To say that I was utterly amazed by this gloriously, but unforgiveably neglected work is the understatement of the century. The sheer romanticism of the orchestration is so vivid and rich, one can hear echoes of Wagner throughout. Yet this is work of total fluidity, requiring an unbelievably skilled soprano to pull the title role off. Quite righly, only Dame Joan could encompass the lyric, dramatic and coloratura demands of this astonishingly difficult role. Indeed, it has been described as the most difficult role in the soprano territory, which only the greatest and technically most accomplished soprano in the world could pull off. And Dame Joan does not disappoint. I doubt if even the most illustrious of her golden age predecessors could achieve such a feat, including Sybil Sanderson, Tetrazzini and Catalani! Certainly, no soprano from the 20th century could do so. (Including Callas, who mercifully spared us a recording of her odious catawailing)
The highlight has to be the glorious invocation scene, where at the end of each verse Joan is called on to produce a barrage of High D's. Coupled with the endless top C's and without doubt the most thrilling note ever emitted from a human larynx, Joans startling High E at the end of her love duet. This recording stands out as a landmark in discography. Richard Bonynge deserves much praise for insisting on this hidden treasure seeing the light of day again.