OP01395. LA BOHEME, recorded 1938, w.Berrettoni Cond. La Scala Ensemble; Licia Albanese, Beniamino Gigli, Afro Poli, Tatiana Menotti, etc.; LICIA ALBANESE, w.Olivieri Cond.: Giro-Tondo; Songs by Scarlatti, Falvo, Buzzi-Peccia & Bellini; Arias from Adriana Lecouvreur, Manon Lescaut, Madama Butterfly & Turandot, recorded 1938 [a truly priceless, exquisite recital!]. (Canada) 2-Naxos 8.110072/73. Transfers by Ward Marston. Very long out-of-print, Final [elusive] Copy! - 636943107225
“There are dozens of BOHÈMES on the market but this one holds a special place in Puccini-lovers’ hearts. It captures Licia Albanese at the start of her career, and while it is clear from this that she never actually sounded young, her enthusiasm, artistry, and superb technique make her a near-ideal Mimi. Partnering her is Beniamino Gigli - simply ravishing, embodying the energetic, youthful, fun-loving Rodolfo in magic ways, singing with great pathos later in the opera as well. Afro Poli’s Marcello is very good too; he sounds the role. The minor Tatiana Menotti is a perky Musetta, and she rightly dominates the big Act 2 ensemble.
The rest of the cast is good and Umberto Berrettoni leads the La Scala forces and the singers with great sympathy. There are other interesting BOHÈMES available…but none so well captures a certain oft-elusive youthfulness and charm quite the way this one does. Perhaps it shouldn’t be anyone’s only recording of BOHÈME, but its echt Italian-ness and spirit are glorious. The second CD offers 10 arias sung by Albanese, ranging from Scarlatti to Cilea, and is a nice bonus.”
- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com