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Reviews Written by
perry.rj@virgin.net (London)

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Wagner: Lohengrin
Wagner: Lohengrin

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An incandescent emotional experience, 26 July 2001
This review is from: Wagner: Lohengrin (Audio CD)
EMI have labelled this among their "great recordings of the century", and they may well be right. Rudolf Kempe leads an incandescent reading of the score, rising to the grander moments as easily as he reins in the orchestra for the moments of rapture and faith. Jess Thomas is unphased by the dangers of the title role, and sings with a welcome ease and poetry. Elisabeth Grummer is a radiant Elsa, the role model German Romantic soprano. Dietrich Fischer Dieskau and Christa Ludwig offer villains of depth - they are motivated to evil deeds, and sing with a tension that is tangible. He is clearly manipulated by Ludwig's scheming ambition, she exultant in her destruction. Gottlob Frick's King is darkly powerful, and Otto Wiener is more than competent as the Herald. The sound quality is largely fine, but it does peak at climaxes and Grummer is often badly served at moments of pressure.

Verdi: La Traviata
Verdi: La Traviata
Price: £21.27

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Electrifying Traviata, 26 July 2001
This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata (Audio CD)
Ileana Cotrubas was one of the leading Violettas of the seventies and eighties, and this recording captures her vulnerable courtesan well. Cotrubas' portrayal of this huge role is all-encompassing, strongly feminine but alive to every nuance of the score and drama. Finer voices and greater actresses have assumed the role, but Cotrubas makes for arguably the most affecting Violetta on disc. She is well partnered by Placido Domingo's ardent Alfredo - a touch heavy for the role at this stage of his career - is a major player none the less. Sherril Milnes is an implacable and robustly voiced Germont (given the cabaletta to "Di provenza" for a change). Minor roles are well taken. One of the stars of the recording is the reclusive Carlos Kleiber, who galvanises the Munich forces into an ensemble from heaven: tempi are brisk but exciting, clarity and texture extraordinary. Certainly the best played Traviata available, and among the best sung. A "must have" recording.

Mozart: Don Giovanni
Mozart: Don Giovanni

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A neglected masterpiece, 26 July 2001
This review is from: Mozart: Don Giovanni (Audio CD)
Amidst the plethora of Don Giovanni's, making a choice is difficult. This set is not generally listed amongst the 'classic" ecording of this endlessly fascinating opera, but it boasts some serious merits that make it an excellent choice. Mozart called this opera a "dramma giocosa", or an amusing drama, but Giovanni is awash with menace and black humour. Riccardo Muti goes stright to these aspects, and his reading of the score is taut, dramatic and threatening, excitingly played by the La Scala forces. Willliam Shimell matches this vision, with a dangerous Don, slightly rough of voice, but exciting for it. Samuel Ramey, a noted Giovanni himself, offers an excellent foil as the bemused Leporello, beginning the opera with a sarcastic Catalogue Aria. Frank Lopardo is a mellifluous but masculine Ottavio. The women are in the same league: Cheryl Studer, now sadly out of favour, is an incisive Anna, never letting the hysteria run away with her, and Carol Vaness pours forth a stream of liquid amber as Elvira. Susanne Mentzer is a competent but undersung Zerlina, perhaps this recordings weakest casting. This is a worthy contender among the best, well worth having, but if you like your Mozart lighter, look elsewhere.

R Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier
R Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier
Offered by Smaller World Future
Price: £66.11

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Rosenkavalier for our time, 26 July 2001
Bernard Haitkink drives the opulant Dresden Staatskapelle to great heights in this recording, realising Strauss's fond mix of humour and nostalgia superbly well. Kiri te Kanawa's Marschallin is a classic portrait. Perhaps she is not the finest on record, but she is certainly the most beautiful and credible of recent years. She is well paired with Ann Sofie von Otter's impetuous Octavian, marvellously sung and acted, a portrayal to set beside the best. Barbara Hendricks is a fleet voiced, characterful Sophie, but she lacks the brilliance one longs for in the presentation of the rose duet and elsewhere in the score. All three women rise to the Act 111 Trio gloriously. Kurt Rydl's Ochs is a masterly characterisation, fearlessly voiced, and the supporting cast is outstanding. Very much a Rosenkavalier for today.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 9, 2015 12:13 AM BST

Dvorák: Rusalka
Dvorák: Rusalka
Price: £29.33

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect realiasation, 26 July 2001
This review is from: Dvorák: Rusalka (Audio CD)
Renee Fleming's ascent to the operatic summit was finally achieved with this recording, and deservedly so. Dvorak's near-Wagnerian tale of the sad water nymph is exquisitely realised , with Charles Mackerras setting the seal on his already superb series of Czech opera recordings. Fleming, though, is its raison d'etre, and she does not disappoint, offering a sharply observed characterisation of Rusalka that is voiced with enormous beauty and ample reserves of power. Whether romatically yearning in the pond, or vengefully wronged toward the end, Fleming is magnificent. Ben Heppner is a blessing as her Prince, singing with a virile and attractive tenor. Franz Hawlata's Water Goblin is equally fine, secure and filled with pathos. Dolora Zajick is both funny and frightening as Jezibaba, singing with refulgent tone.. No real disappointments elsewhere - with the exception of Eva Urbanova's squally princess that blots the copybook in Act 11. But buy this important recording, the perfect realisation of a great score

Giordano: Andrea Chénier
Giordano: Andrea Chénier
Offered by FastMedia "Ships From USA"
Price: £19.80

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A vivid and musical Chenier, 26 July 2001
Given that most tenors and sopranos approach this opera as a contest, this recording from James Levine's Met forces is remarkably free of egos. You may find this a bonus, or you may miss the pure excitement that egos would have brought. This is the team that routinely recorded major operas in the '70s, but what a team! Placido Domingo is in glorious voice as the doomed poet, mercurial in the "Improvviso", impassioned and sensitive elsewhere. His Maddalena, Renata Scotto, is not always in her best voice, but she is acutely alive to the theatricality of the opera and scores abundantly this way instead. Sherrill Milnes vocalises Gerard's music with great beauty and ease, even though he lacks the final dramatic flair the role ideally requires. The supporting cast is excellent, although you might want to skip Gwendolyn Killibrew's painfully voiced Madelon.

Verdi: Otello
Verdi: Otello
Offered by RWL-123 FAST POST FROM UK-majority NEW are SEALED Expedited Delivery available
Price: £23.09

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The essential "Otello"., 26 July 2001
This review is from: Verdi: Otello (Audio CD)
Serafin opens the score with terrifying force, and things just keep getting better! As a vehicle for Jon Vickers' monumental assumption of the title role, this set is essential. He is in craggy but poetic form, forceful, loving, enraged and broken by turns in a performance of Shakespearian intensity and Verdian grandeur. Tito Gobbi is his nemisis, the voice all charm one moment then vicious the next - a portrait worthy to set beside Vickers' Otello. Leonie Rysaneck may trouble some listeners, but her Desdemona is a unique creation that deserves careful listening. If the voice seems too Germanic in the role, there are many rewards to be had by simply accepting the sound for what it is and listening through it. This is the Otello to own - none of the more recent releases comes quite as close to it's tragic heart.

Puccini: Manon Lescaut
Puccini: Manon Lescaut
Price: £13.58

19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Value and quality at a bargain price, 26 July 2001
This review is from: Puccini: Manon Lescaut (Audio CD)
Riccardo Chailly is the hero of this album, now attractively priced if poorly packaged. The Comunale forces rise superbly to this tricky score, making it sound a good deal more refined than it honestly is. Chailly's youthful vigour is not matched in the cast: Kiri te Kanawa has been much maligned in verismo roles, but no one can take away the sheer lusciousness of her singing: she manages Manon reasonably well, if not creating a vivid personality. Listen to her in Act 11 above all to value her contribution. Jose Carreras bawls his way through Des Grieux's music: a worse "Donna non vidi mai" you'd go a long way to hear. The supporting cast is good with the excpetion of veteran Italo Tajo's Geronte: ham given voice. Manon Lescaut is not well served on disc, with the Callas recording far ahead in the race, despite mediochre sound. This recording is in sumptious sound, of course, and offers an excellent introduction to the opera. Just not the definitive version, though.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 4, 2013 9:18 AM BST

The Vivaldi Album
The Vivaldi Album
Price: £11.53

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just fireworks, 26 July 2001
This review is from: The Vivaldi Album (Audio CD)
It is impossible to resist Bartoli in this recital. She is a singer difficult to resist at any time, but this vividly delivered selection of Vivaldi arias is as precious for her contribution as the works are rare. Nothing daunts her: not the rapid spitfire coloratura work or the elegaic poetry of some of the arias. True, some of the runs are aspirated a little too much (perhaps discernable on record only) but they do not spoil the beauty of tone Bartoli pours into each track. Essential listening, for Bartoli, for Vivaldi, or for lovers of antique music.

The Beautiful Voice
The Beautiful Voice
Price: £7.99

33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great singing from a great artist., 26 July 2001
This review is from: The Beautiful Voice (Audio CD)
No quibbles here - it is a beautiful voice, no matter what standards you apply. Fleming's glory is essentially vocal, and this is not a recital geared to showcase Fleming's gift for characterisation. That matters little in this exquisite selection of melodies, for the soprano is quite adept at matching the musical styles of her composers, and a canny interpreter of the texts. One's interest is aroused by a beautifully spun "Songs my mother taught me", which she cements with the following "Last rose of summer", perfectly balanced verses making more sense of the piece than usual. If Strauss' "Morgen" is a trifle slow, it suits the mood of the album well and the words really mean something. Fleming is on top form throughout, and is well matched by the English Chamber Orchestra under Jeffrey Tate. Buy it, if only to hear Fleming let loose on Puccini's lollipop "Chi il bel sogno". Great singing from a great artist.

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