The concept of this album is good - to collect songs and arias connected to the legendary, short-lived diva Maria Malibran, and the more deluxe the edition of this you get, the more info provided.
Yet the implication that Decca and Bartoli are unique in their exploration of rare opera is most unfair. The independant record company OPERA RARA have been doing this for years, and not just recitals, but whole operas with fabulous singers like Nelly Miricioiu, Renee Fleming, Jennifer Larmore and co. They don't get all the hype and marketing that Bartoli gets. But their recordings (also presented in a "deluxe" way) have rather more artistic integrity and tell us more about Pacini, Bellini etc than Bartoli does.
So does MARIA live up to the hype?
Well, I really enjoyed this album, but there are few things to mention to prospective buyers. Firstly, Bartoli's coloratura, while stunningly accurate, can seem a bit agressive sometimes. The Casta Diva from Norma, is most unusually sung, almost whispered. This has aroused some controversy, but I rather like it - for a one off.
This is an album where Bartoli takes a few risks. Some come off, some don't. It's an incredible voice of course and I love her to bits. It's a good album. But if you enjoy it, do investigate OPERA RARA, where you will find a treasure trove of forgotten operatic jewels, from the age of Maria Malibran