...although the earlier of Leontyne Price's two recordings runs it close.This is one of the three or four most satisfying recordings of this great, sprawling opera - and two of the others also feature Tebaldi. To hear her at her very best, you need to go to the legendary 1953 live set, thrillingly conducted by Mitropoulos - Del Monaco also is stunning here - but the sound is pretty rough and Aldo Protti merely adequate compared with the burnished, nut-brown tones of Bastianini. This 1955 Decca studio recording, in excellent stereo sound, is very good - I cannot believe how snooty some critics (especially my compatriot British ones who rave about weedy, effete voices like those of Pears, Bostridge and their like) are about Del Monaco in this, probably his best role after Otello; to me he is tremendous, but it has to be said that for sheer glamour, Corelli tops him in the 1958 Hardy recording with the same conductor (also available on black & white DVD) which is in good, live sound but obviously not as pleasant a listening experience as this. The cast assembled is without peer even if Molinari-Pradelli's conducting is nothing special and Tebaldi is certainly in fresher voice than in 1958. We are spoilt for choice with recordings of this opera, as, in addition to the earlier Price set, there is also the Callas version with a good, if not quite so spectacular, cast let down by Rossi-Lemeni's woolly Padre Guardiano and a baritone past his best. After over 50 years, this remains the best bet, in many ways, and it is now available on DG Originals.