Author Topic: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD  (Read 245125 times)

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Offline André

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #480 on: October 30, 2019, 04:09:22 PM »


I heard excerpts from Christophe Rousset’s Faust (the original, 1859 version), featuring Bernheim in the title role. First the cavatina, Salut, demeure chaste et pure and then the whole final scene (trio), one of the corniest and most melodious opera endings ever penned. I was struck by the beauty of the tenor’s voice, his immaculate diction and obvious dramatic involvement. I will buy it eventually (it is pricey).

What I will NOT be buying however is this schizophrenic recital of french and italian arias. Whoever devised this recital (singer, agent, record company, all three?) deserves a razzie award in programming. The contents are maddening to say the least. There’s a french aria, followed by an italian one, and so on until the end. Somehow, Lensky’s aria finds its way in this marmelade. Massenet is followed by Donizetti, then Gounod, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Massenet, Verdi, Gounod, Verdi, Berlioz, Puccini, Massenet  ??? It takes nerve to introduce a french singer with an album featuring Una furtiva lagrima, De miei bollenti spiriti, Ella mi fu rapita, Che gelida manina and Tombe degli avi miei, arias that have been recorded to death and that everybody has in multiple versions. Couldn’t they have capitalized instead on the very real forces of this young (33) french tenor and the revival of little-known french repertoire to offer us a recital of rare and not-so-rare french repertoire instead? A wonderful occasion wasted.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #481 on: November 01, 2019, 01:19:34 AM »




This collection of Broadway songs by Bernstein, Blitztein, Sondheim and Weil is an absolute delight from beginning to end.

Aside from Bernstein's I feel pretty and, to a lesser extent, his Glitter and be gay none of the items here could be considered well-known and the choice of this particular quartet of composers, all of whom are connected in some way, is felicitous. Furthermore Upshaw's clear, bright soprano and natural, unforced diction make her the ideal interpreter.

It is rare indeed for classical singers to embrace the idiom of Broadway without sounding self-conscious, but if you didn't know better, (and I mean this in a positive way) you would never know that Upshaw was also an operatic artist of the first order. Many opera singers have tackled Bernstein's Glitter and be gay, but none have ever, to my mind, challenged the original performer Barbara Cook, who not only manages to get round the notes, but really puts across the humour in the lyrics; none, that is, except Dawn Upshaw, who actually manages the coloratura with greater ease and beauty, but also points the lyrics with such ironic brilliance.

It is just one of the highlights in an album of sheer delights and I'd be hard pressed to find a favourite but there were many wonderful discoveries, among them Sondheim's The girls of summer (1956) and the opening track, sung to just piano, Blitztein's I wish it so from Juno (1959).

Only Glitter and be gay uses the original orchestration, but all the other arrangements are well done and the orchestra play excellently under Eric Stern, who himself was responsible for some of the orchestrations and provides the solo piano accompaniment on I wish it so.

I can't recommend this disc too highly.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Online mc ukrneal

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #482 on: November 01, 2019, 11:54:16 AM »




This collection of Broadway songs by Bernstein, Blitztein, Sondheim and Weil is an absolute delight from beginning to end.

Aside from Bernstein's I feel pretty and, to a lesser extent, his Glitter and be gay none of the items here could be considered well-known and the choice of this particular quartet of composers, all of whom are connected in some way, is felicitous. Furthermore Upshaw's clear, bright soprano and natural, unforced diction make her the ideal interpreter.

It is rare indeed for classical singers to embrace the idiom of Broadway without sounding self-conscious, but if you didn't know better, (and I mean this in a positive way) you would never know that Upshaw was also an operatic artist of the first order. Many opera singers have tackled Bernstein's Glitter and be gay, but none have ever, to my mind, challenged the original performer Barbara Cook, who not only manages to get round the notes, but really puts across the humour in the lyrics; none, that is, except Dawn Upshaw, who actually manages the coloratura with greater ease and beauty, but also points the lyrics with such ironic brilliance.

It is just one of the highlights in an album of sheer delights and I'd be hard pressed to find a favourite but there were many wonderful discoveries, among them Sondheim's The girls of summer (1956) and the opening track, sung to just piano, Blitztein's I wish it so from Juno (1959).

Only Glitter and be gay uses the original orchestration, but all the other arrangements are well done and the orchestra play excellently under Eric Stern, who himself was responsible for some of the orchestrations and provides the solo piano accompaniment on I wish it so.

I can't recommend this disc too highly.

For me, I've rarely heard an opera singer that I liked in Broadway. They are often too heavy. They can't enunciate appropriately. They make it sound bloated. They often fail at creating a sense of intimacy. My list of complaints is long.

And then there is this album from Dawn Upshaw, who does none of those things. It sounds so natural and unforced. I agree with your assessment whole heartedly. This is a wonderful Broadway disc that just happens to feature an opera singer. Most of the time, you wouldn't even know, except perhaps that each track drips with quality.
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Offline André

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #483 on: November 16, 2019, 11:06:37 AM »


To get an idea of the concept behind the album, one only need to think of the most famous ‘vision aria’, Senza Mamma from Suor Angelica. The last scene of Faust, with its vision of ‘Anges radieux...Christ est ressuscitė’ participates from that same taste for emotional (not always happy) endings. Feel good stuff with their soaring melodies, ‘celestial’ harmonies, spirit elevating prose...

There are many such pieces in 19th century french opera, oratorio, cantates (a huge genre by itself, mostly emanating from the Prix de Rome concours). The vision of heaven, angels, the Virgin, etc was popular with the public and composers duly obliged.

Gens has chosen 11 such scenes. Not all of them have a melodic content that sticks in the mind, and the music is prone to sound generic in places as it tends to follow a common recipe. Nevertheless, that kind of theme recital has its place next to those of love duets, mad scenes, etc.

What seals the (happy) fate of this one is the sheer gorgeousness of the singing. Gens has a voice that is full from top to bottom, with no register breaks. It can take the elevator up or down smoothly, retaining its creaminess and frisson inducing quick vibrato throughout the range. Highlights here are the arias/scenes from Bruneau (Geneviève), Félicien David (Lalla Roukh) and, best of all, Massenet (La Vierge). Gens’ diction is excellent, but like Crespin or Tebaldi she chooses evenness of voice production to verbal clarity when singing loud high phrases. Texts and translations. Recommended.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #484 on: November 18, 2019, 02:45:50 AM »




Barbara Bonney, though American, was once married to the Swedish baritone Hakan Hagegard and is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, so it is not at all surprising to find her recording a disc of Scandinavian song, though of the composers represented here, only Stenhammar, Alfven and Sjöberg are Swedish, Grieg and Sibelius taking up the lion's share of the recital.

The recording was made in 1999, by which time Bonney would have been 43, and though the voice retains its springlike freshness and purity, maturity has brought a new richness and depth that perhaps would not have been available to her a few years earlier. Not only is it a beautiful instrument per se, but it is also beautifully expressive and she easily fills all the requirements of this varied group of songs.

Some of the Grieg songs are well known, but I am guessing that most of the others will be unfamiliar, and whilst there is nothing here to challenge the greatness of song writers like Schubert, Schumann or Wolf, there is plenty to enjoy. The emotional range is wide too and Bonney seizes every opportunity for expression afforded to her.

Pappano, unlike many conductors who have a go at piano accompaniment, offers superb support and the whole disc feels like a wonderful collaboration between two artists totally at one with their vision.

A lovely disc and one of the most enjoyable recitals in my collection. Like Bonney's disc of early English song, which I reviewed a few months back, this comes with the highest recommendation.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline André

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #485 on: November 21, 2019, 06:23:24 PM »
I found this curious and quite impressive video on youtube: Turandot assolutas, with some I had never heard of. I thought my body was scissored in two by Gina Cigna. What a voice !! Also of note: Eva Turner, and the Hungarian Anne Roselle (singing in German) in 1927, one year after the opera’s creation. She created the role in Germany. Amazingly lyrical.

Even the less than perfect ones (Grob-Prandl) have something the others don’t (listen to her ‘quel grido’, with just the right verbal emphasis).

I suspect that the clips have been monitored to add some reverb on the voices, but it is done well.



https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pKMEHpRTLX4

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #486 on: November 24, 2019, 10:40:26 AM »




These recordings were all made in the 1930s and so pre-date the two disc set of French song I reviewed a few months ago, with the second part of the disc being taken from a 1937 radio broadcast. One of the songs (Armstrong Gibbs' The fields are full of summer still) was newly discovered in 2001 and first published on this CD.

We start with one of Dame Maggie's most famous performances, that of Périchole's Tu n'es pas beau, sung with great affection, a twinkle in the eye and with that wonderful dip into her inimitably glorious chest voice. Though a light soprano with pure, firm top notes, Teyte's lower register was admirably rich and full in a manner we rarely hear today, more's the pity. The orchestra here sounds like a palm court orchestra at a tea dance, but the singing is another matter entirely and alone well worth the price of the disc. The two excerpts from Messager's Véronique, which follow are almost as good.

Teyte was particularly renowned for her interpretations of French song, but we are vouchsafed only two (very well known) songs from that field, Fauré's Après un rêve and Hahn's Si mes vers avaient des ailes. The Fauré is much better than the one on the French song disc mentioned above, where I felt she fussed with the song too much making it lose its natural flow, and the Hahn is as lovely as the later recording with Gerald Moore. These are followed by two Dvorak songs, Christina's Lament, which turns out to be his Humoresque arranged for voice and piano, and the ubiquitous Songs my mother taught me, both beautifully sung.

These are followed by a group of songs from light musicals, mementoes of her days spent in British Music Hall. They may be musically slight, but Deep in my heart, dear from Romberg's The Student Prince was actually one of Dame Maggie's favourite recordings. It crests with a high B, which she thought the most beautiful note she had ever recorded. Certainly the note rings out clear and clean as a bell.

The lion's share of the disc, however, is given over to a 1937 BBC broadcast recital, which couples popular songs by Schumann and Brahms to a group of English songs by turn of the century composers Quilter, Bridge, Delius, Armstrong Gibbs and (completely new to me) Amherst Webber and Graham Peel. As ever, the voice is bright and pure, her manner direct and disarming, her diction and intonation well-nigh perfect. Admittedly, there are aspects of her singing which some might find quaint and old fashioned today, but her technique is superb and her voice remained firm and clear well into her sixties.

Perhaps because of some of the material, this is not quite so recommendable as the EMI two disc set of French songs, but I would never want to be without it, if only for the wonderful aria from La Périchole.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #487 on: December 02, 2019, 09:09:25 AM »


Rossini: Arias from La Donna Del Lago, Otello, Stabat Mater, Armida, Tancredi and L'assedio di Corinto
Donizetti: Arias from Belisario, Parisina d'Este. Torquato Tasso, Gemma di Vergy
Verdi: Arias from Un Giorno di Regno, I Lombardi, I due Foscari, Alzira, Attila, Il Corsaro and Aroldo


These two discs bring together the three LPs of bel canto Rarities Montserrat Caballé recorded shortly after she rocketed to stardom singing Lucrezia in Lucrezia Borgia at Carnegie Hall in 1965, a last minute replacement for an ailing Marilyn Horne. Each record was devoted to a different composer. The first two, Rossini and early Verdi, were recorded in Italy in 1967 with the RCA Italiana Chorus and Orchestra and the Donizetti with the London Symphony Orchestra and Ambrosian Opera Chorus in 1969. Carlo Felice Cillario was the conductor for the Rossini and Donizetti, Anton Guadagno for the Verdi and the luxury presentation included other singers in the various comprimario roles.

The material was even rarer back then than it is now as vary few of the works represented had ever been recorded, Caballé herself being one of the singers who spearheaded the bel canto revival that occurred after Callas had opened the doors to this repertoire in the previous decade.

These were the years of Caballé's absolute peak and the voice is in superb condition, without a trace of the hardness that coud afflict her loud high notes in later years. Her breath control is prodigious, but she doesn't over-exploit her fabulous high pianissimi, which she tended to do in later years, and her singing has an energy and attack which you might find surprising if you only know her from her later recordings, when she tended to slow everything down until it practically came to a halt. If she has a fault, it is that her trills are a little sketchy and occasionally one hears the slight suspicion of an aspirate, but the singing is surpassingly beautiful throughout its range, her legato excellent and the voice even from top to bottom. Characterisation might not be her strong point, but she is always alive to the dramatic situation and her singing is both involved and involving.

The arias on each disc are well chosen and the whole enterprise exudes class. I really can't think of any singer today who could match her in this repertoire, maybe DiDonato in the Rossini and Donizetti, though she lacks Caballé's arrestingly beautiful sound. As for Verdi, well we do seem to be experiencing a dearth of good Verdi singers today.

These two discs are a superb memento of a great singer at the height of her powers and should be in the collection of any vocal connoisseur. This particular release comes with full notes, texts and translations which are hardly to be taken for granted these days. Highly recommended.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline André

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #488 on: December 02, 2019, 12:56:46 PM »
Agreed, fantastic recitals indeed.

Offline dissily Mordentroge

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #489 on: December 03, 2019, 01:22:16 AM »
Possibly this can’t be considered as a ‘mere’ vocal recital so much as a recital for the accompanist but I can’t leave this one off the list.
https://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/a-tribute-to-gerald-moore


Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #490 on: December 03, 2019, 01:33:02 AM »
Possibly this can’t be considered as a ‘mere’ vocal recital so much as a recital for the accompanist but I can’t leave this one off the list.
https://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/a-tribute-to-gerald-moore

A wonderful memento indeed. Is this complete? It's included in the Schwarzkopf Recitals box set, but is there spread over two discs.

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline knight66

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #491 on: December 03, 2019, 02:28:29 AM »
Just a thought on the Gerald Moore tribute: That big box looks like it has retained the LP formats. Perhaps it even echos the double LP format of the original LPs of the evening. A bit pointless really.

Mike
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Offline dissily Mordentroge

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #492 on: December 03, 2019, 02:34:58 AM »
Just a thought on the Gerald Moore tribute: That big box looks like it has retained the LP formats. Perhaps it even echos the double LP format of the original LPs of the evening. A bit pointless really.
Mike
Simply a marketing strategy?
I’m drooling over that complete Schwarzkopf set. I have as many of her recordings as I’ve been able to find over the decades all the way back to the early operetta LP’s/78s . I wonder if anything on the CD collection could be material not previously released such as radio broadcasts etc?
My other question is how accurate the description 'The Complete Recitals ' when the cover art on many of those illustrated is from studio recordings.
Do they mean 'studio recitals'?
« Last Edit: December 03, 2019, 02:45:35 AM by dissily Mordentroge »

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #493 on: December 03, 2019, 09:13:49 AM »
Just a thought on the Gerald Moore tribute: That big box looks like it has retained the LP formats. Perhaps it even echos the double LP format of the original LPs of the evening. A bit pointless really.

Mike

Actually what Warner have done is reproduce exactly the format of the original releases, even down to reproducing the artwork for each individual release. I like this as it preserves the integrity of each recital, and actually prefer it to the pick-and-mix method used for most reissues of old recordings. Where they have been able to squeeze two LPs onto one disc, then they have, so the complete recording of Wolf's Italienisches Liederbuch is now on one CD, whereas the Brahms Volkslieder are still on two. The Gerald Moore Farewell concert is on the last two discs in the box, the final disc having tacked on to it Schwarzkopf's recordings of Ah perfido! and Abscheulicher! which were originally issued as fill-ups for Karajan's Philharmonia Beethoven symphony cycle. Also the total playing time for the concert is just over 90 minutes, so something must be missing from the single disc issue.

I can't recommend this set too highly and I have reviewed it here https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2019/05/30/elisabeth-schwarzkopf-the-complete-recitals-1952-1974/

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #494 on: December 03, 2019, 09:17:33 AM »
Simply a marketing strategy?
I’m drooling over that complete Schwarzkopf set. I have as many of her recordings as I’ve been able to find over the decades all the way back to the early operetta LP’s/78s . I wonder if anything on the CD collection could be material not previously released such as radio broadcasts etc?
My other question is how accurate the description 'The Complete Recitals ' when the cover art on many of those illustrated is from studio recordings.
Do they mean 'studio recitals'?

See my reply to Knight above. Yes, these are reissues of all Schwarzkopf's LP studio recitals for EMI. I have reviewed it on my blog https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2019/05/30/elisabeth-schwarzkopf-the-complete-recitals-1952-1974/.

Warner have also issued a box set of all her earlier recordings, which were originally issued on 78s.

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #495 on: December 07, 2019, 07:08:08 AM »
 

By 1964 Callas had all but retired from musical life. In 1961 she recorded her first disc of French arias, sang in performances of Medea at Epidaurus in Greece and at La Scala and a single concert performance in London. In 1962, she did even less; a short concert tour, taking in London and cities in Germany, plus a couple of arias for a BBC TV appearance. 1963 saw more concerts in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart, London, Copenhagen and Paris, plus more recording sessions of French arias at the beginning year. At the end of the year and at the beginning of 1964 she embarked on more intensive recording activity, possibly in preparation for her upcoming retur to the operatic stage in Tosca and Norma. Three discs were issued in 1964, one of classical arias by Mozart, Beethoven and Weber, one of arias by Rossini and Donizetti, and one of Verdi arias, with more of the Verdi sessions being released in 1972, shortly after she emerged from self-imposed exile to teach a series of masterclasses at the Juilliard School in New York. Though more of these sessions, plus some made in 1969, were eventually released after her death, these were the only ones she agreed to.

Though all three of the discs issued in 1964 revealed some pronounced vocal problems, the Verdi disc is by far the most successful. She seems less preoccupied with her vocal problems, more engaged with the material and consequently the singing has a freedom that is lacking in the other two discs, though this does mean we also get quite a few squally notes above the stave.

Desdemona's Willow Song and Ave Maria might be considered an uncharacteristic piece for Callas, but she is alive to every shift of mood. As it rarely strays above the stave it also presents her with the least problems vocally. It is a great pity EMI didn't think to emply someone to sing Emilia's lines, but Callas skillfully uses a different tone for the comments to Emilia from the one she uses for Barbara's song. Throughout one feels Desdemona's anxiety, which erupts with a sudden passionate outburst when she bids Emilia goodbye. The Ave Maria profits from her deep legato, the final Ab spun out in the best tradition.

Both of the Aroldo arias are thrilling, especially Mina's Act III solo, a superb piece which Callas fills with drama and significance, bringing the cabaletta to a rousing conclusion.
 
Elisabetta's Non pianger mia compagna from Don Carlo doesn't really come off. Though her legato is still excellent, she sounds strained here and she can't float the climactic phrases as she should. Eboli's O don fatale, though, is another matter entirely. The whole aria brims with contrast and drama, and one registers each change of expression. She vehemently launches into the opening section, spitting out the words ti maledico, but then moulds rather than sings the  o mia regina  section, her rich lower register digging deep into its melancholy. Finally as she realises she still has time to save Carlo, she brings the aria to an ecstatic close. OK, so there are a couple of off centre high notes, but they fade into insignifance next to the thrilling commitment of the singing.

When I reviewed all three of these 1963 recitals back in January 2017, I mentioned that my wobble tolerance could vary from listen to listen. Sometimes I find the acidulous tone and stridency hard to take; on others I barely notice them as I get wrapped up in the musical imagination. It's safe to say that on this occasion the latter reaction was in play.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #496 on: December 22, 2019, 02:54:52 AM »


So what more can one say about this famous two disc recital? It was recorded in 1960, not long after Dame Joan had enjoyed a spectacular success in Lucia di Lammermoor, in 1959, at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. She was already 33 and had been a member of the company since 1952, when she had sung Clotilde to Callas's Norma and the Priestess in Aida. She had sung a wide number of roles there, including Agathe, the Countess, Gilda, Pamina, Eva and even Lady Rich in Gloriana and Jennifer in Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage, but none of these undertakings had prepared anyone for the spectacular success she would have as Lucia, with Serafin, Callas's mentor, in the pit. The role became her calling card and shortly afterwards she sang it in Paris, at La Scala and at the Met, performances that put her firmly on the map and paved the way for the direction her career would take. Thereafter she concentrated almost exclusively on the bel canto repertoire and many operas were resurrected specifically for her.

Let us try and listen now with fresh ears, as if, for instance, this was the work of a singer new to us today. First impressions would be of the beauty of the voice, the fullness of tone, the ease on high and the way those top notes ring out with brilliance but without a hint of shrillness. We would also notice the rocketing virtuosity and the stunningly accurate coloratura. She also sings with feeling, but the first impressions are definitely vocal. This is an exceptional instrument used with great technical accomplishment. What I don't think we quite get is a true impression of the size of the voice, which, according to all who heard her in the theatre, was quite exceptional.

Some of the arias (particularly the opening track, Arne's The soldier tir'd, Handel's Let the bright Seraphim and Semiramide's Bel raggio) have become yardsticks against which all subsequent comers might be judged, and almost all the others would no doubt be considered amongst the best versions available. Vocally she has few limitations, though these might include a relative weakness in the lower register. Nor is she ever likely to suddenly throw into relief a word or a phrase and her diction, though a lot better than it was later to become is not particularly clear. We might also note that characterisation is not her strong point. As one aria follows another there is little to distinguish one character from another. We do not get a gallery of different people, as one would with a Callas or a Schwarzkopf.

For many these reservations will not be a problem and of course there is a great deal of pleasure to be had from the purely visceral experience of hearing such a beautiful voice in full bloom tackling with accomplishment a wide range of music. For others, and I would count myself among them, that certain sameness of interpretaion will be a problem and I for one prefer to listen to the recital piecemeal rather than all in one sitting. When listening in sequence, I start out being stunned by the singing but, after a while, my mind starts to wander as one interpretation emerges much the same as the one before. The best arias are, as I intimated above, those in which Sutherland can display her amazing vocal dexterity.

Going back to first impressions, though. There is, as far as I'm aware, nobody singing today who can even approach the accomplishment of what Sutherland achieves here. This two disc stands as testament to her greatness, before the mannerisms (the poor diction, the mushy middle voice, the droopy partamenti) became apparent and should be in the collection of all those interested in singers and singing.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas