This is one of the numerous reissues on CD of the London 1976 studio recording.
At that time, Casa Ricordi had commissioned Jesús López-Cobos (b. 1940) to produce a new score of the opera, reproducing, as accurately as possible, the original one by Cammarano and Donizetti.
Thanks to the in-depth López-Cobos' survey, about one hundred differences between the original score and the commonly used ones were found out.
This performance follows the "new" score elaborated by López-Cobos. The problem was that, strangely, Philips, issuing the original LP-set, did not minimally underscored this important feature.
Misunderstandings arose, in particular concerning Montserrat Caballé's performance.
Many of the buyers of the LPs arrived at thinking that Lucia's part had been adapted for "covering" some, supposed, Caballé's belcanto limitations (!).
As a matter of fact, many arbitrary (or so supposed) embellishments were cut off; among them, some of the most famous from the "scena della pazzia" (Lucia's vocalizations imitating the flute included).
All the scene is transposed one whole step above; other passages in the opera are transposed one half-step above, etc.. As a consequence, many tonality changes occur, and, obviously, the general colour and mood of the opera become different.
The first consequence is that a strict comparison with other performances, in particular in Lucia's part, becomes inappropriate.
A second consideration, even more important, is that this "Lucia di Lammermoor" is given unusual and very interesting dimensions: its tragical impact is enormously improved, also because the listener remains more focused on the essence of the dramaturgical and musical narration.
It is a pleasant surprise to find ourselves as "pressed" by the new and unexpected tragical powerfulness of the work, which, nevertheless, remains rich of belcanto features and details.
The opera does not lose its genuine imprinting, but, showing a sort of Verdian vocation, in this version it puts in evidence some neglected aspects of Donizetti's musical recherche.
Now it will be clear that Jesús López-Cobos deeply knows and masters "his" score; his performance is therefore highly refined, characterized by a vivid dramaturgical and musical attention, a perfect choice of paces and it is enriched by new tragical nuances.
The New Philharmonia Orchestra is attentive and involved and it supports the conductor with precision and warmness. As usual, the Ambrosian Opera Chorus and John McCarthy are simply perfect.
A real "plus" is the magical touch of the great and unforgotten Ubaldo Gardini, as Language Coach.
Montserrat Caballé (b. 1933), in general terms, is not my preferred soprano; here, in spite of every reservation, she is particularly well suited to the "new" score.
The result is an outstanding interpretation, absolutely convincing and involving, and, in many passages, really sublime (you can also verify in the Gramophone Archive how, during the time, the judgement concerning her performance has greatly improved, finally placing it among the three or four interpretations deserving the maximum consensus).
In the "scena della pazzia", the virtuosic "flute vocalizations" (they are really beautiful, but, from a dramaturgical point of view, are they actually context-sensitive?) are substituted by some high notes, executed by Caballé forcing her voice - intentionally, and unusually in comparison with her general stylistic approach - resulting, here and there, in a nearly shrill vocal emission, absolutely consistent with madness typical way of expression.
Maybe Caballé does not manage to convey to Lucia all the freshness of her very young age, but this problem, in my opinion, affects also Callas, Sutherland and Sills. On disc, only Anna Moffo, in her prime, and, even more, Lina Pagliughi managed to completely achieve also that feature.
On the contrary, the wonderful 1970s' José Carreras (b. 1946), immediately, and without reservations, convinced everybody: many critics consider his Edgardo possibly the best of ever (on disc) and one of Carreras' sublime interpretations.
As a matter of fact, his performance is really outstanding, in terms of technique, vocal quality, expressive subtlety and intensity, interpretative involvement.
In many passages, Carreras manages to sing with a sole breath what all the others have to sing using two breaths: this ability results in marvelous singing lines, extremely effective not only on the virtuoso side, but, what is more, on the expressive one, generating astonishing musical moments: not to miss!
Enrico is played by the expert Vincente Sardinero (1937-2002). He excellently manages the role, maybe with a not particularly beautiful voice (but, does Enrico really deserve a nice timbre?), anyway well rounded and full.
He is particularly well suited to opposing Carreras in their duets. From a mere musical point of view, here we can also enjoy them in the "Tower of Wolferang" scene, even if, in my opinion, it has no narrative sequel and, dramaturgically, it appears useless and not convincing.
Rodrigo is none other than the "young" Samuel Ramey (b. 1942), who conveys to the whole the already warm and beautiful colors of his nice voice. His performance is excellent, even if Ramey, here, obviously, had not yet reached the zenith of his interpretative maturity.
Claes H. Ansjö (b. 1942), very well and attentively, sings a convincing Arturo.
Alisa is played by another singer who will enjoy a good career, that is the here young, but already brava, Ann Murray (b. 1949).
Vincenzo Bello, a very reliable artist, is Normanno.
The solidity of this cast produces also an outstanding performance of the famous sextet, which, very often, is hampered by one or two feebler voices.
In conclusion, here we meet a different, nevertheless anything but arbitrary - on the contrary! -, "Lucia di Lammermoor", not necessarily better or worse than the "traditional" ones, with their pleasant embellishments or enrichments (like the famous "glassarmonica" in Sills' version).
Finally, I prefer the edition here presented, so robust, direct and compact in its tragical vocation.
Nevertheless, I will continue to like, in their different approaches, also Callas, Sills, Moffo and the ineffable 1939 Pagliughi's recording.
The sound is excellent, warm and detailed and it features an optimal balance between voices and music, joined to a good separation of sound layers.
This issue is presented in a cheap packaging and it does not include the libretto.