Author Topic: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?  (Read 176040 times)

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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1720 on: July 24, 2019, 10:55:48 PM »
It certainly makes dramatic sense to use the same soprano for the various soprano leads and Offenbach did intend them to be sung by the same singer, but, quite early on, they were allocated to different singers because of the difficulty of finding one singer who could bring them off both vocally and dramatically.

That was certainly the case back in the 1950s. Callas might have done it, but, when asked to do so, she famously replied, "But my dear, would you pay me three fees?"

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

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1721 on: July 28, 2019, 12:31:29 AM »


I was keen to hear this set after it was the reviewer's first choice for the opera in BBC's Building a Library programme, and it is very good indeed, though the sound of this live recording, made at the Salzburg Festival in 1981, rather lets it down. The solo voices are well recorded, but the sounds becomes boomy and congested when orchestra and chorus are at full tilt. Furthermore there are quite a few bangs and thuds associated with live performance.

That said the performance itself is thrilling with Domingo in superb voice and even more inside the role than he is on the Bonynge set. That of course has Sutherland in the female roles and it has to be said that Malfitano doesn't command her beauty of  tone. On the other hand, she is a much more convincing vocal actress. For all that Offenbach intended the roles to be sung by the same singer, the demands of each are quite different, and I often prefer to hear them sung by different singers as they are in the superb John Schlesinger Covent Garden production with Domingo again as Hoffmann, but with Luciana Serra as Olympia, Ileana Cotrubas as Antonia and Agnes Baltsa (a mezzo) as Giulietta. Malfitano rises to the challenge superbly however and reconciles me to the casting of the same singer.

The rest of the cast is also excellent with Ann Murray superb in the dual role of Niklausse/The Muse and Van Dam perfection in the roles of the four villains, vocally more resplendent than Bacquier on the Bonynge recording. Rémy Corazza is also excellent in the comic roles, if not quite erasing memories of Hugues Cuénod on the Bonynge set.

James Levine, whom I sometimes find too bombastic in Verdi, surprised me, his conducting both exciting and lyrical and the Vienna Philharmonic play superbly.

The Bonynge profits from superb Decca sound of course, but, in all other respects, I think I prefer this one.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2019, 10:39:08 PM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline JBS

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1722 on: August 23, 2019, 11:15:09 AM »
This, as part of a DHM budget box (and therefore no hint of a libretto or synopsis)


The spoken dialogue between the musical numbers, is replaced by narration spoken in the person of Samiel, by the actor performing that role.  With my minimal German,  that doesn't make much of a difference. One technical complaint: the finale of Act II, the Wolf's Glen scene could easily have been included in CD 1, but instead is marooned on CD2, with Act III.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1723 on: August 25, 2019, 12:52:23 AM »


Katia Ricciarelli is a name that does not come up too much these days and yet she recorded extensively for conductors such as Abbado, Karajan and Maazel and appeared regularly in the major opera houses of Europe and the USA. I've been listening to quite a bit of her work recently and must say I find her very impressive. Though I wouldn't necessarily place this recording at the top of the list of recordings of Luisa Miller, it is a very strong consider and Ricciarelli might just be my favourite Luisa. The other main contenders would be Cleva with Moffo, Bergonzi and MacNeil and Maag with Caballé, Pavarotti and Milnes and picking an outright winner is indeed difficult.

This recording was made during performances of the opera at Covent Garden, though in the stage performances Wurm was sung by Richard Van Allan, who appears on the Maag recording, and Federica by Elizabeth Connell. Unfortunately neither replacement can be considered a success. I know Wurm is an unpleasant character, but does he have to sound quite as nasty as Wladimiro Ganzarolli does here? Elena Obraztsova is also miscast, standing out in the wrong way, her singing bowzy and overblown. She sounds as if she has strayed in from the wrong opera and is certainly no match for Shirley Verrett on the Cleva recording.

The rest were all part of the Covent Garden cast of 1979 with the virtues that has of a cast being well sung in. Maazel has a tendency to be over-emphatic (of the conductors the wonderfully imaginative Maag would be my favourite) but all three principals are on fine form. Domingo, at his mid-career best, is a committed Rodolfo and Bruson an excellent Miller, but it is Ricciarelli who puts her seal on the performance. Not vocally qute as assured as either Caballé or Moffo, she presents the most fully rounded, most affecting Luisa of the three and she is the main reason I would revisit this set.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Online André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1724 on: August 25, 2019, 08:46:04 AM »


The conducting here is what stands out most favourably. Great flair and perfect pacing, nice woodwind contributions. Gui keeps the music moving along and every aria/duet falls nicely within Da Ponte’s fizzy narrative.

Unfortunately none of the singing performances attains the « Great Recordings of the Century » level. Bruscantini as Figaro is not funny and has little vocal face. Calabrese is a mean count with a good but unexceptional voice. Stevens as Cherubino is all wrong for the part. Sciutti is a nice, pert Susanna, but Gueden, Freni, Seefried or Popp have better voices and bring more character to the part. Sena Jurinac brings great sensitivity to her singing and her voice is at its creamy best. It’s always a good sign when one is not tempted to reach for comparisons.

Figaro has been blessed with all-star casts from many labels, so there’s a lot to choose from, making for a crowded top tier. Despite some nice features, this one does not belong to them.

Online ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1725 on: August 25, 2019, 09:00:34 AM »


The conducting here is what stands out most favourably. Great flair and perfect pacing, nice woodwind contributions. Gui keeps the music moving along and every aria/duet falls nicely within Da Ponte’s fizzy narrative.

Unfortunately none of the singing performances attains the « Great Recordings of the Century » level. Bruscantini as Figaro is not funny and has little vocal face. Calabrese is a mean count with a good but unexceptional voice. Stevens as Cherubino is all wrong for the part. Sciutti is a nice, pert Susanna, but Gueden, Freni, Seefried or Popp have better voices and bring more character to the part. Sena Jurinac brings great sensitivity to her singing and her voice is at its creamy best. It’s always a good sign when one is not tempted to reach for comparisons.

Figaro has been blessed with all-star casts from many labels, so there’s a lot to choose from, making for a crowded top tier. Despite some nice features, this one does not belong to them.
I would be a bit more benevolent with some of the singers (particularly Jurinac and Sciutti), but do agree with you that the star of thus recording is Vittorio Gui...a great opera conductor!
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Online André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1726 on: September 07, 2019, 03:41:49 PM »
Not listening now, but will later  :D. I just bought these two:



My first ever Mignon. This opera has plenty of well-known bits (the Overture, the Mignon and Philine arias, Wilhelm Meister’s Adieu, Mignon, courage! but it is rarely recorded.



I already have the cd version of this opera on Decca, but clearly my appreciation should be increased by this rare production from the LA Opera conducted by James Conlon (a Braunfels specialist). Désirée Rancatore sings the difficult part of the Nightingale.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1727 on: September 08, 2019, 08:56:43 AM »
Not listening now, but will later  :D. I just bought these two:



My first ever Mignon. This opera has plenty of well-known bits (the Overture, the Mignon and Philine arias, Wilhelm Meister’s Adieu, Mignon, courage! but it is rarely recorded.



I already have the cd version of this opera on Decca, but clearly my appreciation should be increased by this rare production from the LA Opera conducted by James Conlon (a Braunfels specialist). Désirée Rancatore sings the difficult part of the Nightingale.

I always rather wished that Von Stade had been cast as Mignon rather than Horne, who sounds a bit heavy to me.

I don't know the Braunfels at all.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Wendell_E

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1728 on: September 10, 2019, 01:58:25 AM »
I always rather wished that Von Stade had been cast as Mignon rather than Horne, who sounds a bit heavy to me.



Me, too. Horne would have been a fun Frédérick. She recorded his aria "Me voici dans son boudoir". I much prefer the composer's Hamlet, in any case.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2019, 02:02:47 AM by Wendell_E »
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Online André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1729 on: September 21, 2019, 04:36:36 PM »


By most accounts this version of Rosenkavalier cannot pretend to be presented with the Silver Rose. And yet some aspects of it are simply irresistible and, I dare say, unequalled in other performances. For one thing, the sound of the WP under Karajan in the Grosser Saal made my jaw drop right from the opening. The horn swoops, sumptuous tapestry of strings and aristocratic winds offer a kaleidoscope of rich colours. And so it goes whenever the orchestra is to the fore. The act endings are indecently beautiful. The violin solo at the end of the first act in particular had me holding my breath. One could say this is overindulgent. I can only relate the effect it had on me: I was enthralled. The third act by contrast has plenty of hustle and bustle, so it’s not just schlagobers and sachertorte.

Among the singers I didn’t find any weak link. I’ve read in various accounts that Janet Perry’s Sophie sounds thin and is no match for the best of them (Gueden, Popp, Donath). I haven’t heard them all but she holds her own with the other ladies here and blends well with Baltsa’s bold Octavian in the second act. Tomowa-Sintow’s Marschallin is quite all right. I couldn’t find any fault in her vocalism or characterization. Maybe she yields to others in vocal refinement and verbal acuity, but she doesn’t disappoint either. Kurt Moll’s Ochs is a whale of an interpretation, very much an Osmin in character and a Fafner in sound. Superb. As in all Karajan operatic productions, the small roles are cast from strength, with some famous veterans doing star turns (Wilma Lipp, Kurt Equiluz, Victor von Halem). The only disappointment I registered was with Vinson Cole’s overparted, unitalianate Italian Singer. Wasn’t Araiza available ? Karajan had him in his Vienna Schöpfung around that time... an opportunity missed.

In many places this opera is a symphony with voices. Both as interpretation and execution, Karajan and the Philharmoniker offer a most sumptuous repast. They certainly overpower the three sopranos in the final trio (Marie Theres’!), but I couldn’t help thinking Strauss would have approved. The sound is big, transparent and rich at once.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1730 on: September 22, 2019, 01:14:02 AM »


Victoria De Los Angeles has long been a favourite singer of mine and her Violetta satisfies on so many levels. She is a little strained by the tessitura of the first act, but the voice is generally clear and beautiful, her singing always musical and deeply felt. As in everything she did, the sensitivity and sincerity of the performance are most affecting and she is without doubt one of the best Violettas on disc. What I miss is that sense of desperation and impulsiveness inherent in the character. Her Violetta is touching, but not overwhelmingly tragic as it is with Callas, who does tend to spoil me for all comers.

She has a good supporting cast with Carlo Del Monte a manly and forthright Alfredo and Sereni a sympathetic Germont, as he is in Callas's Lisbon performance.

I sometimes feel Serafin's virtues are rather underestimated. He paces the score brilliantly, particularly good in the choruses, which can sometimes outstay their welcome. If I'm honest, I rather prefer his approach to the more interventionist Kleiber. The cuts traditional at the time are observed, so no cabalettas to Alfredo and Germont's arias.

If Callas, particularly in London, remains my yardstick for this opera, this is nevertheless one of my favourite studio sets and I might even place it just above Cotrubas/Kleiber.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1731 on: September 22, 2019, 07:58:43 AM »


I went to see Werther at Covent Garden on Friday night with Juan Diego Florez as Werther and Isabel Leonard as Charlotte. It was a mite disappointing, I'm afraid, Florez underpowered and Leonard rather uninvolved, and the Albert, Jacques Imbrailo, was completely ineffectual.

Though this recording wouldn't be my out and out favourite, I chose to listen to it today for the singing of Gedda and De Los Angeles in the main roles. The rest of the cast is very good too. Prêtre is the main problem. I feel he pushes too hard sometimes and the orchestra is often too loud. Both Pappano and Davis are much better.

That said Gedda is, as always in French opera, very impressive and De Los Angeles quite lovely as Charlotte. It was good to be reminded how the opera can pack quite a punch. Friday night's performance at Covent Garden came across as rather muted.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Online André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1732 on: September 24, 2019, 04:42:42 PM »


Antheil’s one-acter is his last opera, a genre in which he got interested toward the end of his life. IOW it’s late Antheil, meaning that any ‘bad boy’ antics will not be on display.

The Brothers is a modern adaptation of the story of Cain and Abel (here named Ken and Abe) and the subject of Ken/Cain’s jealousy is that while Ken was at war (WWII of course) his sweetheart Mary got tired of waiting and ended up marrying his brother Abe.

This is a Trittico-length work, beautifully laid out in three scenes with short orchestral interludes and an almost continuous cantando dialogue. There are some lyrical ariosos for the main characters and a constant flow to the action. Not a dull moment, and a quite poignant storyline. The music reminds me of Copland (The Tender Land) and Barber (Knoxville: Summer of 1915) in its wave-like, undulating flow and simple melodies.

The performance could not be bettered (although it’s the only one I know of). Despite originating from Germany, conductor and singers are American (or English in the case of Ken), so both language and style come as naturally as could be. Despite their lack of an international reputation, the singers are members of relatively well-known american or german opera houses. Teamwork is excellent and the three principal encompass their range beautifully: no strain, no register breaks, just the sound of well-trained singers giving their all to this unfamiliar work.

A really beautiful production. As of writing, it is still priced at 2.99€ at JPC. Top recommendation.

Online André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1733 on: October 03, 2019, 10:47:04 AM »

Cross-posted from the main thread:

Quote



This is a very different Flute indeed. There are some strong defining characteristics. Zauberflöte is the 6th Mozart opera performed and recorded live from the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus by Nézet-Séguin and the COE. You can tell how finely honed an instrument the orchestra is and  symbiotic relationship they have developed with the conductor. Basically, this is a « third generation » MI approach. After the big orchestra standard that reigned until the 1980s, there was a split between lean, classical small orchestra (Marriner, Abbado) and lean, leaner still PI performances (Christie, Kuijken). NS has incorporated a lot of PI practice features into his lean MI mix. What we hear is a dynamic, zippy, bubbly performance. I avoid using the word ‘fast’, because players and singers are such a well-oiled group that they never sound fast. The overture is dispatched in 5:58, the fastest timing of the dozen versions I have (most range from 6:30 to 7:00) and yet it is exhilarating, not merely breathless. Part of the trick is that the masonic bits are treated lightly, not funereally. For example, the long notes at the end of chords are unusually short. This was truly outstanding.

Singers are for the most part a very accomplished group. Although the work is a mere singspiel, all of the character’s arias have come to be standard repertoire for the respective voice types employed by Mozart. In that sense, we have become accustomed to hear the most accomplished singers perform them. Nézet-Séguin has some splendid voices and vocal actors at his disposal. Tamino, Sarastro, the Queen of the Night and Monastatos are outstanding. Christiane Karg’s Pamina is not bad, but she is up against legendary performances by Janowitz and Price, both of whom still dominate the field. The one questionable choice is that of Villazón as Papageno. As a baritone he has no low register to speak of, has trouble adjusting his voice to the lower tessitura and sounds just plain clumsy most of the time. In a sense, Papageno is just that: a clumsy, goofy birdcatcher. So, in a sense, his performance could be said to be in character. The whole Mozart operas project is supposed to be his brainchild, and he sings in all six operas recorded so far.

The chorus work is outstanding. N-S started his career as chorus trainer and choirmaster at the Montreal Opera, so he knows exactly what he wants and gets it from the famed RIAS Kammerchor and their director Justin Doyle. Nézet-Séguin’s, Zauberflöte is more a funspiel than just the habitual singspiel. I was entertained and musically satisfied.

Online André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1734 on: October 04, 2019, 10:46:44 AM »


Apart from the two orchestral interludes (Cortège and Sarabande), I had never heard anything from Busoni’s Faust. It shares traits with Puccini’s Turandot, Berg’s Lulu and Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, all of them considered as their respective composer’s valedictory masterpiece, and all of them left unfinished at the composers’ death. One more trait Doktor Faust shares with Moses und Aron is the prominence of a powerful high tenor voice in the main role. And that is not Faust, but Mephistopheles!

The music and dramatic progression are riveting. I was hooked right from the Prologue. The last act seemed a bit disjointed dramatically, and of course it doesn’t help that the composer was unable to finish the opera. Even as it stands, Doktor Faust is a major operatic work.

Left unfinished upon Busoni’s death in 1924, it was completed by two different hands: Philip Jarnach, the composer's pupil was first, but did not have access to all the musical material; then in the 1980s one Anthony Beaumont offered his own completion based on all the composer’s manuscripts. There are three main recordings of the work (meaning stereo and issued commercially): The present one is from 2008 and is the most recent. The last act ends in media res, uncompleted. The DG Leitner from 1970 offers us the completed work (Jarnach), but with some cuts. The Erato/Warner is from 1999, is uncut and offers both endings. Sort of a Turandot conundrum, so to speak. It doesn’t help matters any that the logical choice (Nagano) is generally considered the weakest musically.

The present recording is from a live performance at the Bavarian Opera. There is some stage noise, but it is discrete and totally unobtrusive. What is more important is that it is perfectly balanced, with good presence from the orchestra, good placement of the solo voices and the very important choral sections. Even better, the performances of all involved are tremendously effective.

John Daszak sings the hugely difficult role of Mephistopheles (he sings only in the first two acts, but the same singer becomes the Nightwatchman in the third act). Vocally and dramatically it’s a cross between Mime and Aron. The tessitura is cruelly high and the writing calls for the ability to project the voice with force and clarity. Daszak got his big break as Steva in Jenufa, a role with pretty much the same vocal demands, but less difficult because of its much shorter duration. Interestingly, I read that Daszak is scheduled to sing Aron in Schoenberg’s work in the 2019/2020 season. I found both his singing and characterization stunning.

The role of Faust is cast for a baritone, but I would think a bass-baritone might be a more appropriate description. It is a big role, as long and important as that of his nemesis, but because of its vocal character it yields pride of place to the tenor. Wolfgang Koch uses his Wotan-size voice to splendid effect. Busoni’s Faust is as much a schemer - and a contemptible one at that - as Mephistopheles. Between the two of them they make a nasty pair of characters! Fischer-Dieskau sings the role in the Leitner version, and I would daresay that Koch must be as imposing and vivid as the Master (I will hear DFD in due course, as I intend to get the DG version later on).

The only female role is that of the Duchess of Parma in the second act. It is a hugely demanding role, the voice vaulting up on high pianissimo multiple times. Catherine Naglestad is fully up to the task. Indeed, I found her fearless flights on top breathtaking. I didn’t expect the notes to be nailed so securely. The smaller roles are very well sung. Wagner, Faust’s assistant, is not that small a role. It is taken up by bass Steven Humes, who brings  a dark, well focused voice to his part. Chorus and orchestra are caught up in the excitement and perform with a tangible fervor.

.

Online André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1735 on: October 09, 2019, 12:12:31 PM »
From the main thread:

Quote


Gluck introduced a revolutionary structure in opera, dispensing with much of the baggage of previous generations’ fondness for secco recitative, da capo arias, mindless coloratura, and ballet numbers.  Narrative fluidity and emotional truthfulness became the new norm with operas such as Alceste, Armide, or the two Iphigénies (1770s).

Catel’s Sémiramis dates from 1802, and is based on of Voltaire's most convoluted plays (1748), replete with theatrical pomp. Catoire’s refusal to get mired in the trappings of operatic convention means that the action moves swiftly, with lots of accompanied recitatives, duets and ensembles and an enormously inventive orchestration.

The performance is one of the best from that source. All the voices sound pure, freely produced and well-versed in the declamatory style of the genre. They certainly attain the dramatic veracity aimed at by Gluck and his followers. Particularly fine is the Arsace of Mathias Vidal and the elegant villain of Nicolas Courjal’s Assur.

While Sémiramis is a throwback to an earlier era when compared to Cherubini’s Médée premiered in Paris 5 years earlier, it is still quite an achievement in its novel use of harmony and instrumentation. I thoroughly enjoyed its short duration (105 minutes, less than half that of Charpentier’s and Lully’s tragédies lyriques). Recommended.

Offline KevinP

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1736 on: October 10, 2019, 03:46:15 PM »
Rigoletto and the much-less-familiar-to-me MacBeth.

A MacBeth has been in my collection for decades. For whatever reasons, it never really went beyond a couple cursory listens. (The witches not sounding very supernatural is probably what put me off.) But an upswing in my opera interest is coinciding with my Shakespeare class, so I dusted it off and also bought a new one.

The one I've had but neglected:


New one:



Funny, but when I first started exploring opera, the CD was still a new format, and two- and three-disc sets were extremely expensive. Not knowing much about various vocalists or conductors, I naturally tended to grab the cheapest set. Later, I realised these were cheap radio broadcasts or what-not and to a large extent, they didn't get listened to much (although some did), sometimes replaced with proper, big-name studio sets.

But later still, I looked at these neglected sets and realised I have some amazing, even legendary, recordings hiding in plain sight: The Bohm MacBeth, Grace Bumbry's Carmen, the 1955 Bayreuth Flying Dutchman, Pavarotti's early La Boheme, etc.

Actually the Flying Dutchman was the first opera I bought, and the first I ever listened to while following the libretto. While there are good and better-recorded versions out there, I'm spoiled on this one, especially the comprimario.




Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1737 on: October 10, 2019, 11:55:14 PM »

New one:





On balance, probably the best studio set around with excellent performances from all the singers, particularly Verrett.

That said Callas's Lady Macbeth was in a class all its own, but can only be heard in its entirety in a live recording from La Scala in 1952 (the only time she sang the role on stage). The latest Warner release is in a different world from the old EMI transfer and is presumably from a completely different source.



My review of the set here https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/callass-lady-macbeth/
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Offline KevinP

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1738 on: October 11, 2019, 02:16:56 AM »
Much obliged! I have her recitals of the aria so will definitely check this out.

Offline Moonfish

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1739 on: October 11, 2019, 09:44:24 PM »
So is the Myto release the same as the live one on EMI/Warner?
Same date, but two different releases? Is there an additional one from Milano?


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