Met Stars Sing Puccini (3-Metropolitan Opera Guild MET 242)
Item# V2838
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Met Stars Sing Puccini (3-Metropolitan Opera Guild MET 242)
V2838. MET STARS SING PUCCINI. 3-Metropolitan Opera Guild MET 242, with Elaborate 103pp. Booklet with full discographical data. A superb composium of Met singers from the Old House. Long out-of-print, Final Copy. - 04500174471

CRITIC REVIEW:

“Although complete operas are the backbone of any sensible record collection, the Met Guild anthologies devoted to Giacomo Puccini, duets and operetta provide an invaluable opportunity to sample and contrast the artistry of singers who have sung at the Met over the past century, as well as to explore a wide range of repertoire.

All three albums are a pleasure to hear from start to finish in part because of the high quality of sound restoration by Seth Winner Studios. The material from 78s and old mono sources is so clean and has been equalized so well that listeners are not challenged by the need to make allowances for bad, old sound.

This three-CD set includes rare aria recordings, as well as scenes from many of the most memorable complete recordings. The seven excerpts from MADAMA BUTTERFLY, include the Cio-Cio-San of Licia Albanese, Dorothy Kirsten and Renata Scotto. Alabanese's voice is a little light for the role, but she sings with a mature expressive intensity in the Love Duet and the Flower Duet.

By contrast, Kirsten emphasized Butterfly's girlish qualities in the Letter Scene with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, conducted by Dmitri Mitropoulos. This recording is taken from a nearly complete performance that was issued in the mid-1950s by the Book-of-the-Month Club's record division.

For Butterfly's death scene, the Met set turns to Scotto's complete recording on EMI with conductor Sir John Barbirolli. The recording was made in 1967 with the soprano in glorious voice and her unforgettable dramatic nuances so sensitively matched by the orchestra.

Novelty is provided by Elizabeth Schwarzkopf's "Un bel di vedremo," Butterfly's fantasy of her husband returning to her. The German singer's creamy voice is enjoyable to hear in a role she didn't perform onstage.

The other major Puccini operas are equally well served. "La Boheme" includes the Rodolfos of Enrico Caruso, Beniamino Gigli, Richard Tucker and Nicolai Gedda, as well as the Mimis of Geraldine Farrar, Claudia Muzio, Grace Moore and Eleanor Steber. "Tosca" includes several excerpts from the classic Maria Callas recording with Tito Gobbi, although not their Act II confrontation, as well as Leontyne Price's "Vissi d'arte," from her 1960 aria album.

All three Met sets include EMI and RCA recordings…the Met set does includes Swedish tenor Jussi Björling singing "Nessun dorma" from "Turandot". Bjoerling's performance is on a 1944 recording, and one does not miss Pavarotti. The "Turandot" selections include Birgit Nilsson in the title role and Renata Tebaldi's exquisite performance of Liu's Death Scene.

The less well-known Puccini operas have fewer excerpts, but with Placido Domingo singing an aria from "Le Villi" and Leontyne Price singing in two of "Il Trittico," the quality of performance is completely satisfying. Certainly no performance in any of the Met sets is more remarkable than the purity, finesse and passion of Antonietta Stella's "O mio babbino caro" from "Gianni Schicchi."

- Mark Kanny, TribLIVE, 17 March, 2002