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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sutherland proves she can still trill with the best, 31 Dec. 2001
L. J. Heighton (England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bellini: La Sonnambula (Audio CD)
This was the second recording of Sonnambula made by Dame Joan Sutherland (La Stupenda). Despite being late in her career she puts in an astounding performance as only she can with the famous trill, arpeggio work and high notes still stunningly intact. She hardly sounds like the young girl she is portraying (she was about 60 when the recording was made), and for pure beauty and ease of sound I would refer the listener to her earlier recording, but there is more drama and characterisation here than previously and the diction is much improved. As always she dominates the ensembles with the sheer size of the voice. She proved she could still run rings around just about everyone else in the world with this repertoire. Pavarotti as Elvino is also impressive with a barrage of high-C's and achieves real pathos in his second act aria, but elsewhere has a tendency to over-sing: Every bit the latin lover but the opera is set in Switzerland! Nicolai Ghiaurov is dignified as the Count and his voice is beautiful - a true gentleman. In the support cast Isobel Buchannan stands out as Lisa - the bitter love-rival. Everything she sings is magical and I would buy this set for her alone. She has agility and high notes to rival Sutherland and plays the coquette with aplomb. An exciting find. Della Jones is also excellent in the small part of Teresa. The chorus and orchestra are well controlled under Richard Bonynge (Sutherland's husband) who is an expert in this area and this all adds up to a really enjoyable performance. The story is light-weight but who cares when the music is this good.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent all-round cast even if Sutherland cannot reach her 1962 heights, 28 Aug. 2014
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bellini: La Sonnambula (Audio CD)
I am not drawn towards bel canto opera but the opportunity to reconsider the 1980 recording of Joan Sutherland, 1926-2010, singing Bellini’s ‘La Sonnambula’ has been very enjoyable. This was the artist’s second recording of the opera for Decca; her first was in 1962, again with her husband, Richard Bonynge, b. 1930, conducting. The diva was then at the height of her powers, supported by Nicola Monti, Fernando Corena and Sylvia Stahlman, with the Florence Maggio Musicale Chorus and Orchestra of Maggio Musicale, Florence.

Here she is supported by Luciano Pavarotti, 1935-2007, well before he was spoiled by global popularity, Nicolai Ghiaurov, 1929-2004, and Della Jones, b. 1946. Bonynge conducts the London Opera Chorus [mention should be made of their chorus master, Terry Edwards, for the villagers’ spirited singing throughout] and the National Philharmonic Orchestra. In the minor role of Alessio is the 34-year old John Tomlinson.

The sound is very good, reverberating in a January Kingsway Hall, London, and provides a perfect background for the soloists to shine. On record, as opposed to in the opera house where her lack of innate acting ability often distracted, it is Sutherland’s flawless technique and perfectly pitched high notes that impresses as Amina, fully matching the ardour and intensity of the tenor, who was also not a natural singer/actor. At the time, Ghiaurov was one of the greatest operatic basses and here he comes across as suitably aristocratic as Rodolfo, the lord of the manor. As Avril Bardoni points out in her synopsis, Rodolfo represents ‘the sane influence of education and experience leavening the naivety and ignorance of the [Swiss] village community.’

I have not always found Bonynge to be a sympathetic conductor but here he does all that the [sometimes rather boring] score demands, supporting and promoting three of the greatest voices of the time.

The 1962 recording has Sutherland in her prime whilst, here, she slightly forces her voice; nevertheless, it is still very fine singing. Against that, the other soloists are very much better in this later version. Personally, I prefer this version for its all-round merits and as a reminder of how Sutherland breathed new life into 20th-century bel canto singing. However, one or other still remains the best version, depending on whether the listener wants to hear the best Amina or the best cast on record.

The 2-CD box contains a full libretto, a synopsis and a short essay on the composition of La Sonnambula and the singers in the original performance in Milan in 1831, Giuditta Pasta and Giovanni Battista Rubini. Both were exceptional and Bellini wrote the opera with their voices and abilities in mind. The booklet also contains a number of contemporary portrait drawings.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sutherland again, 2 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: Bellini: La Sonnambula (Audio CD)
I find the combination of Bonynge and Sutherland always good. Here we also have Pavarotti - so would it not be perfect? It is nearly so for my taste.
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Bellini: La Sonnambula
Bellini: La Sonnambula by Joan Sutherland (Audio CD - 1987)
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