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Puccini: La Bohème

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Puccini - La Boheme
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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: RCA Victor
  • ASIN: B000026PDM
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Audio Cassette  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 425,529 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Take an eccentric English gentleman with vast experience of, and obvious passion for, the music, an American orchestra prepared to go for it, a refined classic Rodolfo, and a lovely, gently sung, creamy toned, very affecting Mimi.... This is reportedly a highly prized, much loved recording of Puccini's masterpiece, and I am pleased to have it on EMI to be assured the CDs actually derive from the master tapes of the original recording. Beecham's speeds are not actually slow, for example, overall times are less than the famous set conducted by Herbert von Karajan. More important than overall timings is phrasing: For example, Beecham gets quite brisk, jaunty animated orchestration to accompany the early Act 1 Bohemians; towards the end of Act 1, tempos are broader (but not slow), more relaxed, allowing the love music to breathe. La Boheme is about life, love, passion, and ultimately the loss of those things, so tragic because Mimi dies so young. This is one of the better versions of an opera that deserves to be heard in several interpretations with different principals. It also has some of the feel and passion of a live performance, which is a good thing. Sound quality, though mono, is bright and clear, with excellent balance between voices and orchestra. Fans of Jussi Bjoerling will definitely want this recording. Latterly Luciano Pavarotti pretty much owned the role of Rodolfo, and quite rightly so, but Bjoerling puts in a great performance, singing with passion and abandon, although his live 1948 Metropolitan Opera performance is even better. Victoria de los Angeles is memorable as Mimi, her appropriate, very moving performance is a refreshing alternative to that of some Mimis who despite suffering a decline in health always manage to sing brassily and at full throttle right to the end.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
Both reviews here are not about the recording of La bohème directed by Santini. So the stars do not apply. Amazon apparently does not check if reviews are appropriate.
I have heard this recording several times and I love it. Tenor Tagliavini with his mezza voce sometimes - why do modern singers never use this singing technique anymore? - is the finest voice thinkable for this opera. Soprano Rosanna Carteri is a sensitive Mimi, bariton Giuseppe Taddei is a fine Marcello and bass Cesare Siepe sings as strong as ever. Only the Musetta of the to me unknown Elvina Ramella does not convice me.
The sound of the 1952 mono recording is very good on the Warner Fonit label (I have no idea on which label the here offered recordings appear as there is no picture of the box).
This is a Bohème to cherish next to the famous recordings of Beecham (Los Angeles/Björling), Serafin (Tebaldi/Bergonzi,) and Leinsdorf (Moffo/Tucker).
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Format: Audio CD
I was lucky when I started out listening to opera to buy this "Boheme" even though Beecham's was the only name I recognized back in 1966 -- it was on the cheap EMI imprint Seraphim. When I heard Bjoerling's voice in the first moments, I was hooked, and de los Angeles a little later enchanted me too. It still sounds OK on CD, though the sound is a bit boxy, and it can't really do justice to the Momus scene (for that, see Solti/Domingo/Caballe). Having heard a lot more Bjoerling since, I can say that he wasn't in absolutely his best voice here (see his 1952 "Trovatore") but it's pretty darned good. Merrill, Reardon, and Tozzi are fine rollicking bohemians, though Lucine Amara isn't an ideal Musetta. But the big moments come off well, with De los Angeles's "Donde lieta" being particularly eloquent (though not eclipsing Tebaldi in her account with Bergonzi), and the duet at the end of Act 1 ("O soave fanciulla") is quite marvelous. Beecham conducts very positively, and if the sound is a bit congested and constricted in places, it doesn't seriously impede enjoyment. The sound is my main reason for withholding a fifth star, especially with lots of good sounding Bohemes on the market. My own favorite is the 1959 Serafin/Bergonzi/Tebaldi, but Karajan's isn't bad (the lily a bit over-gilded!), nor is Solti's. I have a sneaking admiration for Freni/Gedda/Schippers too! But you'll find much to enjoy with Bjoerling and de los Angeles.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.5 out of 5 stars 44 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Present at the creation... 23 Oct. 2012
By Robert C. Hufford - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Back in the day Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony used to present complete operas on the radio which were of necessity broadcast in segments and which were recorded and released by RCA Victor. The maestro had his favorite singers including tenor Jan Peerce (maybe not as 'great' as Jussi Bjorling, another RCA artist, but sober, courteous, and reliable, all of which Jussi was not) and the incomparable Licia Albanese, opera's definitive Cio-Cio-San who amazingly is still alive at 104 as of this writing, and used them in a variety of pieces.

As always with Toscanini a taut, fast paced either like that or you don't. Great supporting cast headed by the recently deceased Anne McKnight as Musetta and featuring the great clown Salvatore Baccaloni. Sound is up close and personal 1946 mono complete with rumbling subway under the hall at one point. Again, you either like that or you don't.

I don't believe there is a one best recording of "La Boheme" as there are just too many and styles have changed over the years. And while Rodolfo was certainly one of Peerce's roles and Mimi one of Licia's I don't think there can be a 'definitive' of either as there are way too many to pick from. Now Licia and Butterfly is a different matter...BUT Toscanini knew Puccini and conducted the 1896 world premiere of this piece. That alone makes this a historical document even if it was not the great performance that it is.

Highest possible recommendation...
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leoncavallo's true masterpiece 25 April 2014
By Dabí Sánchez - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
First off, I admire the wit and intelligence of Thistle Brown's "review of reviewers", penned about five years ago. The other reviews here are very well-thought-out and comprehensive. I have been in love with Leoncavallo's Boheme ever since I heard this recording more than 30 years ago. For me, Puccini wrote a melodrama while Leoncavallo wrote a tragedy. Most audiences take to melodrama more than they do to tragedy. I'll also own that the style of Leoncavallo's opera is more "clunky" than Puccini's. Thirty years ago, I felt that Puccini's was the slicker piece of work--an attribute I loathed at the time, and for which I have more charitable feelings today. I have lately been listening to this Boheme for the first time in many years. The sheen has not faded.

For me, the interesting comparison is not the inevitable one with Puccini's opera but with Leoncavallo's own more famous Pagliacci. Leoncavallo's Boheme is richer, more melodious and more rewarding. The musical elan of the last two acts--where the power of the work resides--is something really staggering. The earlier acts only suffer by comparison to the last two. The music in those earlier acts is never less than lovely. Yes, the first two acts have a tendency to be, at times, long-winded. But Leoncavallo in those early acts is setting up the tragedy of the final acts. This structure is rather alien to Italian opera; it is really more like that of a French novel, or like Wagner's "total art work". Of course the down-to-earth characters in Pagliacci, by comparison to the lofty artists in Boheme, are more to the popular liking. But I dare say that if you like Pagliacci, you will love this.

The performances in this recording, the beauty of the orchestra, the power of the conducting, the conviction of the whole enterprise, are at the highest level. This is an operatic experience that will come your way only rarely in your lifetime. I can only compare it to other operatic recordings that have given me comparable pleasure: Werther with Georges Thill, Don Pasquale with Tito Schipa, the Keilberth Ring at Bayreuth in 1955, Erich Kleiber's Figaro from Vienna at about the same time, and this Boheme.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite versions of "La Boheme" 13 Feb. 2011
By Steven Peterson - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This production is now 65 years old. Why bother?

Well, first, Arturo Toscanini conducts his NBC Symphony Orchestra, an accomplished group. Associated with that: Toscanini in his younger years actually knew Giocomo Puccini. Thus, there is a personal link to the composer that has always intrigued me. As I recall, when Toscanini first conducted "Turandot," he stopped the performance at the point when Puccini had died during the composition process (my memory, of course, might be mistaken).

Second, a good cast. Licia Albanese as Mimi is most appealing. She had a fine soprano voice and could create affecting characterizations. Jan Peerce? I must confess that he has never been one of my favorite tenors. His vocal qualities put me off. I simply don't find his voice that appealing. However, obviously, he was pretty well regarded in his time, so I cannot take my own views as figural here. Anne McKnight is fine as Musetta, as is Francesco Valentino as Marcello (a key role).

Third, there is a crackling quality to the music (not surprising, given Toscanini's approach to conducting music). Indeed, Toscanini's clear interest in the subject is one of the reasons that I enjoy this version so much. He gets carried away! Listen to "O soave fanciulla." At a particularly poignant moment, one can hear him singing along with Mimi and Rodolfo! I always get goose bumps listening to this. There are those who do not much like Toscanini, but I find it compelling that he gets so caught up in the moment that he "sings along."

All in all, I regard this as a nice version of "La Boheme." Of course, the technical quality of the recording is not up to contemporary standards, but the end result is a version that ranks pretty high as I compare the different variations "out there."
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful production and very well preserved 8 Nov. 2014
By Reginald A. White - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a re-recording of the 1948 50th anniversary of the opening of La Boheme. Toscanini was asked by Puccini to conduct the world premier and so he was the natural choice for the 50th anniversary celebration - you can even hear him humming a couple of different times during the performance. He was allowed to pick his cast and so chose Licia Albanese and Jan Pierce as his leads. A wonderful production and very well preserved.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I have loved Puccini for many years and in my opinion La ... 29 May 2015
By PETE T. - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have loved Puccini for many years and in my opinion La Boheme is the most amazing opera that has ever been written.I have not only seen the opera more than a dozen times but have also listened to more than thirty versions on disc. Without a shadow of a doubt this is the very best version that money can buy and in my humble opinion the aria at the end of the first act 'O soave fancuilla' is the greatest performance you will ever hear and would be the one recording I would take to my dessert island. Because it is cheap don't for one moment think you will be receiving a so so version, I assure you that this is the very best that money can buy in fact is the best of the best. At this price it has to be the best value for money ever
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