"This opera is wonderfully alive in this recording --- vocally and in the vibrant conducting by Patane. For the first time I really understood why it is said that the essence of the drama in bel canto lies in the melody. It is, in the end, through the singing and its shaping and modulation that the opera succeeds or fails as theater. Though other musical elements (harmony, rhythm, contrast)are combined in very pleasing way, it is melody that expresses the individuality and specificity of the dramatic moment. In this respect, Janet Baker's supreme artistic gifts rise to meet a very difficult technical challenge as Romeo. Her sculpting of melody, the richness and evenness of vocal emission across a tremendous vocal range, and the dramatic thrust and sweep of her characterisation render her the outstanding Romeo on record (listen to 'Se Romeo t'uccise suo figlio' for an example of melody providing all the dramatic propulsion). Sills is interpretatively very fine, bright-voiced and agile --- one only misses firmness of tone (particularly on high) and more variety of color. But the two wonderful mezzo/soprano duets are exquisite: Baker sings a stanza, and then Sills mirrors with exactly the same phrasing and feeling --- a poignant effect. All in all, for me, this outclasses the newer competition (RCA, Teldec) which seem to all have a strange vividness, like an object under a very bright, but artificial, light.
Here, on the other hand, the lyric shadings of the tragedy are as much in evidence as the underlying passion, but the beauty is expressed completely in and of itself, not by an obvious attempt to foreshadow Verdi. The excellent sound of this superbly balanced reading enables it to radiate the warmth and fragility of the brief era of bel canto itself."
Sills And Baker Soar !! The "Other" Romeo and Juliet
J. Chiu | 03/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"EMI has just released Bellini's opera "I Capuleti E i Montechi" (Capulets and Montagues) an opera that is overshadowed by the more famous Charles Gounod French opera Romeo et Juliette. This Italian bel canto work is rarely staged and even rarely recorded. It's a pity really because this is a terrific opera, even if highly edited and even if Bellini tinkered with the play. It's a geme of bel canto opera, full of beautiful melodies, dramatic passions and arias and ensembles that are linked together like a chain of gold. It is a glorious opera when it is performed by the right singers. Recorded in the late 60's, it stars soprano Beverly Sills and mezzo soprano Janet Baker, both at the height of their powers as singers. In the tenor role (not that of Romeo, but either County Paris or Tybalt I forget who) is Nicolai Gedda. So we have three great operatic talents- Sills, Baker and Gedda, reason enough to get this opera, for each singer provides dramatic integrity and passion and beautiful vocal color to their roles. Janet Baker as Romeo is a great performance. Baker had a dramatic and inner power, with a religious zeal and spirituality and passion. I don't care that its a woman playing the role of the male Romeo. Her voice is "masculine" in its mezzo richness, and even her energy. Baker is a goddess of the opera, able to sing both like a woman and like man! Who else can do that ? Her arias here are all taxing and amazing. No one will ever do what she has done for opera. I love Janet Baker in everything she did- Julius Caesar, Werther, Verdi Requiem, Lieder, Ariodante, and the list goes on. Opposite the more elegant Sills, they are a tour de force.
Beverly Sills championed rare operas and was a bel canto specialist. As Juliet (Giuletta) she is the archetypical tragic heroine- dying for love, a vulnerable, dreamy, passionate and suffering heroine. Her arias are full of opportunities to display long-winded, long-breathed pianissimi and lyric passages, as well as radiant coloratura whoops and roulades. Beverly Sills was the soprano that hooked me into opera. She may not be the fierce, lioness and diva assoluta that was Maria Callas or the soprano she is eternally compared to- Joan Sutherland- but she had a magic, seductive, powerful and passionate grandeur that so few sopranos have. To date, she has no successor. No other soprano has filled her shoes. He repoire and connection with the audience has been lost even in today's Vogue supermodel type sopranos (Anna Netrebko, Renee Fleming, etc)who are detached and distant goddess. Not so with Sills, who was a singer who never had issues with her weight and who seemed to boldly say "Take me as I am, even if I dont have the killer voice". She had the most angelic voice, which to this day, still haunts my dreams. Patane conducts the New Philharmonia orchestra, with much dramatic power underlying the sweet bel canto flavor. Those closing bars are the best final portions of opera I've ever heard for bel canto operas. Thank you, EMI for releasing this album I've longed for. But there is still something I long for even more. All I ask now is that EMI do us, the fans of Beverly Sills and fans of those stars who sang with her in her recordings, to release and remaster the LP of Bellini's Norma, which she sang opposite Shirley Verrett and under the baton of James Levine."
Beautiful and moving opera
Michel | Montreal, Quebec | 08/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One may regret that Beverly Sills and Nicolai Gedda did not record this opera earlier in their careers (1975) yet still be glad they did. Though there are some audible signs of vo- cal wear their artistry and commitment are never in doubt and they offer memorable performances. Janet Baker is on the other hand in splendid voice and sings superbly - she portrays a somber Romeo and is supremely moving in the tomb scene. Robert Lloyd and Raimund Herincx offer excellent support. Very well recorded and beautifully conducted by Maestro Patane - a very welcome release ! "
GEORGE RANNIE | DENVER, COLORADO United States | 05/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Back in the 1970's I was a very intense fan of both La Sills and La Baker. The very idea of both of them coming together for an opera recording sent this rapid fan into a severe swoon! Therefore, this recording sent me into a state of ecstasy! I along with other Sills and Baker fans would gather around my stereo listening to this recording with Baker and Sills weaving their vocal magic which always elicited from us many tears and bravos. At the time Beverly was a known commodity in Bell Canto operas; however, Janet was mainly known as a song recitalist. Nevertheless, Janet Baker, in this opera, proves that she could sing opera with the best of them showing her great operatic credentials-she is up to every vocal challenge Bellini throws at her. She tackles the role with great artistry and beauty of tone. Her last scene STILL dissolves me to copious tears. In this recording Beverly sings a little cautiously not throwing out high E's with abandon as before; however, her years of experience being a sublime singer of Bell Canto operas comes through. Her singing is gorgeous, sweet and touching to the highest degree, I truly believe that this recording was one of her best. It truly is great to hear this recording again-ah the memories. Time has NOT diminished its appeal! "
Marvelous Sills and Baker
Richard Murray | Fraser, MI USA | 04/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Just before the releas of this CD version, I was thinking back to how much I enjoyed my old LP version of this Sill/Baker/Gedda recording. I was ecstatic to see the announcement of its comback. EMI was so wise to pair the legendary Janet Baker with their "new" girl Sills in this moving love-story. There is no rushing the tempo when these gals bring the music to life. Gedda seems to have been the hands down choice for Sills leading man in most of her recordings, but in spite of his mature sound, he is as always the consumate artist in this nonlover role. I enjoy my RCA recording for it's own merits, but the EMI is in a class by itself shining as a prime example of the bel canto era. Oh, if Bellini had lived just a few more years . . . Oh, let's be greedy--can you imagine if he had lived another thirty years? He would no-doubt have been a rival for Verdi as the Italian king of opera. Having said that, let's have the Sills Norma."