In the opera house, Sutherland is the complete package. This live recording of Lucia from 1975 captures the full phenomenon that was La Stupenda and it surely puts to rest any quibbles about her dramatic gifts or ability to enunciate the words. It's accepted by anyone with the ears to hear and the heart to feel that this was the most glorious soprano voice of the 20th century; the most complete technique, the most thrillingly spectacular vocal perfection. But she has her critics on the words versus music front. So, I say to those critics: Listen to this! It's a staggering interpretation. The pyrotechnics are triumphantly perfect, as you might expect - but the dramatic involvement is equally fully realised. This is the Lucia of our age and Sutherland lets us see why the role is one of the greatest challenges of all soprano roles through the sheer ease of her performance. It has everything, sharply etched pronunciation and supreme vocal display - but at the service of the music. Those E flats pinned you to the back of your seat, even on the back row! I remember them at Covent Graden in 1985 but here, ten years earlier, they are even more astonishing.
Pavarotti is in golden voice too: seemingly endless waves of burnished, sumptuous tone. Sutherland makes him work hard (as he was sometimes apt not to do with lesser partners) and one can feel the respect he has for the woman who, more than any other, helped him to become the great singer he was. I've said before in other reviews that they don't make them like this any more. Don't take my word for it. Just listen to this and judge for yourself.
Although live, the sound on this set is perfectly acceptable. Bonynge conducts with a great sense of style and dramatic thrust. It was evidently one of the great nights at the opera.