Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Recordings

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.

Donizetti: Les Martyrs

As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.

Bernarda Fink Sings Mahler Lieder

Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Amore e Tormento

Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 

Verdi at the Old MET

With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s major opera houses today.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions. 



Puccini Gold
25 Feb 2008

Puccini Gold

Many an anthology of Puccini's "greatest hits" has found its way to market, and many more will follow this latest from Decca, Puccini Gold.

Puccini Gold

Luciano Pavarotti, Montserrat Caballé, Carlo Bergonzi, Mirella Freni, Renée Fleming et al.

Decca 028947593799 [2CDs]

$19.99  Click to buy

Besides demonstrating how easily the great composer's operas can be raided for two hours of inspired lyrical treasures, Decca's compilation highlights the stars it apparently regards as its greatest marketing winners. Six names appear above the CD title on the cover in large font: Pavarotti, Netrebko, Bocelli, Villazon, Fleming and Domingo, and their handsomely posed portraits adorn the cover. In smaller print at the bottom of the front cover reside stars such as Jose Carreras, Angela Gheorghiu, and Roberto Alagna. Their portraits are found on the back cover. One name on the front cover that may prove elusive to the star-conscious is Kaufmann, as in Jonas Kaufmann, whose debut CD Decca has only been recently released. He joins Kiri te Kanawa in making the front cover listings without earning a space for his photo, front or back.

The two discs feature many indisputably great selections, including several prized cuts from the complete opera recordings of Madama Butterfly and La Boheme that Herbert von Karajan led. Zubin Mehta's Turandot gets space, although strangely Joan Sutherland's phenomenal "In questa reggia" is bypassed for her somewhat less impressive "Senza mama" from Suor Angelica. Unsurprisingly, Luciano Pavarotti starts the collection with "Nessun dorma," and both of Liu's arias, as sung by Montserrat Caballe, appear on CD two.

While it is understandable that Decca wants to feature its more recent catalog, those selections are among the less impressive. Renée Fleming comes across as mannered in the ubiquitous "O mio babbino caro," although her "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta" is indisputably lovely. Rolando Villazon and Anna Netrebko ham it up a bit too much in "O soave fanciulla," and conductor Nicola Luisotti enables their act with fussy pacing. The darker tenor of Kaufmann makes for a gruff Rodolfo in "Che gelida manina," but it is an interesting turn on the arguably overly familiar aria. Opera snobs will turn up their noses at Andrea Bocelli's "Addio, fiorito asil," but it is a fine selection for his voice. However, Decca could easily have gone back just a couple years for an even finer version by tenor Joseph Calleja. Apparently Decca has already forgotten about him.

In a nice touch, Decca includes some instrumental selections conducted by Riccardo Chailly, with the rare but lovely "Crisantemi" and a potent intermezzo from Manon Lescaut. Otherwise the two CDs survey almost exclusively the tenor/soprano repertoire. Surely Scarpia could have made an appearance, or even Sherill Milnes's Rance, heard briefly in Placido Domingo's "Ch'ella mi creda" from La Fanciulla del West.

The set's real demerit lies in the editing. The orchestral introduction to "Recondita armonia," for example, has been cut, so that the track abruptly begins with Jose Carreras singing the title words. Then after the aria has concluded, the performance continues with some of the Sacristan's lines, before ending as suddenly as it began. Similarly, after Gheorghiu's "Si, mi chiamano Mimi" ends, we get the dialogue leading up to "O soave fanciulla," with the music ending just where the duet would commence.

At any rate, most confirmed Puccini lovers have probably long ago assembled their favorite music as performed by their favorite singers. A collection such as Puccini Gold is probably for those who have had just enough of a taste of Puccini to know they want to explore the music further. Despite the editing glitches and the arguable choices of artists, those purchasers should be happy with Puccini Gold.

Chris Mullins

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):