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4.5 out of 5 stars
Puccini: La Bohème
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
La Boheme is not one of my favourite operas, but I'm adding my review because I'm dismayed and baffled by some of the mean-spirited reviews on this page.

Just to reiterate: this is one recording that certainly does justify the hype attached to it. Pavarotti and Freni - a pair of singers whose deep communicative bond was forged in childhood - were at the height of their powers when this was made; Karajan - the supreme Italian opera conductor of his time - for once was satisfied just to conduct and not to bother the engineers. The result is one of the finest (if not THE finest) recordings of the analogue era. I even know people who don't like Puccni, yet who own this set because it sounds so gorgeous....

Of course, it's probably not the only Boheme you need to own: the Beecham recording with Bjorling and de los Angeles is arguably at least as good as this musically, though the sound is mono. But if you want a great interpretation in stunning sound, this is the one you should go for. And ignore anyone who tells you otherwise....:)
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89 of 93 people found the following review helpful
on 6 June 2000
Rodolfo was the role of Pavarotti's debut in his home town of Modena, and it was one he kept in his repertoire until the mid-nineties. This recording, from 1972, catches him in his prime, at the age of 37, and the voice is ideally poised between lyric and heroic. Long familiarity with the part, his superlative diction and thrillingly easy high notes, combine to make him the most completely satisfying Rodolfo on record. Bjoerling comes close with Beecham (EMI), but the voice lacks italianate bite. Bergonzi, Gedda and Domingo, though each possessing many virtues, fail to draw you into the world of the young poet as Pavarotti does.
He is equalled in every regard by Freni's exquisite Mimi. This, along with her Butterfly for Karajan (Decca), represents the great Modenese soprano at her best. Her long friendship with the tenor pays huge dividends, and she rivals Callas (EMI) in the huge emotional range she achieves. Listen to the variety of colour she brings to "Donde lieta" and the heart-stopping tenderness she achieves on the word 'bada' - de los Angeles (EMI) attempts something similar with Beecham, but the result is cloying.
Panerai, in his third recording of Marcello, is robust and alert, vividly conveying the painter's dog-like adoration of Harwood's Mussetta. The English soprano, sadly neglected on record, catches the 'tart-with-a-heart' essence of the woman, and combines with the excellent Ghiaurov and Matteo to produce an almost unbearably poignant fourth act.
Karajan avoids any of the exaggeration which often marred his later operatic recordings. He evidently adores the piece, and draws magnificent playing from the BPO. The sound production is of demonstration quality.
None of the more recent recordings is worth serious consideration - this is the Boheme to have on your shelf.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 5 August 2011
Italian splendour with Puccini's most loved opera paired with Luciano Pavarotti and Mirella Freni at the top of their game. The score is treated in a wonderfully sumptuous fashion by von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic and the voices of Pavarotti and Freni mix in as though they were made for this moment.

As my favourite of Puccini's operas I have ended up with 3 complete versions of Boheme but this is the one that I return to time and again. A superbly romantic set and the sound quality is excellent. Although some of the earlier recordings have their fans too, the overall experience with these other sets can be marred by poor quality transfers, this is not a problem here.

Pour yourself a red wine, 2 if you are with someone else, put this disc on and bask in its warmth and beauty.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 February 2012
There are a huge number of versions of La Boheme on the market making it difficult to select one. This version recorded in 1972 at the Jesus-Christus Kirche in Berlin, with the Berlin Philharmoniker under the direction of Herbert Von Karajan is IMHO the best stereo analogue recording. The engineering is excellent and the listener is not distracted from the beauty of the music and singing.

Both Pavarotti and Freni are at the peak of their careers. Pavarotti sings Rodolfo with power while retaining full control and focus in delivering an outstanding performance. In act 1 Pavarotti sings 'Che gelida manina' with tenderness but the power of his voice allows him to move through the range hitting the top notes with such clarity, without any shrillness or cracking. Freni follows with 'Sì, mi chiamano Mimì' in a voice that has such a youthfulness to it, making her so believable as Mimi. Mirella Freni works so well with Pavarotti, as another reviewer has already mentioned, their professional relationship was very strong and added to the overall experience.

Sound quality is very good, if you like to play your opera very loud then you will find no distortion or discernible hiss.

Is this the best set available? I would say that if you want a modern digital recording you should go for the Villason/Netrebko 2008 recording La Boheme this is nearly as good as the Pavarotti/Freni version. However in my opinion the best version is the Bjorling/de los Angeles recording from 1956 under the baton of Sir Thomas Beecham Puccini: La Bohème The only drawback for some maybe that it is a mono recording.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
First off, on my stereo at least, there is nothing wrong with the placement of either voices or orchestra in this recording. As one would expect from DECCA, the sonics are vivid and everything is clearly audible, with vibrant depth and fidelity. But, and here is where I think some opera lovers have a problem, those who consider the orchestra an unnecessary intrusion on the royalty of the singers might be disappointed: the orchestra here is a co-protagonist. After all, this is Boheme, not Trovatore. Puccini wrote some lively, sophisticated orchestral accompaniment, weaving it in and out of the vocal lines.

The cast is uncannily good. All the principals are at the peak of their vocal powers, and they have a blast with the score. Pavarotti shines, with incredible beauty of tone and an apparent effortlessness that is amazing. And the Berlin Philharmonic does the same. It literally sings with the singers, with great sensitivity and personality. How it sings! It's like hearing the score for the first time. One discovers how well the orchestral parts are written. When this orchestra lets loose, it is just hair-raising. Just listen to the very end of Act 2: the orchestra's phrases are played with fluid, flexible changes of tempo, first decelerating, then suddenly accelerating, with unerring force and precision, as if the Philharmoniker were one breathing organism. Exhilarating. And of course the detail one discovers here and there is illuminating. Then there are the sweeping phrases when it accompanies sentimental passages, such as much of the third act, especially Rodolfo's monologue about Mimi's illness: here the orchestra really sings, without shame, without hiding behind the tenor but side by side.

It has been said that Karajan's tempi are broad. I don't find them that broad, actually, except occasionally. When they are, the willfulness helps bring out the beauty of the melody. The opposite might be called "starving the rhythm," as Karajan biographer Richard Osborne states in his book. Taken slowly, the melody has the time to reveal its stuff, show its parts as well as the sum of its parts. Those sweeping melodies I was talking about are a case in point: taken slowly, they have time to develop force, and Karajan's sense of tension never allows them to sag in the middle, but keeps them flowing dynamically and sustains them. He is blessed here with the instruments capable of achieving this, i.e. great voices and a great orchestra. But there is definitely one man behind it all.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2012
Forty years on, this is still a superb recording. Mirella Freni is breathtaking when she sings, 'They call me Mimi' and Pavarotti's youthful interpretation of Rodolfo captures the essence of the story. Elizabeth Harwood's Musetta is joyously energetic and the interaction between the supporting roles is dynamic. The orchestral accompaniment is what you would expect from the Berlin Philharmonic and von Karajan. Judge for yourself!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 January 2013
Freni, Pavarotti are on top form and no younger singers have even begun to match them, Surprisingly, the Berlin Phil catch the mood of the music wonderfully well....and Karajan is Karajan!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 March 2013
Can't help but agree with all the other five star comments this is a fantastic version with Pavarotti at his peak. Superb excerpts for in the car as all on one disc. Now looking for a full version!!

Also agree with the comments that there are some mean spirited lower star reviews. Ignore them at get this for your own!
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34 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on 16 January 2000
Before this recording Boheme was Boheme but, the combination of Pavarotti and Freni are just perfect for Puccini's masterpiece. Together with a first class supporting cast their voices are perfection. If Puccini himself could have heard these two together he would have said "that is what I intended." Therefore this must be the definitive version of Puccini's masterpiece.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 2010
An excellent recording of a popular opera. It is especially rewarding to hear the late Luciano Pavarotti recorded when in his superlative prime. The whole recording is first class in every respect ,and I would unhesitatingly recommend it to any potential purchaser.
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