Author Topic: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?  (Read 430950 times)

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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2680 on: September 02, 2021, 12:24:25 AM »


Probably Mady Mesplé's greatest performance on disc in a role that very much became her signature role, but there are other reasons to enjoy this recording, not least Charles Burles as Gérald and Roger Soyer as Nilakantha.

This recording was top choice for the opera not so long ago in BBC Radio 3's Building a Library.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Pohjolas Daughter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2681 on: September 02, 2021, 01:08:23 AM »
It’s a 1962 Salzburg Festival production and the same performance as on the official SF release:




I have that Od’O release but not the DG one. Can’t tell if the sound is different. The DG dates from 1995, the Od’O from 2002. My hunch is that they’re identical.
Thank you for the photos.  I see that it was an Austrian Radio recording from the vaults.  :)  Out of curiosity earlier this morning, I did a bit of googling as I was curious about the change in relationship between Orfeo and the Salzburger Festspiel.  Not certain of the article's accuracy, but this was quite interesting:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orfeo_(record_label)

And what's up with Opera d'Oro now that Allegro is gone?  Anyone here know?

PD

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2682 on: September 03, 2021, 11:45:18 PM »


Delius's A Village Romeo and Juliet is full of gorgeous music, but has hardly ever been staged since its Berlin premiere in 1907. Most people will know The Walk to the Paradise Garden but there's a lot more to it than that. The opera is a little lacking in drama, but does make for perfect gramophone listening.
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2683 on: September 04, 2021, 02:00:01 AM »


Recently I've been confining my listening to one composer at a time and now it's the turn of Donizetti, starting, fittingly, with this superb performance of Anna Bolena, which helped to spearhead the whole bel canto revival. It is heavily cut of course, but Callas is without doubt the greatest Anna on disc and anyone who loves the opera should hear this performance, preferably in this Divina transfer which is in a completely different realm of clarity from the murky EMI, which tends to wander in pitch and which was unfortunately also the source of Warner's issue.

There is a much more detailed review of the performance on my blog for anyone who is interested https://tsaraslondon.com/2017/06/13/anna-bolena-la-scala-milan-april-14-1957/.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Pohjolas Daughter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2684 on: September 04, 2021, 02:09:02 AM »


Recently I've been confining my listening to one composer at a time and now it's the turn of Donizetti, starting, fittingly, with this superb performance of Anna Bolena, which helped to spearhead the whole bel canto revival. It is heavily cut of course, but Callas is without doubt the greatest Anna on disc and anyone who loves the opera should hear this performance, preferably in this Divina transfer which is in a completely different realm of clarity from the murky EMI, which tends to wander in pitch and which was unfortunately also the source of Warner's issue.

There is a much more detailed review of the performance on my blog for anyone who is interested https://tsaraslondon.com/2017/06/13/anna-bolena-la-scala-milan-april-14-1957/.
I don't know the Callas performance of it but do love Donizetti.  Some years ago, I remember watching a televised performance of it from the Met--believe that it was this one.  https://medicine-opera.com/2011/10/anna-bolena-in-hd/  Have you by any chance seen it T.L. or heard Netrebko sing it?  I remember enjoying it.  :)

Don't know Divina records.  Are they generally well thought of in terms of their transfers?  Do they also include librettos?

PD

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2685 on: September 04, 2021, 02:22:24 AM »
I don't know the Callas performance of it but do love Donizetti.  Some years ago, I remember watching a televised performance of it from the Met--believe that it was this one.  https://medicine-opera.com/2011/10/anna-bolena-in-hd/  Have you by any chance seen it T.L. or heard Netrebko sing it?  I remember enjoying it.  :)

Don't know Divina records.  Are they generally well thought of in terms of their transfers?  Do they also include librettos?

PD

I've seen bits of the performance with Netrebko. She is by no stretch of the imagination a bel canto singer and approximates most of the coloratura. Callas is in a different class altogether.

Divina's transfers of Callas performances are exemplary and will, in almost every case, be better than other issues out there. Most of them are now only available as downloads but you do get a PDf download with extensive notes and libretto usually, though, only in Italian. Certainly the difference between Divina's Anna Bolena and the EMI and Warner is quite marked and I'd say definitely worth the extra outlay.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2686 on: September 05, 2021, 12:13:31 AM »


Don Pasquale was once Donizetti's most popular and often performed comic opera, but has now surely been taken over by L'Elisir d'Amore. Perhaps this has something to do with the story, which now seems rather cruel and not that funny.

It hasn't been that lucky on disc either and, when choosing a represntative recording for my library, I ended up going for this 1933 performance, pricinpally for the stylish performances of Tito Schipa and Afro Poli. Ernesto Badini is an authentically buffo Pasquale, but Adelaide Saraceni is somewhat charmless and her voice tends to the shrill and acidic. Carlo Sabjano conducts a sprightly performance and this will do very nicely. Certainly I have heard little in subsequent recordings to make me want to purchase another.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2687 on: September 06, 2021, 01:58:53 AM »


This recording was made shortly after a second run of performances of the opera at Covent Garden with substantially the same cast, and it certainly has the feel of a live performance. The only major change of cast was from José Carreras to Domingo and I do wonder why the change was considered necessary. By all accounts Carreras had been a superb Nemorino, his voice at its youthful, lyric best whereas Domingo was just embarking on his first Otellos. Domingo manages to lighten his voice to suit the role and one notes his ease and fluidity in fast moving music, but Carreras at that time had by nature what Domingo had to strive for. By the time Carreras came to record the role himself, his voice was showing signs of wear.

Nevertheless this is a joyful recording and Cotrubas an adorable Adina, few better on record. Wixell  preens and struts as Belcore and Geraint Evans, though a little dry of voice, is an experienced and characterful Dulcamara. Lilian Watson is a delightful Gianetta and Pritchard conducts a sprightly sparkling performance.

L'Elisir d'Amore has been a lot more successful on disc than Don Pasquale and this recording, my personal favourite, is definitely one of the best.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2021, 02:01:17 AM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2688 on: September 07, 2021, 01:12:32 AM »


Though written by an Italian La Fille du Régiment seems to me to be in the best tradition of opéra-comique and I always think of it as a French work.

This classic set has long been considered one of the best things Sutherland and Pavarotti, not to mention Bonynge, did together and it certainly sparkles with both singers in stunning form. The role of Tonio is the one that gave Pavarotti the title of "King of the High Cs" and his singing of Pour mon âme is absolutely thrilling, but he can sing with lyrical charm as well and Sutherland's facility in coloratura and the beauty and security of her top notes are quite stunning. So perhaps I should leave it at that.

However, as always with Sutherland, I do become irritated by the mushy diction. I've read that it's much better here than it usually is, but that is to damn with faint praise. It's still not good, and, following along with the libretto, it's easy to get lost. Non French speakers might point out that they don't understand the language anyway, so it doesn't really matter to them, but I think poor or mushy diction in any language robs the line of energy. I must admit I found myself wondering what Mady Mesplé, whom I'd recently listened to in Lakmé would have made of the role.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2689 on: September 08, 2021, 02:44:55 AM »


When this recording was first issued it caused qute a stir. Here was a soprano known for her Isolde, Brünnhilde and Norma singing a role normally associated with light, soubrettish sopranos, a role which gave them the opportunity to show of their coloratura skills and high notes. The surprise was that not only could this soprano articulate all the coloratura with equal, if not better results, but that she was able to invest the score with a dramatic significance nobody even suspected was there.

Lucia became one of Callas's most performed roles and one she kept in her repertoire until 1959. This was the first recording she made for EMI, though Walter Legge held up its release until after the recording of I Puritani later in the year under the aegis of La Scala, which he thought would make a bigger splash. She is in fabulous, pre weight-loss voice and this is much the better of her two studio recordings. The latter enjoys much better sound and uses the Philharmonia Orchestra at the top of theri game, but the soloists (an over-the-hill Ferrucio Tagliavini and an as yet unformed Cappuccilli) are not as effective as Di Stefano and Gobbi here, and, though Callas still sings quite beautifully in the middle range, the top has lost the powere and security we get here.

In many ways, this is an historic recording that probably changed people's perceptions of the opera for ever.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2690 on: September 08, 2021, 04:35:28 AM »


There are a few strikes against that recording. Starting with the minuses, Figaro and the Count are strange choices for their roles. Rossini wrote the roles for a baritone and a tenore di grazia (or leggero). Domingo is definitely not a baritone and Lopardo’s back of the throat emission precludes the voice of floating freely on high (think of Kenneth Riegel’s Ottavio in Maazel’s Don Giovanni). The high notes are there in ecco ridente but they are sung in full voice rather than sweetly crooned in head voice. In sum the mix of baritone and leggero tenor voices is skewed downside up and upside down right from the start. It does take some time to get used to.

Battle is in fine voice and her cavatina is sweetly, handsomely sung, almost conservatively even - no vocal high jinks, just the notes. In terms of temperament, she is a pert Rosina, although her dramatic-comic armoury is often limited to rolling the ‘r’s. But the singing is always easy on the ear. Raimondi must have sung Basilio hundreds of times and he does not disappoint.

What makes this performance a real standout is Abbado’s conducting and the COE’s playing. They collectively create an additional main character to the opera. I have never heard the score played with such zest and involvement - aided by the sound engineers maybe. Every little piccolo chirp, string pizzicato or bassoon gurgle is rendered with startling vivacity. The bass drum thwacks in the Calomny aria are heart attack-inducing. Abbado’s hand is always light but attentive to every little detail. Orchestra-wise, this is a revelation. Abbado’s previous recorded version is dull in comparison.

All told, an interesting complement to long established favourites such as Callas, Sills, Horne, de los Angeles.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2691 on: September 08, 2021, 05:19:36 AM »


There are a few strikes against that recording. Starting with the minuses, Figaro and the Count are strange choices for their roles. Rossini wrote the roles for a baritone and a tenore di grazia (or leggero). Domingo is definitely not a baritone and Lopardo’s back of the throat emission precludes the voice of floating freely on high (think of Kenneth Riegel’s Ottavio in Maazel’s Don Giovanni). The high notes are there in ecco ridente but they are sung in full voice rather than sweetly crooned in head voice. In sum the mix of baritone and leggero tenor voices is skewed downside up and upside down right from the start. It does take some time to get used to.

Battle is in fine voice and her cavatina is sweetly, handsomely sung, almost conservatively even - no vocal high jinks, just the notes. In terms of temperament, she is a pert Rosina, although her dramatic-comic armoury is often limited to rolling the ‘r’s. But the singing is always easy on the ear. Raimondi must have sung Basilio hundreds of times and he does not disappoint.

What makes this performance a real standout is Abbado’s conducting and the COE’s playing. They collectively create an additional main character to the opera. I have never heard the score played with such zest and involvement - aided by the sound engineers maybe. Every little piccolo chirp, string pizzicato or bassoon gurgle is rendered with startling vivacity. The bass drum thwacks in the Calomny aria are heart attack-inducing. Abbado’s hand is always light but attentive to every little detail. Orchestra-wise, this is a revelation. Abbado’s previous recorded version is dull in comparison.

All told, an interesting complement to long established favourites such as Callas, Sills, Horne, de los Angeles.

I haven't heard this set and had forgotten about it. I think I'd always been put off by it being Domingo in a baritone role, as I have been by all his other baritone excursions. I don't much like Lopardo either and I'd assumed, maybe wrongly, that Battle would be of the high soprano, high jinx variety of Rosina, which I don't like. Admittedly my two favourite Rosinas are sopranos (Callas and De Los Angeles) but they do sing in the mezzo keys.

I agree that Abbado's first effort is a bit dull so it's a shame that his second attempt has a less enticing cast.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Pohjolas Daughter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2692 on: September 08, 2021, 05:58:42 AM »


When this recording was first issued it caused qute a stir. Here was a soprano known for her Isolde, Brünnhilde and Norma singing a role normally associated with light, soubrettish sopranos, a role which gave them the opportunity to show of their coloratura skills and high notes. The surprise was that not only could this soprano articulate all the coloratura with equal, if not better results, but that she was able to invest the score with a dramatic significance nobody even suspected was there.

Lucia became one of Callas's most performed roles and one she kept in her repertoire until 1959. This was the first recording she made for EMI, though Walter Legge held up its release until after the recording of I Puritani later in the year under the aegis of La Scala, which he thought would make a bigger splash. She is in fabulous, pre weight-loss voice and this is much the better of her two studio recordings. The latter enjoys much better sound and uses the Philharmonia Orchestra at the top of theri game, but the soloists (an over-the-hill Ferrucio Tagliavini and an as yet unformed Cappuccilli) are not as effective as Di Stefano and Gobbi here, and, though Callas still sings quite beautifully in the middle range, the top has lost the powere and security we get here.

In many ways, this is an historic recording that probably changed people's perceptions of the opera for ever.
That's a wonderful recording.  Haven't seen that photo before.  I have the older blue box version. 

I was thinking earlier today how styles of singing have changed over the years.  Some of the earlier recordings that I have feature what I think of more as a "Tweety-bird" style of singing.  I seldom revisit them these days.

Offline Pohjolas Daughter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2693 on: September 08, 2021, 06:03:15 AM »


There are a few strikes against that recording. Starting with the minuses, Figaro and the Count are strange choices for their roles. Rossini wrote the roles for a baritone and a tenore di grazia (or leggero). Domingo is definitely not a baritone and Lopardo’s back of the throat emission precludes the voice of floating freely on high (think of Kenneth Riegel’s Ottavio in Maazel’s Don Giovanni). The high notes are there in ecco ridente but they are sung in full voice rather than sweetly crooned in head voice. In sum the mix of baritone and leggero tenor voices is skewed downside up and upside down right from the start. It does take some time to get used to.

Battle is in fine voice and her cavatina is sweetly, handsomely sung, almost conservatively even - no vocal high jinks, just the notes. In terms of temperament, she is a pert Rosina, although her dramatic-comic armoury is often limited to rolling the ‘r’s. But the singing is always easy on the ear. Raimondi must have sung Basilio hundreds of times and he does not disappoint.

What makes this performance a real standout is Abbado’s conducting and the COE’s playing. They collectively create an additional main character to the opera. I have never heard the score played with such zest and involvement - aided by the sound engineers maybe. Every little piccolo chirp, string pizzicato or bassoon gurgle is rendered with startling vivacity. The bass drum thwacks in the Calomny aria are heart attack-inducing. Abbado’s hand is always light but attentive to every little detail. Orchestra-wise, this is a revelation. Abbado’s previous recorded version is dull in comparison.

All told, an interesting complement to long established favourites such as Callas, Sills, Horne, de los Angeles.
I'll have to keep an eye out for that one.  Interestingly enough, I was doing a bit of googling re opera earlier today and ran across this recording and photo:  one of them is at the beginning of their career; the other, at their end.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tBKChWQreg

Good to hear that there are Sills fans outside of the US too!  :)

PD

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2694 on: September 08, 2021, 10:39:23 AM »
That's a wonderful recording.  Haven't seen that photo before.  I have the older blue box version. 

I was thinking earlier today how styles of singing have changed over the years.  Some of the earlier recordings that I have feature what I think of more as a "Tweety-bird" style of singing.  I seldom revisit them these days.

How far back are you going? I'm not absolutely sure, but I think this 1953 recording might have been the first on LP. Before that there had been a 1929 recording with Mercedes Capsir, a 1939 one with Lina Pagliughi and a 1951 Urania recording with Dolores Wilson. Lily Pons also recorded it in 1954 and Roberta Peters in 1957. All of these sopranos had much smaller, lighter voices than Callas. Scotto recorded it in 1959 and Sutherland's first recording came out in 1961.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2695 on: September 08, 2021, 11:36:27 PM »


The legendary night when Karajan took his La Scala production of Lucia di Lammermoor to Berlin. The high level of excitement is palpable from the first drum roll and near pandemonium breaks out after Callas's first aria. Throughout she is in enviable form, her voice infinitely responsive with phrase spun out to extraordinary lengths. Great performances too from Di Stefano, Panerai and Zaccaria.

Apparently many years later, after listening to the performance with the pianist Robert Sutherland, Callas said to him, "Well, what did you think?" Sutherland wasn't sure what to say, but managed to get out, "Well it was marvellous singing, Madame Callas." "Marvellous?" she snapped bakc, "It was bloody miraculous!" then added quietly, "And to think I went back to my dressing room and cried because I didn't think I'd sung well enough." She was always striving for the impossible,

A full review of the performance on my blog, https://tsaraslondon.com/2018/01/13/lucia-di-lammermoor-berlin-1955/
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Pohjolas Daughter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2696 on: September 10, 2021, 12:52:58 AM »
How far back are you going? I'm not absolutely sure, but I think this 1953 recording might have been the first on LP. Before that there had been a 1929 recording with Mercedes Capsir, a 1939 one with Lina Pagliughi and a 1951 Urania recording with Dolores Wilson. Lily Pons also recorded it in 1954 and Roberta Peters in 1957. All of these sopranos had much smaller, lighter voices than Callas. Scotto recorded it in 1959 and Sutherland's first recording came out in 1961.
Sorry, I can see how you would have misunderstood me.  I was making a general comment about the changes in styles particularly for the bel canto singers over the years--not referring just to this specific opera.  :)



The legendary night when Karajan took his La Scala production of Lucia di Lammermoor to Berlin. The high level of excitement is palpable from the first drum roll and near pandemonium breaks out after Callas's first aria. Throughout she is in enviable form, her voice infinitely responsive with phrase spun out to extraordinary lengths. Great performances too from Di Stefano, Panerai and Zaccaria.

Apparently many years later, after listening to the performance with the pianist Robert Sutherland, Callas said to him, "Well, what did you think?" Sutherland wasn't sure what to say, but managed to get out, "Well it was marvellous singing, Madame Callas." "Marvellous?" she snapped bakc, "It was bloody miraculous!" then added quietly, "And to think I went back to my dressing room and cried because I didn't think I'd sung well enough." She was always striving for the impossible,

A full review of the performance on my blog, https://tsaraslondon.com/2018/01/13/lucia-di-lammermoor-berlin-1955/
Thank you for sharing that anecdote about Madame Callas and Robert Sutherland too!

PD

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2697 on: September 10, 2021, 01:02:44 AM »


The third of my Callas recordings of Lucia di Lammermoor is also the first of her stereo re-makes, recorded in March 1959 a few months before her final outing as Lucia in Dallas, when she famously muffed the high Ebs.

Sonically of course, the recording is a huge improvement on the 1953 Florence recording. It was made in Kingsway Hall with the Philharmonia and Orchestra in superb form, but the rest of the cast is something of a mixed bag. Tagliavini was in his late 50s and, quite frankly, sounds it; Cappuccilli was near the start of his career and his Enrico, pleasantly enough sung, is not in the least bit menacing, and certainly no match for Gobbi on the studio recording or Panerai in Berlin, and Bernard Ladysz sounds as if he had strayed in from the wrong opera. As for Callas, she is in much better voice than I remember, spinning out phrases with wonderful elasticity, but it has to be admitted that the notes above, say Bb, are something of a trial. The top Ebs are there but they are not exactly pleasant on the ear. Nevertheless she is still a great Lucia and I still enjoy this recording, even if Berlin 1955 would be my ultimate choice for the opera.

I also sometimes wonder why she and Legge chose to re-record Lucia di Lammermoor. By 1959 she was free of the terms of her Cetra contract and I'd have thought La Traviata would have been a more obvious choice. Maybe Lucia was chosen because it was also the first opera she recorded with EMI.

A full review of the set on my blog. https://tsaraslondon.com/2017/01/07/callass-stereo-lucia/
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2698 on: September 10, 2021, 01:07:28 AM »
Sorry, I can see how you would have misunderstood me.  I was making a general comment about the changes in styles particularly for the bel canto singers over the years--not referring just to this specific opera.  :)
Thank you for sharing that anecdote about Madame Callas and Robert Sutherland too!

PD

Ah, yes, the "tweety-pie" small- voiced soubrette soprano seems now to be a thing of the past. Maybe these days all the smaller voices stick to Baroque opera.

I heard the Robert Sutherland anecdote from Sutherland himself when he gave a talk about his time with Callas at the Crush Bar in Covent Garden some years ago.

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

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2699 on: September 10, 2021, 01:38:52 AM »
I haven't heard this set and had forgotten about it. I think I'd always been put off by it being Domingo in a baritone role, as I have been by all his other baritone excursions. I don't much like Lopardo either and I'd assumed, maybe wrongly, that Battle would be of the high soprano, high jinx variety of Rosina, which I don't like. Admittedly my two favourite Rosinas are sopranos (Callas and De Los Angeles) but they do sing in the mezzo keys.

I agree that Abbado's first effort is a bit dull so it's a shame that his second attempt has a less enticing cast.

Of (relatively) modern versions - ie not the classic recordings - I always rather liked Marriner's first operatic recording;



I like Baltsa very much as Rosina - peppy and with a bit of a bite but twinkling too.  Thomas Allen - a proper baritone acts the part to great effect.  All round a joyous performance full of vim and energy.  Il Barbiere was the first opera I played when I went to work at the Teatro Reggio in Parma in the mid '80's and to this day it remains a firm (nostalgic!) favourite.