This famous set of "Il Trittico" straddles the mono-stereo eras, with only Gianni Schicchi in sterero, while Il tabarro and Suor Angelica come in EMI's boxy mono from the early Fifties, which places the voices uncomfortably close during loud passages, not to mention distorting the balances -- the orchestra is placed well backward, overshadowed by the voices. the question, then, is whether to buy all three operas in a single set or separately. How you fall on this question depends in large part on your love for Tito Gobbi. He's such a standout as Schicchi that no one since has surpassed his sharp, sly portrayal. On the other hand, there's a live La Scala performance form the same era that's even livelier so far as wit and dramatic vitality go, and Opera d'Oro's sound is acceptable mono. There's also a very good budget Schicchi on Eurodisc under Patane if you can live without Gobbi (or don't care for his idiosyncratic voice, with its hard edge and fast beat).
Victoria de los Angeles adds nice support as Gobbi's daughter, and then she goes on to give a stellar account of Suor Angelica. This opera is religious kitsch pure and simple, or Catholic soft porn, however you want to view it. It takes de los Angeles' unique dramatic persona, with its touching vulnerability, to add such pathos and humanity that questions of kitsch dissolve before her artistry. I know that Tebaldi also made a hit in this role -- she is decidedly more lachrymose -- but for me, only one Angelica is needed, and this is the one.
Which leaves the serious problem of Il tabarro, long the least popular of the trilogy. Yet for all its grimness (the cloak in the title serves as cover for the corpse of the lover of the doleful heroine, Giorgetta) PPccini wrote a fascinating score. Here Gobbi does another star turn as the wronged husband, Michele (if only the microphone didn't shatter every time he raises his voice). His arc from loving husband to enraged murderer is chilling and has never been surpassed. Unfortunately, the other two parts of the love triangle are not well sung. Margaret Mas has a very ordinary soprano that sounds too old and lacks any sparkle; she's quite generic in her portrayal as well, a shame since Giorgetta is a rich role, and she has most of the singing to do from scene to scene. As her lover, Luigi, tenor Giancita Prandelli is just as ordinary, with neither the voice nor the temperament to put him in a first-rate recording. As for alternatives, I've not heard the one with Leontyne Price, the young Domingo, and an equally young Sherrill Milnes on RCA, but the wooden presence of Erich Leinsdorf doesn't bode well, and Milnes has no hope of catching up to the legendary Gobbi. Tebaldi and Del Monaco are thrillingly paired, with Robert Merrill in the title role, on Decca; it's a great set even though Tebaldi sounds a bit edgy and squawky.
I've tried to um up the pluses and minuses as objectively as possible. Two hits and a miss isn't a bad score in Il trittico, and if you are eager to hear Gobbi at his best, perhaps the presence of a mediocre cast in Il tabarro won't be a hindrance, or the flawed mono sound.