarotti was just trying Edgardo out. Despite some luscious, ardent, full-throated singing, particularly in the second act wedding scene, Pavarotti sounds somewhat uncertain--he misses an entrance or two, for instance. Scotto, even at this stage, sounds as if her very highest notes are borrowed and might have to be returned at any moment, but she's otherwise ideally intense and she offers an interesting cadenza at the end of "Regnava nel silenzio" (it would not be out of place at the end of "Caro nome" either). She's a thinking-person's Lucia, in the Callas, rather than Sutherland, mold--it's a very valuable performance. Piero Cappuccilli gives a mustache-twirling reading to Enrico's music. The fact that the performance is as successful as it is owes nothing to Francesco Molinari-Pradelli's lackluster conducting and everything to the quality of the singing, and he takes all the usual opera-house cuts in the score. The sonics are a bit hard-edged but perfectly acceptable. Despite this set's shortcomings, there's plenty here to admire.

-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
reviewing Lucia di Lammermoor, previously released as Opera d'Oro 1137 Read less

Works on This Recording

Il barbiere di Siviglia by Gioachino Rossini
Performer:  Melchiorre Luise (Bass), Anna Maria Canali (Mezzo Soprano), Luigi Alva (Tenor),
Maria Callas (Soprano), Tito Gobbi (Baritone), Nicola Rossi-Lemeni (Bass),
Pier Luigi Latinucci (Bass)
Conductor:  Carlo Maria Giulini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1816; Italy 
La Cenerentola by Gioachino Rossini
Performer:  Luigi Alva (Tenor), Renato Capecchi (Baritone), Teresa Berganza (Mezzo Soprano),
Paolo Montarsolo (Bass), Ugo Trama (Bass), Margherita Guglielmi (Soprano),
Laura Zannini (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Florence Maggio Musicale Orchestra,  Florence Maggio Musicale Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1817; Italy 
Norma by Vincenzo Bellini
Performer:  Giuseppe Modesti (Bass), Ebe Stignani (Mezzo Soprano), Rina Cavallari (Mezzo Soprano),
Mario Del Monaco (Tenor), Athos Cesarini (Tenor), Maria Callas (Soprano)
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Rome,  Italian Radio Chorus Rome
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1831; Italy 
L'Elisir d'Amore by Gaetano Donizetti
Performer:  Giuseppe Taddei (Baritone), Renata Scotto (Soprano), Carlo Bergonzi (Tenor),
Carlo Cava (Bass), Renza Jotti (Soprano)
Conductor:  Gianandrea Gavazzeni
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Florence Maggio Musicale Orchestra,  Florence Maggio Musicale Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1832; Italy 
I puritani by Vincenzo Bellini
Performer:  Mino Venturini (Tenor), Luciano Pavarotti (Tenor), Sesto Bruscantini (Baritone),
Mirella Fiorentini (Mezzo Soprano), Giovanni Antonini (Bass), Mirella Freni (Soprano),
Bonaldo Giaiotti (Bass)
Conductor:  Riccardo Muti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Rome,  Italian Radio Chorus Rome
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1835; Italy 
Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti
Performer:  Anna di Stasio (Mezzo Soprano), Renata Scotto (Soprano), Luciano Pavarotti (Tenor),
Piero Cappuccilli (Baritone), Agostino Ferrin (Bass), Gianfranco Manganotti (Tenor),
Franco Ricciardi (Tenor)
Conductor:  Francesco Molinari-Pradelli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Turin,  Italian Radio Chorus Turin
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1835; Italy 
La fille du régiment by Gaetano Donizetti
Performer:  Beverly Sills (Soprano), Fernando Corena (Bass), Grayson Hirst (Tenor),
Muriel Greenspon (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Roland Gagnon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  American Opera Society Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Italy 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  4 Customer Reviews )
 Bel Canto operas April 20, 2013 By Shirley R. (Buffalo, NY) See All My Reviews "It sounded too good to be true but it lived up to what was stated . I have enjoyed every one of the performances and will continue to enjoy this wonderful presentation of 7 operas for a long time to come. Thank you!." Report Abuse
 Beautifully done - Program, Voices, Sound April 18, 2013 By Donald S. (Denver, CO) See All My Reviews "A wonderful selection of program, voices sound quality." Report Abuse
 Absolutely love it. April 10, 2013 By N. Sherwood (Yuma, AZ) See All My Reviews "I purchased the Bel Canto Opera selection and I have almost worn them out. What a buy - and what a treat to hear so many of the opera greats in one set. -" Report Abuse
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