OP3428. LA FAVORITE (Original French Version), Live Performance, 11 April, 1999, Munich, w. Marcello Viotti Cond. Bayerischen Rundfunks Ensemble; Vesselina Kasarova, Ramón Vargas, Anthony Michaels-Moore, Carlo Colombara, etc. 2-RCA 66229, w.Elaborate Libretto-Brochure. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 743216622924
“LA FAVORITE, or more often its Italian version LA FAVORITA, was one of Donizetti's more popular operas during the 19th Century. The first recording (made in 1912!) used the French version; the Italian one has been used more often since. The cast is mostly very effective [and] we can be thankful that Ramón Vargas is a musical singer and seems genuinely involved by Fernand's plight.
Anthony Michaels-Moore is an excellent Alphonse. Yet Donizetti, even when writing in French, is a thoroughly Italian composer, and Carlo Colombara, as Balthazar, has that pingingly focused sound which we recognise as the real thing. Here is a splendid singer who is surely set to inherit Piero Cappuccilli's mantle as a specialist in operatic priests.
Vesselina Kasarova has received little but praise since she appeared on the recording scene. This is a voice with real personality in the middle range and thrillingly secure upper notes, right up to the high C. What is more to the point is that she throws herself wholeheartedly into the role. This is a real star performance.
Chorus and orchestra are splendid and the conductor's tempi are so natural that one stops noticing them and concentrates on the music instead. When an opera is conducted like this the whole is usually greater than the sum of its parts, and so it is here.
The booklet notes are by the leading Donizetti scholar Philip Gossett, there is a synopsis and libretto, all in English, French and German. In short, this seems to me an example of the modern record industry at its best. A genuine gap has been filled with a performance which will not be quickly bettered.”
- Christopher Howell, MusicWebInternational
“LA FAVORITE is one of Donizetti’s last operas, and one of the few he composed for Paris. It debuted in December of 1840 and was a great success; the success lasted, and by 1897 it had been heard at the Opéra 660 times. In its original French it is more graceful and the flow is more natural, particularly in the recitatives.
This present set, recorded live in Munich, has much to recommend it….Marcello Viotti leads a tempered, balanced performance that may be a bit short on excitement but is wonderfully clear; he gets the long lines of Donizetti’s melodies just right and holds the big ensembles together well. His Munich forces play and sing handsomely. In Vesselina Kasarova we have a Léonor of admirable poise and beautiful tone; the voice is ravishing from top to bottom and her intelligence and sincerity are never in doubt….Fernand is nicely handled by Ramón Vargas, who uses his lightish tenor well, except at its very top (and the role is cruelly high). Anthony Michaels-Moore uses his dry-sounding baritone well to portray the nasty Alphonse XI and bass Carlo Colombara is a suitably morose and disapproving Balthazar.”
- Robert Levine ,ClassicsToday.com
“Ramón Vargas is one of the leading tenors of our time and one of the most sought-after worldwide.
After winning the Carlo Morelli National Vocal Competition in 1982, he made his debut in Haydn's LO SPEZIALE, in Monterrey, Mexico. In 1983, mexican conductor Eduardo Mata gave him his first important role as Fenton in Verdi's FALSTAFF, and in 1984 as Don Ottavio in Mozart's DON GIOVANNI. In 1990, he decided to become a freelancer and went on to play increasingly important roles in major opera houses and festivals worldwide. It was then when he met renowned musicologist and teacher Rodolfo Celletti, in Milan, under whose guidance he has studied for his new roles.
In 1992, the Metropolitan Opera invited Vargas to play Edgardo in LUCIA, opposite June Anderson, substituting Luciano Pavarotti; this was his first appearance in the United States. He took part in several productions there, particularly in the creation of Ronnefeld's DIE NACHTAUSGABE. In 1988, he signed his first contract as member of the Lucerne Opera company, in Switzerland. In the following two seasons he performed many leading roles. Another decisive debut took place in 1993, at La Scala where he portrayed Fenton in Strehler's new production celebrating the centenary of FALSTAFF, under Riccardo Muti. Vargas returned to the MET for the opening of the 1994-1995 season, as the Duke of Mantua in RIGOLETTO.
In addition to his operatic appearances, he is an accomplished concert singer, with an extensive repertoire ranging from Italian classical songs to romantic German Lieder and by French, Spanish and Mexican composers from the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1998, he offered a memorable recital at La Scala, and his rendition of Mexican popular songs has been acclaimed at massive concerts in Mexico and Europe .”
“Vesselina Kasarova's repertoire ranges from Donizetti to Wagner. Critics rave over her voice and her character depictions are the gold standard for young singers aspiring to opera stardom.
Her singing appears effortless, burnished and warm in the lower registers and as clearly textured and free-flowing as clover honey up top – a voice New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini described in 1999 as ‘unforgettable and deeply affecting’. Her dramatic skills are superb, letting her master even pathos-ridden roles without being maudlin. She owns the stage – and seems to do so naturally.
She debuted internationally at the 1991 Salzburg Festival as Annio in Mozart's LA CLEMENZA DI TITO. Since then, she has appeared on many of the world's major opera stages and expanded her repertoire to the point where she is equally at home with the works of Wagner and Richard Strauss, French opera, lieder and oratorios both live and in the recording studio.”
- George Jahn, HUFFINGTON POST, 28 March, 2012