OP0126. TURANDOT, recorded 1959, w.Leinsdorf Cond. Rome Opera Ensemble; Birgit Nilsson, Renata Tebaldi, Jussi Björling, Giorgio Tozzi, etc. 2-RCA Living Stereo 62687. Slipcase Edition, w.Elaborate Libretto-Brochure. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 090266268726
“This vintage recording of Turandot is remarkable for at least two classic performances, those of Birgit Nilsson as the icy Princess, an incomparable exponent in her generation, and of Jussi Björling as Calaf, singing as headily as ever only months before he died in 1960. For those unique interpretations, and also for Renata Tebaldi's beautiful if generalized rendering of Liù's part, this CD transfer is very welcome.”
- Gramophone, Sept., 1987
“This reissue of a 1959 recording captures four glorious voices at their peak, triumphantly conquering one of the most brutally difficult operas in the literature. Puccini taxed his singers almost beyond human endurance with his prolonged stratospheric writing (he also loved the musical depiction of physical torture). Nilsson's Turandot is thrilling; every inch the Ice Princess, her voice cuts through and soars over orchestra and chorus with the intense, brilliant radiance of a snowfield reflecting the sun, especially in the uppermost range. Required to sing at full volume until near the end, her stamina is incredible, as is her ability to suddenly modulate her voice from vengeful defiance to human warmth. Tebaldi's voice is achingly beautiful, lustrous and creamy; she makes Liù's submissiveness and fortitude deeply moving. Björling combines the power and brightness of a heldentenor with melting lyricism; his top has a radiant, clarion ring. Tozzi's sonorous bass gives Timur both majesty and desperation.”
- Edith Eisler
"Nilsson made so strong an imprint on a number of roles that her name came to be identified with a repertory, the 'Nilsson repertory', and it was a broad one. She sang the operas of Richard Strauss and made a specialty of Puccini's TURANDOT, but it was Wagner who served her career and whom she served as no other soprano since the days of Kirsten Flagstad.
A big, blunt woman with a wicked sense of humor, Ms. Nilsson brooked no interference from Wagner's powerful and eventful orchestra writing. When she sang Isolde or Brunnhilde, her voice pierced through and climbed above it. Her performances took on more pathos as the years went by, but one remembers her sound more for its muscularity, accuracy and sheer joy of singing under the most trying circumstances.
Her long career at the Bayreuth Festival and her immersion in Wagner in general, began in the mid-1950s. No dramatic soprano truly approached her stature thereafter, and in the roles of Isolde, Brunnhilde and Sieglinde, she began her stately 30-year procession around the opera houses of the world. Her United States debut was in San Francisco in 1956. Three years later she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, singing Isolde under Karl Bohm, and some listeners treasure the memory of that performance as much as they do her live recording of the role from Bayreuth in 1966, also under Bohm. The exuberant review of her first Met performance appeared on the front page of The New York Times on 19 Dec., 1959, under the headline, 'Birgit Nilsson as Isolde Flashes Like New Star in 'Met' Heavens'."
- Bernard Holland, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 12 Jan., 2006
"I heard Tebaldi many times, as a standee at the old Metropolitan Opera House from the mid-1950s through the early 1960s, and I never stopped marveling at the sheer beauty of the voice, her ability to project a pianissimo throughout the auditorium so that even though the note was extraordinarily soft, it sounded as if she were standing right next to you. The plushness of tone was probably the most unique feature of her singing, and along with that an innate sense of the appropriate shape of the phrase she was singing. She was not a subtle actress, never inflecting every phrase with subtexts of meaning the way Callas could, but nor was she a disengaged singer just pouring out lovely sounds. Her acting, both physical and vocal, was sincere and convincing, and at times very powerful. Her Butterfly broke your heart every time, through the moving way she shaped the ebb and flow of the music. There was no way you could see her as a 15 year old geisha, but by the wedding scene of the first act you were a complete believer.
Above all, there was that voice. It was immediately recognizable, distinctive, unlike any other. If you tuned in to a radio broadcast without hearing an announcement, two notes would be enough to identify the richly colored, luxurious sonority of the Tebaldi sound, a sound that caressed the ear and at the same time enveloped you. For many of us it was the sound that defined what an Italian soprano should be."
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE