Rudy Avila | Lennox, Ca United States | 01/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This compilation album showcases the legendary soprano Beverly Sills singing French and Spanish arias. The album's title is from the French Baroque song in track 8 by Giovanni Battista Martini and it means "Joy of Love". Beverly Sills was born in Brooklyn, New York City, and trained in the French/Marchesi style by her vocal coach Estelle Liebling. The French style makes use of head voice, coloratura technique, legato and pianissimo. The fact that Beverly was fluent in French made it a bonus for her to sing in French fluently as well. Her French diction is perfect. Other than Beverly Sills, only Madie Mesple has performed in French opera repertoire most dynamically. It is no wonder then, that Beverly Sills enjoyed great success in the French operas of Massenet- Manon and Thais as well as Delibes' Lakme. This album was recorded in different time periods. Tracks 1-9 were recorded in 1975 and tracks 10-13 earlier in 1961. Thanks to the miracle of modern editing, you can hardly notice this shift in time. The French arias (tracks 1-9) find Beverly in 1975 voice. By that time, Beverly Sills was approaching the last phase of her career. She would retire from the opera stage in 1979-82, but not before performing farewell concerts and operas in the U.S. Despite what some people want to say, Beverly Sills is still singing beautifully even at this time, especially because the French repertoire was her strongest and easiest department vocally speaking. The real treat to this album would be the last four tracks, the Spanish songs. Beverly Sills is in 1961 voice, very young; in fact so young that she had only enjoyed success in the 1950's production of Douglas Moore's Ballad Of Baby Doe and would not be officially recognized as an opera star until her performance as Cleopatra in Handel's Julius Caesar in 1965. This cd is a loving tribute to both Beverly Sills as well as conductor Andre Kostelanetz, who was also a talented pianist and married to soprano Lily Pons, whom Beverly modeled herself after and greatly admired.The French Arias: The first aria in the album "Parlez-moi D'amour" or "Talk To Me Of Love" is orchestrated in pianissimo, softly and romantically, with the perfect blend of Beverly's serenade-style voice to accurately depict tender love and affection. Track 2's "Ouvre Ton Coeur" is from the obscure and unfinished Bizet opera "Ivan The Terrible" about the sadistic Russian czar. Bizet was famous only for his opera Carmen. But "Ouvre Ton Coeur" packs a powerful punch. The intensity of the music and Beverly's singing makes it alive with Spanish fire. Track 4 is the Waltz Aria from Charles Gounod's Mireille. Gounod's lively 3/4 beat is complimented by Beverly Sills' soaring coloratura. It's also a treat to hear an aria from yet another seldom heard opera, Mireille. Gounod is most famous for Faust and Romeo and Juliet. The Leo Delibes song "Les Filles Des Cadix" (The Girls From Cadiz) depicts pretty Spanish girls and handsome caballeros coming from a bullfight. The Spanish setting is enhanced with dramatic music and Beverly's unique voice is equally as dramatic. The Spanish Songs: The Zarzuela was a form of Spanish opera. Enrique Granados is most famous for his Zarzuela "Goyescas" and here is featured an interlude and the lyric aria "La Maja y el Ruisenor" (The Maiden And the Nightingale). Beverly Sills sings the aria with lush texture in her voice. By far the most beautiful aria that Beverly Sills has ever sung is "Estrellita" or "Little Star". Beverly claims that Lily Pons sang it frequently and ended her concerts with this Spanish lullaby. It is a beautifully sad song about a woman asking a star in the heavens to inquire if he true love still loves her, for she is dying. Beverly Sills sings it so perfectly that one would think she was a born-and-bred Spanish singer. She inflects the song with the right expression, especially in the word "sufrir" "to suffer", where she brings her voice down to indicate suffering and pain. I have heard actual Spanish singers sing this way. Finally, Castellano's song, "La Morena" is a dramatic, festive song about an artist who has painted a woman he is in love with. The orchestration makes use of Spanish castanets and enhance Beverly Sills' already "native Spanish" sound.This a great album to own if you're enamored with French and Spanish music and singing. Of course, fans of Beverly Sills will not want to be without this album either. The cd contains the words to the arias translated from their French and Spanish librettos. The album also features photographs of Beverly Sills in performances that made her a legend - Queen Elizabeth in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux, Marie in La Fille Du Regiment, Elvira in Bellini's I Puritani, as Massenet's heroine Manon, the glamorous Violetta of Verdi's Traviata and the charming Rosina from Rossini's Barber Of Seville."
Great singing by a truly great soprano.
D. R. Schryer | Poquoson, VA United States | 04/28/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'll admit up front that, in my opinion, Beverly Sills was the greatest all-around soprano of the recorded era. Yes, she had a pronounced vibrato; and, yes she was inclined to add vocal pyrotechnics that were not in score when she sang coloratura arias. But somehow all of this seemed irrelevant whenever one heard her sing. Her voice quite simply was uniquely beautiful and she could sing everything from dramatic to coloratura roles equally well. For a while Sills was THE American soprano, hailed as equal or superior to the other great sopranos of her time. Then, after her retirement, for some inexplicable reason many of her recordings became unavailable. Recordings that had sold well as LPs were not made available on CDs until recently. Now, at last, there seems to a resurgence of interest in this great singer. Several of her opera recordings haved been reissued on CDs and this fine collection has been assembled. If you love this great soprano's singing as much as I do please get her CDs -- including this one -- while they are still available. If you are not yet familiar with this great soprano -- or only know her by reputation -- please listen to her with unbiased ears. You will be richly rewarded."
Rodney Burton | IL | 06/01/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Frankly (in response to one of the reviews below) I think it would be marvelous if people in "our generation" had even *heard* of Sutherland or Callas. People in my class had never heard of Sills when I gave a presentation on her. As to her sounding like she's tired on this cd, I didn't think so at all. It's true that it's not as good as some of her other recordings, but she almost never *really* 'reaches' for notes. She has a gorgeous soprano voice and I hope more people will listen to her in the years to come."
A wonderful retrospective of a brilliant artist
browcliffe | Ft. Lauderdale, Florida United States | 04/01/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It was with great anticipation that I purchased this retrospective of Sills' extraordinary art. Compiled by the late John Ardoin, it's a generous helping of music from three separate recordings: Sills' Mozart/Strauss album, her French Opera album, and two numbers from a recital in New York. The sheer logistics of distilling three albums onto one CD necessitated the selection of items from each set. While Ardoin has done a good job of selection, the omission of two pieces in particular somewhat undermined my enjoyment of this CD.We begin with two Mozart arias from an album Sills counted as among her best studio work. It's easy to understand why because both performances demonstrate her ability to combine technical virtuosity with musical artistry. She attacks each aria with assurance, floating the elegant line one minute, dazzling with vocal pyrotechnics the next. But these arias also require a broad range and here is the only flaw in Sills' performance. Despite show-stopping high notes, Sills' lower range was not strong, especially when she was required to jump between registers. Both these selections display moments when Sills' lower voice is dry and thin. It's a serious drawback, especially in a Mozart aria where the voice is so exposed. In comparison, listen to soprano Margaret Price's rendition of "Vorrei spiegarvi" to hear a voice capable of encompassing the full breadth of the aria. Still, Sills' performance remains a remarkable achievement in repertoire with which she was not immediately associated. I must express some misgiving regarding Ardoin's decision to exclude Sills' rendition of the aria, "Ruhe sanft" from this set. While not as showy, this aria requires greater artistry because of its long vocal lines and sustained pianissimos. Sills' performance is brilliant, perhaps the best of the three Mozart selections she recorded, and its omission can only be regarded as a misfortune.The album now ventures into Sills' true métier, romantic French opera. The arias included here demonstrate Sills' amazing facility with both the French language and its musical style. Her performance of the little known Meyerbeer aria from "Robert le diable" is heartbreaking in its simplicity. With little in the way of vocal effects, Sills conveys a broad canvas of emotions that utterly captivate. Her second Meyerbeer aria is the more familiar "O beau pays" where she displays the crystal clear vocal agility that was uniquely hers. Amazingly, the decision was made to cut the second, showier half of this aria. It's hard to fathom, especially since Sills' performance of this aria was a guaranteed crowd pleaser and her singing of the omitted section on the original album is absolutely breathtaking. I suppose the cut was made to allow room for other selections but, while some pruning may have been necessary, it's hard to lose that wonderful music, especially since the next track, the mad scene from Thomas' "Hamlet", has a long opening section that could have been abbreviated. Not that I would be willing to lose the entire "Hamlet" selection since it contains some of Sills' most voluptuous singing. She caresses each phrase with a plaintive sound evocative of the tragic heroine she is portraying.Sills has a good time with the next aria, "Je suis Titania', showing off her remarkable trill and clearly articulated notes in its numerous florid passages. A dramatic change of pace follows with "Depuis le jour" from the opera "Louise". Abandoning the flashy showmanship of the previous offerings, Sills delivers a passionately lyrical rendition of this lovely aria. Sills made a complete recording of "Louise" towards the end of her career and the difference between that performance and this one is staggering. Her later version sounds forced, with an annoying vibrato that constantly takes her off pitch. This performance has much more control with Sills managing that rare feat of portraying girlish wonder with a womanly voice.The next two selections are curios meant to show off Sills' amazing coloratura. The first is from the little known operetta "Le Toreador" but may be more familiar as "Twinkle, twinkle, little star." It's long been a favorite with sopranos possessing the agility to do it justice. Sills is such a soprano and she executes remarkable scales and trills with mind-boggling rapidity and clarity. The Bishop aria, sung in English, is equally challenging, with Sills beautifully conveying the singing of a lark.Finally we come to the two most satisfying tracks on this CD. Both are by Richard Strauss and show a side to Sills' talent that was never fully appreciated. Although audiences wanted to hear her in Italian or French repertoire, Sills had experience with many German operas, even going so far as to learn "Elektra" for her own pleasure. Her complete Mozart/Strauss album included the entire final scene from the Strauss opera "Daphne" and it can only be hoped that this piece will find its way onto a remastered CD because her performance is staggering. The two Strauss concert arias included here show different sides of Sills' interpretative skills. The first is a restrained, bittersweet piece in which she is deeply moving while the second is a freer, more extroverted little song that shows all of Strauss' flair for coloratura. It's almost a miniature version of Zerbinetta's aria and it makes one wonder what Sills, in her prime, could have done with that brilliant scene.So is this a fair representation of the art of Beverly Sills? I would say yes, even though I regret the loss of the Mozart aria and the second half of the Meyerbeer. Nonetheless, this CD clearly demonstrates the awesome talent of one of the greatest singers of the twentieth-century. Along with Callas and Sutherland, Sills forms the mighty triumvirate of sopranos responsible for resurrecting the art of bel canto and establishing it once again in the popular consciousness. For that, we must always be grateful and it is with gratitude to John Ardoin and Decca records that I add this CD to my collection."
browcliffe | 11/13/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Sills' impeccable French makes her singing in that language something worth hearing. Her interpretation is impeccable but for the fact that this recording was taped fairly late in her career and you can sense some strain in her voice. Still, it is an experience to share."