Notes and Editorial Reviews
Riccardo Muti, cond; Mirella Freni (
); Luciano Pavarotti (
); Sesto Bruscantini (
); Bonaldo Giaiotti (
); Giovanni Antonini (
); Mirella Fiorentini (
); Mino Venturini (
); RAI SO & Ch
OPERA D’ORO 7043 (2 CDs: 153:58
Text and Translation) Live: Rome 7/8/1969
This is more for fans of Mirella Freni and Luciano Pavarotti and less for fans of
The opera is subject to cuts, but it presents Freni and Pavarotti in a rare outing together in the realm of
. Two recordings exist of Freni singing Elvira: in 1962 with Alfredo Kraus at the Teatro Communale di Modena and again in 1969 with Pavarotti in this RAI broadcast. Both of these events have circulated over the years on a variety of labels. Opera d’Oro has elevated this 1969 recording to their Grand Tier series; which means you pay more, but you get original cover art by Rafal Olbinski and a libretto. The libretto is a plus.
Freni and Pavarotti are in good form. This was early in their careers; their voices shimmer with youth and vitality. Freni is agile in the coloratura and lets the glory notes at the top fly with easy abandon. Her warm tone helps to add a measure of sympathy and credibility to Elvira, not one of opera’s better-written characters. Freni was particularly adept at adding dimension to rather dull and poorly written heroines, making them well rounded and credible.
in the studio a few years later under Bonynge with Sutherland, a recording that has held up well over the years, but there is exuberance to his performance in this live RAI event that is replaced by a somewhat more restrained polish when recording under studio conditions. The same can be said of Muti’s conducting. By the time he recorded the work in the studio with Caballé and Kraus in 1979, some of the fizz from 1969 was replaced by a greater attention to detail and a sense of making certain every facet of the score is properly executed.
There are some cuts in this live performance. Not as severely abbreviated as the 1953 Serafin/Callas/Di Stefano recording on EMI (which actually restored some material that was often cut in performance), but running about 20 minutes shorter than the complete studio recordings made with Sutherland (1973), Sills (1973), Caballé (1979), and Gruberova (1993). The deleted material was considered “standard performance cuts” intended to shorten a long work into a manageable evening’s entertainment. I hope the deletions won’t diminish the merits of this
. It is a good performance and should be of more than passing interest to people who treasure the opera or fans of Freni, Pavarotti, and Muti. The sound is fairly good. The soloists are always on mike and presented with more clarity than the orchestra. Fortes tend to saturate the tape and muddy the sound, but not terribly. Opera d’Oro gives no indication whether the recording is stereo or mono. The orchestra sounds like it might be stereo, but placement of singers is always center. Although it’s “live,” I suspect it was a concert performance intended for radio broadcast, since noises from stage movements and an audience are not present. I wouldn’t recommend this recording as a first choice
due to the availability of complete versions in superior sound, but there is much to appreciate and enjoy in this Freni/Pavarotti/Muti performance. Muti keeps the proceedings moving along with considerable energy and doesn’t allow the quieter moments to turn saccharine or lethargic. Freni recorded precious little of Bellini’s music; adding her Elvira to your collection is worth the investment.
FANFARE: David L. Kirk
Works on This Recording
I puritani by Vincenzo Bellini
Giovanni Antonini (Bass),
Sesto Bruscantini (Baritone),
Luciano Pavarotti (Tenor),
Mirella Freni (Soprano),
Mirella Fiorentini (Mezzo Soprano),
Mino Venturini (Tenor),
Bonaldo Giaiotti (Bass)
Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Rome,
Italian Radio Chorus Rome
Written: 1835; Italy
Date of Recording: 07/08/1969
Venue: Live Rome, Italy
Length: 154 Minutes 27 Secs.
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