STRAUSS: "Aber der Richtige, wenns einen gibt"  Arabella.  "Es ist alles vergebens ...Es gibt ein Reich"  Ariadne auf Naxos.  "Mein Gott! Es war nicht mehr als eine Farce"  Der Rosenkavalier.  "Allein! Weh, ganz allein"  Elektra.  "Sieh -- Amme -- sieh ... Zum Lebenswasser!  Wehe, mein Mann!" Die Frau ohne Schatten. "Dance of the Seven Veils" and "Es ist kein Laut zu vernehmen"  Salome.
Sopranos Rgine Crespin, Lisa della Casa, Hilde Gueden, Birgit Nilsson, Leontyne Price, Leonie Rysanek and Anja Silja/Vienna Philharmonic Orch/London Philharmonic Orch (Ariadne)/Sir Georg Solti; Silvio Varviso (Rosenkavalier); Karl Bhm (Frau);Herbert von Karajan (Salome "Dance"); Christoph von Dohnányi (Salome), cond.

LONDON OPERA GALA  458 250 (F) (ADD) TT:  76:29

ROSSINI:  "Largo al factotum" (Leo Nucci), "Una voce poco fa" (Marilyn Horne) and "La calunnia un venticelo"  (Nicolai Ghiaurov) The Barber of Seville; "Bel raggio lusinghier di speme" (Joan Sutherland)  Semiramide; "Non mi lasciare, o speme di vendetta ... O muto asil del pianto ... Corriam! voliam!" (Luciano Pavarotti) and "S'allontanano alfine! ... Sleva opaca" (Renata Tebaldi) William Tell; "Nacqui all'affanno ... Non pi mesta" (Teresa Berganza) La Cenerentola; "Come tacer ... Vorrei spiegarvi il giubilo" La cambiale di matrimonio (Joan Sutherland); "Assisa a pi d'un salice" (Marilyn Horne) from Otello; "Pria di dividerci da voi, signore ... Dite:  chi quella femmina?" (Teresa Berganza, Fernando Corena, Luigi Alva, Rolando Panerai)  L'italiana in Algeri; various orch & cond.
LONDON OPERA GALA 458 247 (F) (ADD) TT:  75:36


Two additions to Decca's Opera Gala series; of the two, the Rossini collection is of consistently high quality. London/Decca was fortunate to have under contract some of the finest singers of the past half-century. We have Rossinian coloratura fireworks from Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne, the sublime artistry of Teresa Berganza, Luciano Pavarotti in spectacular form in his William Tell aria, plus Renata Tebaldi's rare venture into this composer in another excerpt from the same opera. Ghiaurov is more successful than Leo Nucci in his aria from Barber, and the CD ends with the sparkling Act I conclusion of L'italiana in Algeri, with a uniformly strong cast headed by Teresa Berganza and Fernando Corena.  Recorded sound is consistently good; texts are provided in Italian and English.

The Strauss collection is another matter. Apparently this CD is an attempt to show the composer's "lifetime love affair with the soprano voice." As the focus is on opera they did not include Four Last Songs but did give us Salome's "Dance of the Seven Veils," which is even less appropriate. Some of their other choices also are a touch suspect.  The CD starts strongly (and beautifully) with the Arabella duet superbly sung by Lisa della Casa and Hilde Gueden (recorded in 1957), followed by Leontyne Price's rich sound in the Ariadne aria from the complete 1977 recording. Elektra's first monologue is brilliantly sung by Birgit Nilsson 1966 complete set—again a wise choice. Then there is an excerpt from the famous 1955 recording of Die Frau ohne Schatten showcasing Leonie Rysanek's definitive Empress. However, Decca could have included more from Frau and omitted Karajan's Salome "Dance of the Seven Veils,"  which surely doesn't belong on a CD supposedly devoted to singing. The major works on this CD are the conclusion of Rosenkavalier, exquisitely sung by Crespin, Gueden and Sderstrm recorded in 1964, and the final scene from Salome, for which the producers made a bizzare choice—Anja Silja's 1973 recording with her husband, Christoph von Dohnányi and the Vienna Philharmonic, which might make a few dramatic points but surely no vocal ones. Silja's voice has an unpleasant cold edge, sometimes is a touch off pitch, all exaggerated when she forces, which is often.  Her live Vienna State Opera performance recorded in 1965 is exciting dramatically but vocally lacking (see review).  For the Salome finale Decca could have used their 1956 Inge Borkh recording with Josef Krips and the Vienna Philharmonic, or again returned to Birgit Nilsson from her1962 complete recording also with the Vienna Phil/Solti.  Fortunately Decca elected not to include any of Gwyneth Jones' pathetic Egyptian Helen.  

The Vienna Philharmonic plays gloriously throughout.  Despite the fact that many of these recordings are more than three decades old the sonic quality throughout is superb. Complete texts are provided in German and English.

R.E.B.(March 2001)