Notes and Editorial Reviews
Poliuto is Donizetti's 57th opera and it contains some of his greatest music, including a procession and series of choruses to which Verdi paid homage in Aida. It is not often revived and that may be due to the difficulty of the tenor part and the relatively small role for soprano--few lead sopranos are comfortable in the back seat. Maria Callas chose it for her return to La Scala in l960 after a three-season absence and some apparent vocal difficulties, and this set is a record of that return.
The opera is cut somewhat and a good deal of Callas' music is either simplified or eliminated, but what we get is still very special. Yes, there's a certain thickness of vocal delivery that comes and goes and some high notes are pretty wayward, but there's also much fine singing and singing-acting. Callas fans should own this.
Franco Corelli was in full bloom at this point in his career and he partners Callas nicely and sings brilliantly in his solos. Ettore Bastianini's honeyed baritone has rarely been heard to better advantage. Antonino Votto leads a singer-driven performance. The sound is pretty trying, but it's worth it for Callas. Recommended--with a warning or two.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com