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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Incredible bargain for 'canary' fanciers!
I used to own over 100 full length opera sets so could hardly be called a 'canary fancier' as people who only enjoy the highlights are sometimes labelled. However as the years passed I began to realise that I only owned some operas because they were called great and I didn't actually enjoy them all that much. I could also do without the recitative one gets between the...
Published on 22 Nov 2008 by D. Evans

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3.0 out of 5 stars Good But Flawed
we live in strange times when it comes to classical music, with collections of 50 or so CDs being issued together in a good value box almost the norm. The best of those sets (Decca Sound, Philips, Living Stereo) provide original albums in card sleeves with original artwork on the front of each one, and a CD sized book of 150-200 pages featuring track listings and essays...
Published 2 months ago by Shane Brown


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Incredible bargain for 'canary' fanciers!, 22 Nov 2008
This review is from: Opera - The Collector's Edition [50cd] (Audio CD)
I used to own over 100 full length opera sets so could hardly be called a 'canary fancier' as people who only enjoy the highlights are sometimes labelled. However as the years passed I began to realise that I only owned some operas because they were called great and I didn't actually enjoy them all that much. I could also do without the recitative one gets between the tunes in Mozart and Rossini. I then whittled them down to about eighty which I hung on to for years. However, I was still not listening to them very much and would much more frequently play recital highlights cd's rather than the complete opera. So slightly reluctantly I decided it was time to save space and make some money and I sold the lot. With the cash I made I purchased this set for 40.

Now I've never been an expert on what are and aren't great performances (suffice is to say there are many famous names in these performances) so I will therefore concentrate on what is included and what is omitted.

The five great opera composers are all featured, four of them heavily. All four of Mozart's most popular operas are here together with Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serial.
Puccini - my favourite composer - has his five most popular, although it could have been possible to include all his works as there weren't that many more.
Wagner does have all his ten major operas included, although there are problems. It's difficult to reduce the Ring to two discs never mind one, so inevitably much is missing, most notably the great love duet 'Hiel dir Sonne!' from Siegfried. Similarly Flying Dutchman, Lohengrin and Meistersinger all have their overtures/preludes missing. This is particularly annoying as the orchestral preludes contain some of Wagner's best music. Another of my favourite moments from Lohengrin, the beautiful Act 2 duet between Elsa and Ortud, is also absent. There are also two uncredited and irritating introductory spoken tracks by some German guy at the beginning of Tannhauser - a waste of ten minutes music time!
Verdi has seven highlights: Aida, Traviata, Trovatore, Rigoletto, Nabucco, Otello and Force of Destiny, the latter also without it's excellent overture, which is annoying. It could be argued that Masked Ball and Don Carlo could also have been included as two of Verdi's major operas, if necessary at the expense of Nabucco, which apart from the famous Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves doesn't really contain Verdi's best music; whilst La Traviata and Rigoletto contain such consistently great music that some of it has to be omitted in highlights discs.
Richard Strauss is, as expected, just represented by his most popular opera, Der Rosenkavalier.
There is only one English speaking opera, Gershwin's Porgy and Bess: the celebrated Simon Rattle version. It could be argued that Britten's Peter Grimes, perhaps the other most famous English speaking opera should have been included, but there isn't an available highlights disc. This is the problem with Britten's operas and indeed Richard Strauss's other operas - because of the integrated nature of their composition it is difficult to extract highlights. Janacek is perhaps the greatest opera composer totally unrepresented.
Apart from Peter Grimes,Don Carlo and Masked Ball, perhaps the other most famous opera missing from the box is Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. I would have preferred to have this rather than the Russian opera which is included, Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov as I find Onegin much more lyrical; perhaps EMI don't have a highlights disc, although there are plenty of highlights of Onegin.
Gounod, Massenet, Bizet, Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini are each represented by their two most popular operas, while many other composers get one.
Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallos's Pagliacci share a disc, hence although there are 50 discs, 51 opera highlights are featured.
There are obviously many great one off arias missing by lesser composers such as Catalini, Cilea and Giordano. They are unrepresented as the operas these arias come from aren't in the popular repetoire. You can buy the 6 disc opera arias set, also from EMI, which would complement this set as it does feature nearly all the most famous opera arias, including ones by the lesser composers not featured here. Although another of my favourite composers, Korngold, is missing as his operas aren't in the popular repetoire, nor do you get any more Richard Strauss in the 6 disc set.
Back to this 50 cd box and the annotation is minimal as you would expect with such a bargain. You just get track listings and performers with no libretti. So if you aren't already acquainted with the opera being played you won't really know what's going on. Another irritation is that some of the discs run to less than 70 minutes, (Rossini's William Tell runs under 50 minutes!) meaning at least 10 more minutes of music could have been featured. As already pointed out, this is particularly noticeable on the Wagner, where much excellent music is left out.
I have gone down from owning complete operas to this cut price highlights set which might seem odd. I should think most people may do it the other way round and use this as a stepping stone to getting into opera more extensively, but I haven't the time nor the space these days. However, I have supplemented this with the aforementioned 6 disc EMI opera arias set and downloaded favourite extracts not included here into itunes from my complete operas before I sold them; so I still have all the opera I need! And this set could well be all the opera you need for a bargain price!

The complete opera highlights featured are:

Beethoven: Fidelio, Bellini: I Puritani, Norma, Berlioz: Les Troyens, Bizet: Carmen, Les Pecheurs de Perles. Debussy: Pelleas et Mellsande, Delibes: Lakme, Donizetti: L'elisir d'amore, Lucia di Lammermoor, Gershwin: Porgy and Bess, Gluck: Orfeo et Euridice, Gounod: Faust, Romeo et Juliette, Handel: Alcina, Mascagni: Cavallieria Rusticana, Leoncavallo: Pagliacci, Massenet: Manon, Werther, Monteverdi: L'Orfeo, Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov, Mozart: Cosi Fan Tutte, Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serial, Le Nozze di Figaro, Die Zauberflote, Don Giovanni, Offenbach: Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Puccini: La Boheme, Madama Butterfly, Maonon Lescaut, Tosca, Turandot, Rossini: Guillame Tell, Il Barbiere di Siviglia: Saint-Saens: Samson et Dalila, Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier, Verdi: Aida, Il Trovatore, La Traviata, La Forza del Destino, Nabucco, Otello, Rigoletto, Wagner: Der Fliegende Hollander, Der Ring Des Nibelungen, Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, Parsifal, Tannhauser, Tristan und Isolde, Weber: Der Frieschutz.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing value, 2 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Opera - The Collector's Edition [50cd] (Audio CD)
The performances selected are not, as one would expect, obscure East European productions, but mainstream. The selection is often rather unbalanced - one cd for the entire Ring cycle? - but the price of the set is almost incomprehensibly low.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good But Flawed, 16 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Opera - The Collector's Edition [50cd] (Audio CD)
we live in strange times when it comes to classical music, with collections of 50 or so CDs being issued together in a good value box almost the norm. The best of those sets (Decca Sound, Philips, Living Stereo) provide original albums in card sleeves with original artwork on the front of each one, and a CD sized book of 150-200 pages featuring track listings and essays etc. Then this is all housed in a sturdy cube. This set is cheaper than those - and it looks it. The CDs are in white paper sleeves, without any artwork at all. The booklet, meanwhile, contains just track listings and artists - not even a page-long introduction. These are then housed in a relatively flimsy card box which fits within an even flimsier sleeve. Personally, I'd have rather paid a bit more and got the music presented in a better way - the same criticism can be aimed at the EMI Verdi Great Operas 35CD set, but at least those CDs are housed in card sleeves with a picture on in that one. Why does the packaging matter? I don't know, but it does, and EMI could certainly do with checking out how the competition are housing their similar products. This is a budget price for sure, but you know that as soon as you even touch it, and that's a shame.

The music, of course, is glorious for the most part. However, even here, not much thought has gone into some choices. As important as Mozart, Puccini, Verdi and Wagner are, they seem over-represented. Seven discs of Verdi, seven of Wagner, five of Puccini and five of Mozart means that 24 discs are taken up by just four composers, meaning operas such as Prince Igor, Bartered Bride, Andrea Chenier and Eugene Onegin are not included - and would have given the set much more variety than the rather conservative choices made here. And don't expect any Dvorak, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Janacek, Britten, Purcell, Rimsky-Korsakov or Meyerbeer either.

All in all, a good buy for the price, but the packaging is cheap (and annoying to open up, I might add) and the choice of works rather narrow.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 18 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Opera - The Collector's Edition [50cd] (Audio CD)
19.99 for 50 cds! Good performances by some great performers with good sound. This is a fantastic selection of well chosen highlights with many welcome surprises. I particularly liked the Massenet but not sure about the Debussy (from a musical rather than a performance point of view). I haven't got to the Wagner yet but we shall see - I have usually found him hard work. There was a slight tear in the box, which might explain the low price. I suspect the price has has gone up again but this collection will be good purchase for all but the most ardent of opera lovers who may prefer complete operas.
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Opera - The Collector's Edition [50cd]
Opera - The Collector's Edition [50cd] by Various Composers (Audio CD - 2007)
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