"This Bellini box of 10 cds features complete recordings of La Sonnambula, I Puritani, Norma and Beatrice di Tenda recorded by Joan Sutherland and husband Richard Bonynge between 1962 and 1966. The first three were recorded a second time by the couple with different casts in the 1970s and 1980s. They are not to be confused with these versions. Joan Sutherland was at her absolute peak when these recordings were made. In Sonnambula and Puritani the sound she produces is utterly awesome - the sheer beauty, purity, range and virtuosity of the voice are quite simply breathtaking - these are truly dazzling performances. The casting though not quite at her level is more than adequate. In Sonnambula tenor Nicola Monti is light and attractive and though he cannot go all the way at the top he sings with con- siderable elegance and charm - bass Fernando Corena has a big colorful voice and offers a very sympathetic portrayal. In Puritani tenor Pierre Duval has a strong voice with an impressive upper register and blends excitingly with Sutherland in their duets - Renato Capecchi and Ezio Flagello are both sonorous and offer sturdy performances. The Norma of 1964 is by now a classic - foremost it preserves the formidable partnership of Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne at their very peak producing a stream of beautiful and exciting singing. John Alexander and Richard Cross are well schooled singers and offer strong support - this is also the only absolutely complete version sung in the original keys. The somewhat neglected Beatrice di Tenda is no less worthy than the other three operas - Sutherland is again on top of things with beautiful and poised singing while Cornelius Opthof is appropriately malevolant as Fillipo - as the second couple we have the fine Josephine Veasey and a young and seductive Luciano Pavarotti. Richard Bonynge presides over all this with stylish conducting - the sound is excellent. These operas come with synopsises but no librettos and Puritani is presented in a slightly abridged version. If you are an early Sutherland devotee and/or Bellini lover this box is well worth considering.
A great price
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These are all prime Sutherland recordings. So what are you waiting for? At these prices you should order these at once!Bravissima, diva."
elisrilamore | 12/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've never heard such mind-boggling coloratura in my life!! Joan Sutherland was not human when she sang coluratura. And those spectacular high notes are thrilling beyond imagination!! Thanks to Decca for releasing these spectacular performances in a budget box set! Now we have on record probably the greatest voice in the 20th century.For those wondering what's the uproar about Sutherland. Here's the deal. For most sopranos, if they are loud, they can't sing fast - that is, loud sopranos (dramatic) sopranos cannot do trills, coloratura, etc. properly. And their high notes are limited - maybe up to high D flat or high D - above that they are not singing but sreeching. And if the soprano is fast as a bird (i.e. can do trills, coloratura, sing Queen of the Night and hit all the high F's), they can't sing loud. So if you turn up the orchestra volume, you can't hear them. Sutherland is the one soprano who can sing both loud and fast. She can trill, do coloratura and the orchestra will not drown her out. Also, her high notes are spectacular. Her high F's, high E's, high E flats, high D's, high D flats are spectacularly loud. While human sopranos screech these notes, Sutherland sang them and sang them magnificently above orchestras and choruses at full volume!!A true treasure of the classical catalogue. If you haven't heard sutherland, you haven't heard opera."
A BELLIANIAN SHOWCASE FOR SUTHERLAND
L. Mitnick | Chicago, Illinois United States | 10/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"All of these recordings are well known. The "Norma" has never been out of the catalogue, but the "Puritani" and "Sonnambula" have not been generally available in this country (I ordered my two sets from Amazon in UK) while the "Beatrice di Tenda" has shown up in shops here in the U.S. Here, all of them are packaged together. Of course, Sutherland later re-recorded "Puritani" and "Sonnambula" with Luciano Pavarotti (not, in my opinion anyway, an especially great improvement over Pierre Duval and Nicola Monti, respectively). I have always had a preference for these earlier versions of "Puritani" and "Sonnambula". Sutherland was, plain and simple, a spectacular singing machine, and she was in the full bloom of her prime on both of them. True, her diction is very strange and vague --- it's hard to hear one single decisive consonant or vowel anyway throughout these four performances. But if you can put this caveat aside, you will hear what is probably the most incredibly perfect singing from a technical point of view. In the "Norma", she is partnered by Marilyn Horne, whose bel canto technique is no less spectacular than Sutherland's. It's quite a partnership. Is Sutherland's Norma comparable to that of Callas'? Can't anwser that question because the ends each sought were completely different. One thing CAN be said -- Sutherland had a much more reliable vocal instrument than Callas did, but Callas, with a much more varied colored voice, was able to bring forth musical and dramatic insights that Sutherland couldn't even hint at. Wouldn't it be great to have these two giants around today? Make no mistake ---- this are great recordings, and anyone interested in operas of the bel canto period should not without these recordings. They're pretty special indeed."
elisrilamore | NY, USA | 02/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was astounded to stumble across this set. Sutherland's recordings are among Decca's greatest treasures. Since she burst into the world scene, she has been THE authority on Bellini. I spent hundreds of dollars buying the full set and it was worth my every penny. Now Decca has it at this budget price. Errrm... DON'T even THINK about not buying it."