Beverly Sills: Bellini and Donizetti Heroines
Arias from operas by Bellini (I Capuletti e I Montecchi and La Sonnambula) and Donizetti (Linda di Chamounix, Lucia di Lammermoor, Roberto Devereux, and Rosmonda d'Inghilterra
Beverly Sills, soprano; Sonja Draksler, mezzo-soprano; Vienna Academy Choir and Vienna State Opera Orch/Jussi Jalas, cond.
Millenium Classics UMD 80468 (F) (ADD) TT: 60:13
(NOTE: This CD is no longer available)

Perhaps in anticipation of the 70th birthday of Beverly Sills (b. 1929), Millenium Classics has reissued "Bellini and Donizetti Heroines," the American diva's brilliant debut recital album for ABC Records. Recorded in 1968, this captures the great lyric-coloratura soprano in prime vocal estate. Here is the artist who created such a sensation at the New York City Opera and theaters around the world (Sills did not make her Metropolitan Opera House debut until 1975, after the departure of General Manager Sir Rudolph Bing who, inexplicably, never invited her to appear during his tenure). At this stage of her career, Sills was an absolute miracle -- a singer with a beautiful, limpid voice, capable of handling the most difficult coloratura pyrotechnics with astonishing ease. She was also a consummate singing-actress, one of those rare artists who was absolutely convincing in voice and appearance. Of course, this recording does not afford us the opportunity to enjoy Sills' riveting stage presence, but her uncanny identification with her characters is apparent in each and every note she sings. One need only hear the way Sills manages to sing Lucia di Lammermoor's music with total assuredness, and yet at the same time convey the young woman's fragility, to realize that we are in the presence of true artistic greatness. The beguiling cadenzas and embellishments by Roland Gagnon are a familiar and welcome part of the Sills craft.

 Remastering of the 1968 recording is fine, with some minimal distortion in climaxes. I would not want to be without Sills' versions of Giulio Cesare, Manon and the Donizetti Queen trilogy, but this is perhaps her finest achievement on disc—a wonderful souvenir of a treasured artist.

K.M. (July 2000)