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Bellini: I Puritani / Sutherland, Filacuridi, Gui

Bellini / Sutherland / Filacuridi / Rpo / Gui
Release Date: 10/26/2010 
Label:  Glyndebourne Festival Opera   Catalog #: 9-60   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Vincenzo Bellini
Performer:  Monica SinclairDavid WardErnest BlancGiuseppe Modesti,   ... 
Conductor:  Vittorio Gui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic OrchestraGlyndebourne Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
Length: 2 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BELLINI I Puritani Vittorio Gui, cond; Joan Sutherland ( Elvira ); Monica Sinclair ( Enrichetta ); Nicola Filacuridi ( Arturo ); Ernst Blanc ( Riccardo ); Giuseppe Modesti ( Giorgio ); David Ward ( Lord Walton ); John Kentish ( Read more class="ARIAL12i">Bruno ); Glyndebourne Ch; Royal PO GLYNDEBOURNE GFOCD 009-60, mono (2 CDs: 134:06 ) Live: Glyndebourne 6/5/1960

As I type these lines, Joan Sutherland has been dead less than four months; by providential timing, this set now appears as a worthy tribute to the art of La Stupenda. While there was a previous issue of this performance on the Melodram label, this one is in vastly superior (indeed, excellent) sound as coming directly from the original master tapes, and is given the lavish packaging of all the Glyndebourne issues, with a sturdy outer cardboard book case, complete Italian-English libretto, and numerous photographs.

There are three other extant performances of Puritani with Sutherland—her two studio recordings for Decca from 1963 and 1975, and a live 1961 performance with tenor Gianni Raimondi conducted by Tulio Serafin. Of these, the first and third can be quickly set aside due to numerous performance cuts in the score, inferior casting in other roles, and in the 1961 performance variable radio broadcast sound quality that is limited at its best. By contrast, the 1975 performance is note-complete and features an all-star vocal cast of Luciano Pavarotti, Piero Cappucilli, and Nicolai Ghiaurov under the baton of Sutherland’s husband, Richard Bonynge. Along with the likewise uncut 1979 EMI recording featuring Montserrat Caballé, Alfredo Kraus, and Riccardo Muti (my preferred choice), it is one of two mainstays of the catalog for this opera.

What, then, makes this recording a worthy acquisition to supplement Sutherland’s 1975 studio outing, especially given that it, too, suffers numerous standard performance cuts? First, it offers La Stupenda in her glorious youthful prime when she earned her Italian appellation. Whereas by 1975 Sutherland had settled down into a mode of comfortable vocal routine (though her routine could put most other singers’ excellence to shame), in this 1960 live outing she brings to the role of Elvira youthful sheen, energy, imagination, and (yes!) superior diction. Second, there is the conducting of Vittorio Gui; what a blessing to have a podium maestro who understands the idiom and brings it to life, as opposed to the plodding mediocrity of Bonynge that hobbled so many of Sutherland’s commercial issues! Third, the casting of the other roles is uniformly strong. Nicola Filacuridi came to brief-lived prominence in the mid 1950s. My only previous exposure to him is a 1952 broadcast of Alfano’s Risurezzione (on an EJS LP issue) in which he offers a frustratingly inconsistent Dmitri—an interpretation of exceptional intelligence graced with some ravishing pianissimo high notes, but marred by an often blatty midrange and an excessive use of facial mask resonance that brings to mind Licia Albanese on a mega-overdose of steroids. Here the interpretation is equally intelligent and the voice is fully under control, evenly produced throughout all registers and with the use of facial mask resonance much reduced. Granted, he is no Pavarotti or Kraus, and he (sensibly) eschews a number of high notes by taking transpositions (in “Credeasi misera” he sings neither the notorious F above high C nor the alternative C?, but simply F an octave lower), but the result is always musicianly and at the service of the score rather than for self-aggrandizing effect. Of the other singers, all are quite accomplished, even John Kentish in the brief role of Bruno, but special mention should be made of the magnificent Riccardo of Ernst Blanc, a true piece of luxury casting. The chorus and orchestra turn in first-rate work. Last year I lamented the lack of an opera recording in my Want List; this issue may well remedy that fault for 2011. For fans of Sutherland, Bellini, and great opera singing alike, this set is indispensable and urgently recommended.

FANFARE: James A. Altena
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Works on This Recording

I puritani by Vincenzo Bellini
Performer:  Monica Sinclair (Alto), David Ward (Bass), Ernest Blanc (Baritone),
Giuseppe Modesti (Bass), Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano), Nicola Filacuridi (Tenor),
John Kentish (Tenor)
Conductor:  Vittorio Gui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  Glyndebourne Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1835; Italy 
Date of Recording: 06/05/1960 

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