7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 22 July 2001
Joan Sutherland in her most famous role. This is her first recording of Lucia made in 1961. Her voice was at its freshest, pure and ethereal, the brilliance of her upper register and her amazing virtuosity much in evidence. As always, the diction is somewhat mushy but her portrayal of Lucia as a dreamy, melancholic girl is very appealing. Robert Merrill and Cesare Siepi are both in somptuous voices and sing with authority. The little known Renato Cioni is not exactly in the same league as his famous collegues but his voice is attractive and he sings cleanly most of the time, his manner is a little coarse but this is a minor distraction. Chorus and orchestra are very good and lovingly conducted by John Pritchard . There are some minor cuts but nothing drastic. An excellent bargain.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 5 August 2000
Without being complete, this recording of Lucia is one of the first to include some of Raimondo's Al ben de tuoi... and Wolf's crag. Cioni has a pleasant timbre, but a rather unrefined voice compared to Sutherland's. The soprano avoids superfluous portamenti (unlike Gruberova); she completely masters the character of Lucia conveying love, despair and madness. Merrill continues the tradition of a brutal and coldhearted Enrico. I would have preferred a more subtle portrayal of the brother. Siepi is a noble Raimondo. Pritchard is fine, but why did he choose not to conduct Lucia di Lammermoor in its entirety?
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 November 2010
Both Dame Joan Sutherland and Cesare Siepi passed away this year.
In 1959, Dame Joan Sutherland made her first debut of Donizetti's ever loved opera Lucia di Lamermoor. The rest is history. This singer will rightly be regarded as the definitive vocal performer of the title role to this classic bel canto masterpiece. And I believe, she will NOT be surpassed by another, at least during my own lifetime (I'm over 50).
Her first recording of the two main excerpts from this opera on LP in 1959 for Decca is simply stunning beyond description - I am totally lost in words to describe the performance.
Two years later, in a full-score set for the same opera, arguably slightly less shiny in tone and expression in the title role, nonetheless displays more confidence and bravura in the mad scene duet.
Human voices grow with age. For sopranos, the most beautiful age is before 35, if you consider that a dramatic role requires a certain timbre that a really mature voice would lack. Lucia di Lamermoor is such a role. The coloraturas need to sound fresh and young, yet poignant and dramatic. Mature voices may have bigger sounds, but less agility. In this 1961 recording, much of the beauty of the young Sutherland is still intact, though admittedly a little bit mushy in the diction, offering a slightly less crisp rendition to carry the highly dramatic effect in the big arias than in 1959.
The supporting singing cast is certainly not as great as the 1986 version at the MET, but they are highly adequate, with a luxurious casting of Cesare Siepi as the Lamermoor housekeeper Raimondo. The great duets between Raimondo and Lucia probably represents the only piece between these two great singers, and a significant added bonus to this invaluable recording.
For lovers of Sutherland and Siepi, miss this one and die.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 23 March 2010
For any fan of Joan Sutherland, this recording is absolutely essential; for any lover of music it is an important contribution to the history of recorded bel canto opera; for any seeker of bargains there can be few better returns on a budget investment.
This is Sutherland's first complete recording of `Lucia' although she had recorded the two set-pieces with Nello Santi a couple of years earlier. You will hear the voice that thrilled (and amazed) Covent Garden audiences and set the world of opera spinning in a way that no one has equalled since. The coloratura work is stupendous, the diction clear, the voice production free from the scoops and croonings that slipped in later. The `Quando rapito in estasi' at the end of the First Act aria and the duet with the flute in the mad scene in Act Two display this incredible voice at its extraordinary best. Listen to this and you will understand why Pavarotti described Sutherland as `the greatest voice of the twentieth century'.
In addition, the recording offers you two other operatic greats at the height of their powers. Robert Merrill is suitably cold and cruel to his unhappy sister while producing a warm and vibrant vocal tone and Cesare Siepi, whom some would describe as the greatest bass of the century turns in, as always, a performance which sets the standard for others to emulate.
Another reviewer has given a rather unkind assessment of the performance of the tenor, Renato Cioni. Cioni is certainly no Pavarotti. The voice is smaller and less immediately attractive but hardly deserves the epithet `snivelling'. I found him acceptable throughout and, at certain moments, distinctly touching, notably in the final aria `Tu che a Dio spiegasti l'ali'.
The version performed here is not perhaps complete but is important in that it is much more complete than previous recordings and, indeed, performances. There is no libretto provided, but following the recording with the libretto of the later Bonynge version, the only omission I could find was the second stanza of the duet for Enrico and Edgardo in the first scene of Act Two. I find Pritchard's conducting taut and exciting; indeed, his finale to Act One is distinctly more lively than Bonynge's and the recording manages a better spread of voices - in the Bonynge version it is difficult at this point to pick out anyone other than Sutherland and the chorus.
The Sutherland fan will not wish to be without either version. For anyone venturing perhaps for the first time into the world of Donizetti there could hardly be a better place to start; for anyone looking for a bargain, this version represents extraordinary value for money.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 October 2013
This is Joan Sutherland's early recording. In it her voice is fresh and full. Everything is sung in traditional keys, where as her second recording restores the duet with Enrico to A major instead of G. The two arias remain in the lower keys in the second recording, and, for the record, neither recording uses glass harmonica - but then few recordings do.
In addition to the assured singing of Sutherland, this recording has three other voices who were in their prime. Renato Cioni was not a voice to everyone's taste, but to me he has a lovely sound. He isn't the equal of Pavarotti for sheer beauty of sound. But his way with Edgardo's music is very appealing. Robert Merrill's voice was always a beautiful instrument, and Enrico was a part of his active repertoire. The reason is immediately obvious. Merrill sails through the coloratura easily, and he sings the bel canto lines more beautifully than Gobbi, Milnes or Cappuccilli. He may not dig into words as well as those gentlemen, but you will enjoy his work nonetheless. Cesare Siepi is Bide-the-Bent, and his scene is restored completely. It is wonderful to hear this forgotten singer in his prime.
John Pritchard - not Bonynge - conducts with a sure hand. The resonant acoustic favored by London/Decca back then could get in the way of choral clarity, but you get used to it. I never get used to the "party noises" the chorus makes at the beginning of the Wedding scene. Most of the cuts are opened except for a few snippets here and there that were not possibly restored yet in critical editions.
This is a wonderful release. The only thing from the LP release not found here is the alternate aria to the act one aria. It wasn't a major aria, so no real loss. This is the way Lucia should sound to my ears. Newer interpreters just don't hold a candle to Sutherland. (I also own Sutherland II, Callas, Sills, and Caballe, and for a number of reasons I return to this one more frequently.)
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2005
It is clear that for many the main interest of this recording is in the professional virtues (or lack thereof) of its prima donna. This is a perfectly valid point of view, one with a many historical precedents. To people of such mind I heartily recommend the memoirs of the fabulously harried Colonel Mapleson, the impresario who produced London seasons of Italian opera, and toured North America in the 1880s with the great Minnie Hauk, the exquisite Lillian Nordica and, of course, the Callas/Sutherland of her time, the incomparable Adelina Patti. To such people I affirm that Joan Sutherland on this set provides in full measure what any Sutherland-aficionado most craves. Her tone is glorious. Her agility is stunning. Her ease in soaring to stratospheric vocal heights is amazing. Why, she actually manages to pronounce a few consonants--I swear it! She is La Stupenda.
On the off-chance, however, that somebody out there might look upon this recording of "Lucia di Lammermoor" as more than a series of spectacular set-pieces for the soprano, as, in fact, an example of music drama, I shall add a few more comments.
On the whole, this is a pretty good "Lucia." With the Sutherland-Schwarzkopf "Don Giovanni" and the Bjorling-Milanov "Il trovatore," it was one of the first operas I bought on LP back in 1961 or '62, and I have never regretted owning it. The recorded sound was excellent for its time and acceptable for ours.
The set is particularly admirable for the presence of Robert Merrill and Cesare Siepi. As Enrico, Lucia's scheming brother, Merrill is fabulous. The role is straight-forward, offering no strain on his limited histrionic range, and his voice is simply beautiful. In many ways, he was the Sutherland of baritones. Siepi, down in the bass-baritone range and a much better actor, was no vocal slouch, either!
John Pritchard's conducting is intelligent, well-considered, restrained and, alas, unmemorable. The man had the icy North Sea in his soul, and none of the blood-warm Mediterranean.
The real clunker on this set is the tenor, the egregious Renato Cioni. Oh, he hits all the notes and holds his own in the ensembles, but a more sniveling, whiny, obnoxious Edgardo was never recorded.
For a fine Sutherland performance, aided and abetted by Merrill and Siepi, but let down by humdrum conducting and an appalling tenor--four stars.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 9 July 2012
I bought this for my aunt, she was very happy with it as she likes Joan Sutherland. I thought it was good value and the service was good, delivered quickly and no problems.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2014
CD version of one I owned as vinyl. This really speaks to the emotions. Dame Joan is in fine voice & the rest of the ensemble are perfect with her. Get this one & enjoy to the depths of your soul.