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The World's Most Romantic Operas

Release Date: 10/16/2007 
Label:  Bravissimo Opera Library   Catalog #: 9807   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Christoph W. GluckLudwig van BeethovenGaetano DonizettiGiuseppe Verdi,   ... 
Performer:  Shirley VerrettMariella AdaniAntonietta StellaCurt Malm,   ... 
Conductor:  Seiji OzawaKarl BöhmGianandrea GavazzeniNino Verchi,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra TurinItalian Radio Chorus TurinVienna State Opera Chorus,   ... 
Number of Discs: 14 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is an exciting live performance of this opera, recorded in Salzburg in 1969 when all of the principals were in their primes. Karl Böhm leads a sometimes manic reading that nonetheless can be reflective when needed. Unfortunately, the mania occasionally leads to the singers' flying off key and sounding desperate, as in "O namenlose freude". As you might expect, the chorus and orchestra perform superbly, and despite the bad decision to play the Leonore overture No. 3 before the final scene, it's good to hear it done with such excitement.

Christa Ludwig was a great Leonore, and she lives up to her reputation. She sings sharp every so often but that hardly mars an excellent, committed performance. James King
Read more is in ringing voice as Florestan and his vocal security makes up for a lack of insight. Franz Crass is a rich, dark-sounding Rocco, Ingvar Wixell gets through Pizarro's music with real bite (if just a little strain and off-key hollering), and Hans Hotter's Don Fernando is authoritative if wobbly-sounding. Edith Mathis and Donald Grobe round off the cast nicely as the youngsters. This may not be a first-choice Fidelio, but it's a terrific bargain and a sparkling representation of Beethoven's great masterwork. The sound is acceptable-to-good.

-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
reviewing Fidelio, previously released as Opera d'Oro 7025

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

In Violetta [Scotto] has a role she can sink her teeth into. As the cliché goes, she “creates a character”—and she can sing it, too.

-- James Miller, FANFARE
reviewing La traviata

Mirella Freni gives the perfect impersonation of this tragic character... She sings her goodbye to happier days with Des Grieux and the listener hears her becoming overwhelmed by her self-imposed fate. She is almost driven to desperation by her inner conflict... In the third act, in the duet at the seminary of St. Sulpice Tu!..Voi!.. La tua non è la mano, Freni sings the beguiling Manon in a wildly erotic though simultaneously desperate manner, bordering on the psychopathic. She is answered by an equally aroused Pavarotti as Des Grieux. Hearing this scene and the audience reaction to it will no doubt give goose bumps to even the most seasoned listener.

In this 1969 recording Mirella Freni and Pavarotti are in their youthful prime and on top of the world. Their singing is passionate and they take all the difficulties Massenet created for these two roles with great ease and with power to spare. Take for instance the incredibly long, sustained note in unison, at the end of Manon and Des Grieux's passionate duet A parigi, andrem in the first act. What power, what stamina and what excellent voices! It will leave the listener gulping for air... These factors make it a must-have recording for lovers of great, passionate singing and of course for aficionados of Freni and Pavarotti.

-- Joost Overdijkink, MusicWeb International
reviewing Manon, previously released as Opera d'Oro 1270

This is particularly breathtaking for those who have always wanted a recording of Pavarotti and Freni in their greatest roles, in their primes, but without Herbert von Karajan, who led them in Decca's studio recording in l973 in a symphonic, large-scaled, very beautiful, but almost lugubrious performance. Taped in Rome in 1969 and led handsomely and with great sensitivity by the lamented Thomas Schippers, this set is extraordinary. Not only are the two superstars in glorious, first-bloom voice, but one senses a closeness in their relationship that's impossible to fake (they were born in the same town in the same year and shared a wetnurse as infants!). In addition, since both are in such fresh voice, they sing with their innate musicality, elegance of line, and ringing top notes in an easy fashion--they always sound perfectly natural. Sesto Bruscantini, though a bit long in the tooth, is a sympathetic Marcello and Nicolai Ghiuselev impresses as Colline. Rita Talarico's Musetta is acceptable. The RAI chorus and orchestra, while hardly on a level with Karajan's Berlin forces, are good enough. Even if you own another Bohème (or two), at this price, this one is a must.

-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
reviewing La Bohème, previously released as Opera d'Oro 1143

This is the most consistently satisfying Chénier on discs, black or silver. I realize that's saying a great deal, since we have Pavarotti-Caballé-Chailly (very pretty, but lacking the correct vocal weight), Corelli-Stella-Santini (she's somewhat of a wipe-out), Carreras-Marton-Patanè (all below par) and Domingo-Scotto-Levine (the best up to now) to compete with, but trust me... Recorded live at the Vienna State Opera in June I960, the sound is pretty good monaural, the cast, down to the smallest role, is both excellent and rich with surprises (Kostas Paskalis sings Fleville, Alois Pernerstorfer sings Mathieu, Renato Ercolani is “Incredible,“ the spy), and all the leads (and secondary parts) are topnotch. Corelli was at the start of the best period of his career in 1960—he had learned how to sing with subtlety (occasionally) and the voice was in perfect shape. Von Mata?i? doesn't quite give him enough room in the “Improvviso“ but lends great support elsewhere: I still contend that Corelli's voice was precisely what was needed in this role and that no one has come along to take his place. Bright, shiny top, endless breath, rich, baritonal bottom —what a Chénier!

Tebaldi, too, was in splendid form, with the top sounding very secure. Her big third-act aria is taken very slowly and she can handle it. It and the rest of the role are sung with drama, intelligence, and that womanly, lush tone which, sadly, didn't last quite long enough. Ettore Bastianini is the ideal Gerard—angry, lustful, self-hating, rueful—and the true Verdi sound he possessed is all too rare nowadays. Note the cast list above for two nice additions in the roles of the Countess and Madelon—both are welcome. The supporting cast tends to sing with some pretty odd Italian diction, but so what? Von Mata?i? and the Viennese seem to know they're on to something good and they add luster and energy to the proceedings. There are plenty of thrills here, with some of the century's greatest singers at their best.

-- Robert Levine, FANFARE [1/1989]
Reviewing Andrea Chénier, previously released as Fonit Cetra 1017 Read less

Works on This Recording

Orfeo ed Euridice by Christoph W. Gluck
Performer:  Shirley Verrett (Mezzo Soprano), Mariella Adani (Soprano), Antonietta Stella (Soprano)
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Turin,  Italian Radio Chorus Turin
Period: Classical 
Written: 1762/1774; Vienna, Austria 
Fidelio, Op. 72 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Curt Malm (Tenor), Klaus Hirte (Baritone), Franz Crass (Bass),
Hans Hotter (Baritone), Donald Grobe (Tenor), James King (Tenor),
Christa Ludwig (Mezzo Soprano), Edith Mathis (Soprano), Ingvar Wixell (Baritone)
Conductor:  Karl Böhm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1804/1814; Vienna, Austria 
L'Elisir d'Amore by Gaetano Donizetti
Performer:  Renza Jotti (Soprano), Carlo Cava (Bass), Carlo Bergonzi (Tenor),
Renata Scotto (Soprano), Giuseppe Taddei (Baritone)
Conductor:  Gianandrea Gavazzeni
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Florence Maggio Musicale Orchestra,  Florence Maggio Musicale Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1832; Italy 
La traviata by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Renata Scotto (Soprano), Anna Pedrotti (Mezzo Soprano), Franco Lombardi (Tenor),
Carlo Meliciani (Baritone), Guido Mazzini (Baritone), Sesto Bruscantini (Baritone),
José Carreras (Tenor), Fernando Jacopucci (Tenor)
Conductor:  Nino Verchi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853; Italy 
Manon by Jules Massenet
Performer:  Antonio Zerbini (Bass), Rolando Panerai (Baritone), Luciano Pavarotti (Tenor),
Franco Ricciardi (Tenor), Mirella Freni (Soprano), Ida Farina (Soprano),
Giuseppe Morresi (Bass Baritone)
Conductor:  Peter Maag
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883-1884; France 
La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Elio Prisco (Bass), Gianni Maffeo (Baritone), Luciano Pavarotti (Tenor),
Rita Talarico (Soprano), Mario Frosini (Bass), Sesto Bruscantini (Baritone),
Franco Calabrese (Bass), Nicolai Ghiuselev (Bass), Mirella Freni (Soprano),
Alessandro Maddalena (Bass)
Conductor:  Thomas Schippers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Rome,  Italian Radio Chorus Rome
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Italy 
Andrea Chénier by Umberto Giordano
Performer:  Carlo Forti (Bass), Margarete Sjösted (Mezzo Soprano), Elisabeth Höngen (Mezzo Soprano),
Hilde Konetzni (Soprano), Edmund Hurshell (Baritone), Franco Corelli (Tenor),
Ettore Bastianini (Baritone), Renata Tebaldi (Soprano)
Conductor:  Lovro von Matacic
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Italy 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Great Selection Great Performances April 24, 2013 By Donald S. (Denver, CO) See All My Reviews "Wonderful selection, wonderful performances, wonderful performers. Minimal synopsis: Includes "60 Second Overview" and Listing of songs and singers." Report Abuse
 Excellent Value April 24, 2013 By P. Ledesma (Wellington, KS) See All My Reviews "A better bang for the buck for a collection of this kind is probably not available! 7 great standard repertoire operas performed live by All-time great performers of yesteryear at an unbelievable price makes this an Excellent value! For it to be superior a couple of things could be improved upon. In a couple of the performances the sound quality isn't very good, but maybe that should be expected for live performances from eras where recording techniques were still being streamlined. For me the Giordano was the best overall production in the set. Christa Ludwig was once again a Leonore of the highest order in the Beethoven, and Thomas Schippers gave me several tugs at my heart strings with his well chosen interpretive nuances in some of La Boheme's sweeter and sentimental passages! The performance of the Gluck was a very pleasant surprise! The best version I've ever heard! But I must take issue with the decision to squeeze 7 opera synopses on two dinky pages! That was very disappointing. It may be helpful if downloads might be available for a small price as an add-on option. Assuming that information of that sort is of little importance seems a bit short sighted. This listener found it irritating and it kept me from giving the product a 5 star rating." Report Abuse
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