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A Golden Legendary Bohème,
This review is from: Puccini: La Bohème (Audio CD)
Reviewing a more than fifty year old recording like Sir Thomas Beecham's legendary one of Puccini's La Bohème from 1956 seems to be a presumptuous and superfluous enterprise. It belongs to the EMI series of Great Recordings of the Century. And it certainly is such a treasure that it appears to be somewhat of a sacrilege to touch it with critical remarks. The casting is still extraordinarily superb, a remarkably harmonious ensemble, indeed: Victoria de los Angeles touching and vulnerable, and singing with a great emotional radiance, in a tremendously vivid co-singing with Jussi Björling, that incomparable tenor with his glowing crystalline timbre, and in this case with feelings and singing in perfect interplay; Robert Merrill as a virile and hearty Marcel, Lucine Amara as a cheerful Musetta, Giorgio Tozzi as a overwhelmingly melancholy Colline in his song to his old coat. And last but not least, Sir Thomas Beecham himself, with such an outstanding drive in his conducting as a Puccini opera demands to reveal all its dramatic qualities, the intensiveness of which is more or less unsurpassed in the history of opera. Beecham realized, according to the booklet, the marvels of Puccini's orchestration and his "flowing synthesis of words, music and action, and that highly developed inner visual sense which lies deep in the consciousness of all great theatre composers."
Even though the sound is slightly antiquated, it gives the listener a more than satisfying rendering of the golden voices and of the remarkably fine sonority of the RCA Victor Orchestra. In all, this disc beams forth a wondrous warmth and joy, despite the tragic events, and conveys an elated experience of great musical drama.