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Donizetti: Lucia Di Lammermoor / Caballe, Carreras, Ramey

Release Date: 07/13/2010 
Label:  Philips   Catalog #: 426563   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Gaetano Donizetti
Performer:  Samuel RameyJosé CarrerasMontserrat CaballéAnn Murray,   ... 
Conductor:  Jesús Lopez-Cobos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

I find it reprehensible that nowhere do Philips indicate that this is a very different Lucia than any you'll encounter on other recordings of the opera. Anybody possessing the September 1977 issue of GRAMOPHONE will find there my lengthy and detailed description of how this authentic, unadorned version, prepared by Lopez-Cobos for a new Ricordi edition (and conducted thus by him at the time at Covent Garden), differs from what is usually heard. The basic difference concerns the upward transpositions of Lucia's solos (the Mad scene a whole tone) and the duet with Enrico, and the elimination of all the customary embellishments and liberties that have become a tradition in the theatre and to a large extent on disc (while here the original Read more cadences are restored).

This leaves you with a penny-plain version that certainly takes away some of the excitement and character from the piece, but has a certain pure beauty of its own, especially as sung by Caballe. I see that I was a touch hard on her in my original review. Now I have to say I find the elegiac beauty of most of her singing something to treasure, decorations (of which she of all singers was eminently capable) or no. It's true that pressure on her tone at the top of her voice called for by the higher keys is not always pleasing to hear; against that there is much vocalization that simply cannot be equalled today for sweetness and elegance, even if the dramatic insights offered by Callas (EMI), and to a lesser extent, Sutherland (Decca) are seldom present in Caballe's reading. Listen to "Quando rapito inestasi" and you hear the luminous beauty of the diva's performance—even if you find the tempo, authentic or not, a trifle staid.

There can be no two views about Carreras's singing as Edgardo, possibly superior to that in any of the orthodox sets. Even in the face of some very famous opposition, Carreras, always at his very best in Donizetti, is not to be denied, his interpretation the very epitome of the ardent, then jealous and distraught lover. His amazing ability to sing phrases in a single breath and his imaginative use of the text are certainly displayed here, and the voice—as I said in 1977 "in the glory of its early summer"—is warm yet bright in tone, even in scale. Sardinero is an honest, straightforward not very individual Enrico. The young Samuel Ramey contributes an appreciable Raimondo and Ann Murray is heard briefly as Alisa, both portending things still to come. Lopez-Cobos conducts his own edition and the New Philharmonia with full-blooded enthusiasm, in spite of the prevalence of slow speeds, apparently Donizetti's.

The Philips recording is much to be preferred to that on either of the Sutherland/Decca sets conducted by Bonynge and Pritchard, and is equal to the later Callas/Serafin/EMI, still my preference for dramatic truth. However, for the idiomatic and lovely singing of the soprano and tenor and the fidelity of all concerned to the score, this version has much to commend it. I hugely enjoyed hearing it once more.

-- Gramophone [1/1991]
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Works on This Recording

Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti
Performer:  Samuel Ramey (Bass), José Carreras (Tenor), Montserrat Caballé (Soprano),
Ann Murray (Mezzo Soprano), Claes H. Ahnsjö (Tenor), Vincente Sardinero (Baritone)
Conductor:  Jesús Lopez-Cobos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1835; Italy 
Language: Italian 

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