5 star performance, 2 star recording
Bob Manson | Berkeley, CA United States | 12/07/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"There aren't many recordings of Donizetti's works, and there are only two in-print CDs for Gemma di Vergy: Opera d'Oro's release with Caballe, and this one.
Frankly, the Opera d'Oro release is unlistenable. It's a live "bootleg" recording which sounds almost as if it were recorded on VHS tape... a lot of distortion during loud passages, and in mono to boot. I generally enjoy live recordings and I'm willing to put up with many inconveniences, but that version is Just Plain Bad.
This is a significantly better stereo recording of an excellent live performance. It's not perfect, though, and it wasn't mastered very well.
I couldn't figure out why it sounded a bit "dull" and a quick check with a spectrum analyzer showed why--everything above 15.5khz has been filtered out. It's not bad (most adults don't hear sounds over 15khz anyway) but I have to wonder how it was recorded.
The dullness is very likely exacerbated by the low recording levels. There are very few peaks above 1/2 scale and nothing ever gets even close to 0db; the average level is much lower than 1/2 scale. (Cranking up the volume makes it louder, but also increases hiss.) And, to top it all off, there are several spots where one channel or the other is muted.
I'm explaining all this to try to give a feel for the quality of the CD. Of the two choices this one is by far the more listenable, and while it's an enjoyable performance I can't say it's a good recording--especially given the low sound levels. If I'd known how poor it was ahead of time I certainly would've thought twice about buying it."
Very involving, rough-'n-ready live performance
B. Cathey | Wendell, NC United States | 11/28/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"GEMMA DI VERGY is top drawer Donizetti. The opera has been tackled in recent years by Montserrat Caballe and others...the soprano lead role is a killer! Caballe's performance with Jaime Aragall remains the touchstone, but this one with the unjustly under-recorded Adriana Maliponte is well worth investigating, indeed, the more I listen the more I like it. Maliponte is not Caballe, but she greatly impresses just the same...she's the real thing and throws herself into the music and drama. She is never less than exciting and convincing: a real find [a recording of her in POLIUTO, also on Gala, has also showed up recently]. Oscar Garaventa holds up well as Tamas, and other members of the cast are competent. The performance, part of a Donizetti Festival in Bergamo, featured the RAI-Milan orchestra and chorus. Excellent monaural sound. Excerpts from POLIUTO (again with Maliponte) are a bonus, again in good sound, and Maliponte is ravishing.... As always Gala makes its product available at a very reasonable price. Highly recommended."