One of the greatest recorded recital disks of all time
J. Huntley | Detroit, MI | 12/07/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This long out-of-print recital album by the 32 year old Joan Sutherland was recorded in Paris in the spring of 1959, shortly after her spectacular first "Lucia" at Covent Garden.
For many of us in the States, Sutherland was then unknown. For those in the UK and Australia, she was widely regarded as a competent and sometimes excellent artist who had worked herself up through the ranks of Covent Garden singing everything from Gilda to Aida and Jennifer in Tippett's "Midsummer Marriage."
She is even to be heard (and quite distinctively so) as the maid Clotilde in a famous pirate version of Norma with Callas in the title role at Covent Garden in 1952.
For those of us who had never heard her, there was nothing -- I repeat, NOTHING -- that could have prepared us for this recording.
To begin with, it is simply the largest and most flexible voice that had ever been heard in this repertoire in the history of recorded sound.
What is astounding -- particularly to those who may not have warmed to Sutherland's performances as they evolved over time -- is how astonishingly "forward" the voice was at that time, and how distinct is her pronunciation. In fact, if you play the opening recitative of Lucia's "Regnava nel silenzio" for your opera-loving friends and don't tell them who it is, they will have a very hard time placing it as Sutherland. None of the mannerisms ("droopiness" as it was called by many) that marred her later years were apparent in 1959.
Then there is the coloratura: Every note in place, and every phase part of a larger sweep of line and breath -- and to top it all, there is a genuine sense of dramatic involvement. She sings as one who truly believes in this music and with utter exhilaration. Listen to the reprise of "Quando rapito in estasi (from "Lucia") and you will hear a quality of attack, flexibility, upward extension, and grace that is in very short supply today. And you sense that above all she is having a wonderful time!
I remember when the album first came out (and I wore through two vinyl copies) that it was apparent the top notes were almost impossible to capture on analog recording and equally impossible to replay on vinyl without massive breakup and distortion. Hearing these notes emerge from this superb cd re-mastering is like hearing history being made -- all over again!
What is equally interesting in this new pressing is hearing that she obviously stepped back from the microphone for the big top notes (perhaps on the advice of her producers, who knows?).
If you care about great voices, or care about this repertoire, or care about vocal history in general, drop what you are doing and buy this album. Tell your friends to buy this album. Give this album as a gift.
Credit is due to London Decca to re-issue this landmark recording. However, be warned that along with a very reasonable price comes a package that gives new meaning to "cheesy" -- an unreadable re-print of the original liner notes (nothing says "budget re-print" like that!) and of course no texts. The unflattering photograph from the original pressing was unflattering in 1959 and is unflattering today.
Do not be deterred. Buy this disk and understand why this was for many the greatest voice of the century!
Lost in Words
Abel | Hong Kong | 03/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Dame Joan - at the age of 32 - simply struck me dumb with this wonderful recital recording, re-mastered for CD release.
Goose bumps all the way. What a voice! What agility, what technique!
This is coloratura singing at its greatest. In this era of coloratura revival, let us not forget that Sutherland's early coloratura recording really sets the benchmark for this style.
Yes. Dame Joan may not be as good looking on stage as Maria Callas. BUT this is a truly great singer, if not the greatest stage artist.
For those taking singing seriously either as profession or pass time, Joan Sutherland is exemplary. Her early recordings are real gems to own, being exemplary of her unsurpassed coloratura soprano voice, the best qualities of which got worn down as the years gone by."
At last an audible "young" Sutherland
Joseph Hart | Visalia, CA United States | 06/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Her voice is tight and young. It's a beautiful album, albeit short. She's no better here than when she was older (I have her recording of Anna Bolena and love every top note in it), but she is different. I love her at any age. I'd like to hear her when she was 18 or 20. I don't consider 32 all that young (though it's hardly old), but if she had yet to win her renown with Lucia (I just believe what I read, duh), maybe it took her an extra 12 years to reach her prime. I don't think she lost her voice when she got older, and I don't think her voice got "flabby" (or whatever the word was). It's kind of like a worm judging god. No. Worse. God could use some judging. He wouldn't pass muster!"