A Classic Opera Recording from the Second Golden Age
Ed Flaspoehler | Dallas, TX USA | 04/21/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia was the vehicle chosen for Monserrat Caballe's New York debut at Carnigie Hall in the mid-60's. Her triumphant success in that concert performance hailed her as the new prima donna and earned her a Time Magazine cover story.Capitalizing on her success, RCA Victor decided to record the opera in its entirety, with all the notes in the printed score, no cuts allowed. The result is magnificant, making this one of the MUST HAVE recordings for lovers of great singing and Bel Canto opera.Caballe in her early career shows a vocal freshness that is never bettered in any of her other recorded work, which is saying a lot. The young Alfredo Kraus is breathtaking in his virility and ease of vocal production. Shirly Verrett has a bright effortless sound that makes you yearn for a bygone era of opera singing. The rest of the cast is equally impressive, with Ezio Flagello rumbling forth in one of his best recorded performances, and a strong supporting cast of Italian comprimario singers.Concuctor Jonel Perlea seems to know this score to perfection, coaxing from his orchestra and singers an inspired performance. Just listen to the energy in the choruses, the sensitive support to the singers in each of their arias, and the dramatic thrust of the whole performance toward its inexorable conclusion in Caballe's final aria, a show stopper for all times. The Fat Lady really sings here.Only one step in the Donizetti oevre below the ubiquitous Lucia, this opera became a vehicle for many a prima donna, including Sutherland and Sills. But other recordings, good as they may be, are just not up to the standard of Bel Canto opera performance that RCA gives here.This recording was one the favorites of my youth. It still is. Get it!Ed Flaspoehler firstname.lastname@example.org"
Vintage Caballe and bel canto at its best
Michel | Montreal, Quebec | 06/19/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lucrezia Borgia is a beautiful opera and this set - the first studio recording - does it full justice. Opinions on who was the best bel canto singer - Callas/Sutherland/Gencer/Sills - vary sharply but to my ears Caballe is the truest. She has a gorgeous voice - rich and powerful yet flexible and capable of the most exquisite shadings and pianissimi - her phrasing is exemplary and her musicianship refined. All of this can be enjoyed in this recording plus her tragic conception of the evil Lucrezia caught up by fate - a splendid performance. Fortunately she has a wonderful cast to support her. This is one of the few recordings of Alfredo Kraus while still in his youthful prime and what a treat it is - his voice is fresh and attractive and he sings most beautifully matching Caballe in musicianship and refinement. Shirley Verrett and Ezio Flagello have both somptuous voices and offer beautiful performances. The comprimarios are very important in this opera and they all rise to the challenge with idiomatic and stylish singing. Cho- rus and orchestra are excellent and Perlea conducts lovingly and warm and atmospheric sound. Bel canto at its best. "
Musically rich and swiftly dramatic opera from Donizetti
J. E. ASENCIO-NEGRON | Guaynabo, Puerto Rico USA | 08/19/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Even though a somewhat neglected masterpiece, the opera LUCREZIA BORGIA (La Scala, Milan, 1833), from Gaetano Donizetti, will never fail to please audiciences around the world, because Lucrezia is an alluringly melodramatic character. This digitally remastered CD (1989) from the original recording of the opera in May 1966, in RCA Italiana Studios, Rome, is a jewel to treasure for those interested in good "bel canto" music. Monserrat Caballé (soprano) give us an accurate and sweet-sounding performance as Lucrezia. Alfredo Kraus (tenor, with his delicious turns of phrase & mournful tone) is outstanding as Gennaro (Lucrezia's son from a previous marriage who is ignorant of his mother identity).Shirley Verrett (mezzo-soprano) as Maffio Orsini ( young nobleman, friend of Gennaro) is very good in the melodious & cheerful aria: "Il segreto per esser felice" (The secret to be happy/for happiness)(CD 2, Track 13). Although, Marilyn Horne, in my opinion, is the best for this role. Difficult to resist. Musically rich and swiftly dramatic. Donizetti at his best."
Mont. Caballe: The definition of Lucrezia Borgia!
Armindo | Greece | 12/20/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lucrezia Borgia is an overally beautiful opera also because of Felice Romani's moving libretto. He was also the librettist for other big operatic successes such as Norma, La Sonnambula et a.On this set we have Montserrat Caballe's rare instrument at it's finest! Beautiful phrasing, absolute breath control, amazing legatos and powerful high notes of vocal freshness! Her legendary pianissimo is really hard to describe; just listen to her on track10, (cd1). One thinks this woman can go on for another 20 seconds without a single breath! Her performance on the second Cd (for instance, tracks 3 and 15) reveals her understanding of the role.Alfredo Kraus, though not my most favourite tenor, outlines here a sensitive Gennaro. His fans will adore him even more. Shirley Verrett uses her fine mezzo voice skillfully and performs the demanding role of Maffio Orsini perfectly. Last but not least, I love E. Flagello's Alfonso whose performance in the aria on track12(cd1) for example is superb!On the whole, I strongly recommend this opera and especially this version which contains thrilling performances!! Finally, a small comment on what has been mentioned on another review: I just wish more sopranos had the ability to show us how "bloody beautiful" they are!"
BDSinC | Calgary, Alberta, Canada | 12/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Firstly, I have to say, this was the first version of this opera I ever owned, and I fell in love with it instantly. The prologue actually has an additional "caballette" for Lucrezia sung here by Caballe wonderfully. For those who have the Sutherland recording, you will not be treated to this piece for it was not recorded, though I have no idea why as Sutherland could have sung it very well. However, we have Caballe doing it, and she is sublime.
Krauss is incredible, as usual, and he makes the part of Genaro really wonderful to listen to. He also looks the part of a hero, and in performance I am sure was wonderful.
Verrett is incredible. No, she is not Marilyn Horne, nor does she have any really overly shining embellishments (though she does end the prologue with a super high note equal to Caballe), yet, she does more than just lips service to the role, she is definitely exciting. The tempi are also different than when Bonynge conducts the Sutherland recording. The stretta of the Prologue excelerates in tempo, as it should, rather than just staying sort of dull and slow as in the Sutherland recording which adds greatly to the tention of the scene.
One finds this with all the strettas that end each act (especially in the Lucrezia/Gernaro duet ending act 1). I think the conductor really understands the purpose of the stretta in Bel Canto opera, and he masterfully handles it here. The increased speed may tax the singers somewhat, but one is NEVER aware of it in this recording, as they are all troupers and handle it with ease.
The opera closes with the famous scene for Caballe (after Genaro, her son, is dead). This version is published in some published scores, in others the trilling sections are not there (the Royal addition, which by the way contains the extra caballetta in the prologue which is not contained in other printed editions of the score, but has a slightly different version of this final aria, one that was sung by the great dramatic soprano of that day Therese Tietjens; the differences are interesting, but the aria is not simplified; were I conducting the work I would have the singer sing the version used by Tietjens then the more familiar version in the repeat). I recommend this recording to anyone interested in this wonderfully dramatic and melodic opera. It is sad that it is neglected so, as in many ways it outshines the more famous Lucia.
All the singers are masterful, and the presentation holds together super well creating a "whole" rather than a collection of "favorite arias.""