A real winner with plenty of talent.
OperaOnline.us | Boston, MA | 10/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 2-CD selection from Deutsche Grammophon, "Masters of the Voce, Soprano" follows a review we did earlier on the "Masters" series for tenors in which we rated the tenor package a success. This offering succeeds on multiple levels as well and proves to be an equally enjoyable listen. DG has put together 30 popular and diverse arias that not only give us a good sampling of some of the finest opera music being performed, but provides a sampling of some of the greatest operatic talent to sing those arias. We state at the outset that when reviewing a CD selection such as this, we don't set out to review the talent; the performers are first in their class and need only be acknowledged. Their work is neither new nor novel here. Rather, it is in the way the package is put together that earns either praise or criticisms - and no other. And that's what we offer here. First, with regard to the technical aspects of the recording: it is as you would expect from a digital transfer - smooth, clear and even throughout. This is a major plus when you consider that the performances were all recorded under differing circumstances, with different orchestras and choruses. Next, there is the selection of music. This can be tricky if not done well, but it was done well here and as a result gives us a pleasurable listening experience that offers continuity - meaning you don't have to sit with a clicker in hand waiting for that one cut that just seems out of place. There's none of that here; it's an enjoyable listen throughout. Lastly, but certainly not least, and what elevates this selection is the diversity of truly superstar singers. Joan Sutherland's lyric beauty truly shines when singing Rossini's "Bel raggio lusinghier" from "Semiramide" and "Ah, je veux vivre" from Gounod's "Romeo & Juliet", and the "Bell Song" from Delibes "Lakme". And it isn't just Sutherland's delivery that gets our attention. Brigit Nilsson's dramatic power in "Battle Cry" from Wagner's "Die Walkure" raises the hair on the back of ones neck. They're all here: Cheryl Studer, Kathleen Battle, Leontyne Price, Renee Fleming, Mirella Freni, Renata Tabaldi, Angela Gheorghu and more. Throughout, "Masters of the Voice: Soprano" offers a nice cross section from the lyric coloratura to the dramatic soprano, and a solid display of technical expertise in the way that the music is blended such that this 2 CD set can be added to anyone's collection with assurance that it will be enjoyed and listed to for years to come - and why not, it's some of the best."
A constellation of star sopranos
Steven A. Peterson | Hershey, PA (Born in Kewanee, IL) | 10/11/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"2 CDs, 30 pieces, many sopranos. For people like me, who love the soprano voice, this is, as we used to say in the Midwest, "Hog heaven." Sopranos involved include major names from the past five decades--Birgit Nilsson, Leontyne Price, Joan Sutherland, Renata Tebaldi, Regine Crespin, Mirella Freni, Beverly Sills, June Anderson, Kathleen Battle, Montserrat Caballe, Renee Fleming, Ileana Cotrubas, Edita Gruberova, Lucia Popp, and still others.
This is so rich a product that I think that the best way of proceeding is to examine illustrative works, rather than try to catalog all the pieces. Overall, this is a fun piece. One can certainly ask why some were included and others excluded. One can also question why particular sopranos with specific pieces. But that's part of the fun, in fact, in collections like this. It gets people to ask questions. So, here is my reflection on a set of cuts.
Cheryl Studer singing Mozart's "Die Holle Rache." Not the best version. Compare with Sumi Jo and Natalie Dessay, for example. There is some strain that I detect in her voice at certain points in this aria. Still, it is a solid version. Yes, she does hit the staccato high notes, although not as well as others.
Joan Sutherland, "Bel raggio lusinghier." Dame Joan takes a crack at this Rossini coloratura aria. Not surprisingly, she gives the listener a satisfying version. That big voice of hers adds a lot of pop. Her voice may not be the prettiest nor her articulation an exemplar, but what a great coloratura soprano. There are nice trills (as one would expect) and she shows her vocal agility nicely. When she sings the cabaletta, her vocal pyrotechnics, with more florid singing still on the repeat, are exciting to experience. To close, nice staccato singing and a well hit final high note.
Birgit Nilsson, one of my favorite Wagnerian sopranos, sings from "Die Walkure." "Non Zaune dein Ross" is nicely sung. The "Hojoto" gets one's adrenalin going. A sterling Brunnhilde.
Renata Tebaldi sings a wonderful version of "Un bel di" (from Puccini's "Madame Butterfly"). The great Tebaldi! How musical her version and how rich her voice. I feel separated by so much time, from Tebaldi and Callas and Moffo and Sutherland when they were in their prime. This is a fine illustration of the art of "La Tebaldi."
"Je Suis Titania" by Beverly Sills. Sills was another wonderful coloratura soprano. She displays great vocal agility. If I understand the term properly. there are appoggiaturas aplenty. She closes this work off with four trills and a final high note. Lovely to listen to.
"Glitter and be gay" comes from Leonard Bernstein's "Candide." June Anderson sings this version, conducted by Bernstein himself. Context: I have listened to other versions, including those by Sumi Jo and Natalie Dessay. In my personal judgment, this does not compare well. Anderson is okay, but there is not the technical skill and the sparkle that I heard from the other two sopranos. Overall, this is an okay version--but not so special.
Compilations such as this turn some people off. Others enjoy the potpourri quality, getting introduced to a wide array of singers. I'm with the latter category, so find this an enjoyable 2 CD work.