The odds on me reviewing this set -and even more so actually liking it-are colossal. I really do not like the "bel canto" repertoire at all, and would consign most of the Sutherland/Bonynge output to the dustbin of eternity (OK, L'Elisir and Fille du Regiment are tolerable).
Foremost among my dislikes are Lucia and Norma. However, although my tastes are very German/Austrian and Late Verdi/Verismo orientated, I have an obsession with works like Tales of Hoffmann and Die Fledermaus, so conversion has always been a possibility.
Having enjoyed Gergiev's Parsifal, I was intrigued by the sheer unlikelihood of this recording-and I was "blown away." It is full on , red-blooded Verdi style conducting (hence the review title), of the Ken Dodd school (a revered British comedian , one of whose catchphrases is "I've got it to give, and By Jove you're going to get it"!)
I'm not going to crtically analyse the performance-it would be an impertinence. Suffice to say that I revelled in it from start to finish! Dessay is spectacular, Beczala, whom I saw in Vienna as a superb Faust is again spirited and sings with intelligence and a beautfiful legato. The rest of the cast sound like all Verdians should, and recording and playing are top notch-the glass harmonica is wonderfully effective.The chorus is as superb as it is seemingly vast.
With Parsifal, Gergiev managed to convince me with his reading of a work I love deeply-with this Lucia, he has converted me to enjoying enormously a work I hitherto did not care for, and that is a truly great achievement in my eyes-or rather ears! This is a great rollicking blast of a recording, and coming from me, any praise at all would be extraordinary. I don't know if bel canto purists will be as enthused as I am, but I urge all who love full on ,over the top Grand Opera to give this a hearing. Glorious 5 stars. (BY THE WAY, FOR THOSE WHO HAVE ONLY READ THE TITLE-YES-I DO Know It's By DONIZETTI! I like it bcause the interpretation is more like V than D! Clear enough?Sometimes I wonder! See comments below!) Stewart Crowe