EMI - PLEASE REISSUE WITH THE RECITS!
Operaman! | Chicago, IL United States | 04/12/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"EMI did one enterprising thing - reissuing Barenboim's first recording of Figaro on its low-priced GEMINI series. In order for it to fit onto two CDs, of course, several recits had to be excised. It's this that really ruins it! Act One is completely shorn of its very important dialogue, part of Act Two, while most of Act Three and Four are intact. For some reason Basilio's throw-away aria is left in! John Fryatt sings it well, but if anything could have been cut to save time, this is it.
All told, this isn't an outstanding recording of Figaro. Evans, Fischer-Dieskau and Berganza have recorded these roles previously and with just as much distinction (and in fresher voice). This recording is treasurable for it is the only studio-recorded documented evidence of Blegen's Suzanna (who made precious few complete opera recordings as it was). (I was incorrect in assuming this was Berganza's only recording of Figaro, but she did one earlier with Klemperer). The recits are such an important part of the overall structure of the opera, without them its like an extended highlights disc.
I believe most collectors could shell out the $10 - 12 extra for a third disc and a Figaro that was the same as the one issued on vinyl on EMI in 1977."
Nozze With a Bullet
Edward R. Oneill | San Francisco, CA | 12/06/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
I like this version. I was lukewarm about it for a while. I thought it a bit wan. But I've listened to it several times now on various car trips. (It was in the glove box & so kept coming out, even though I nominally preferred other versions.) And now I'm more of a fan.
Barenboim's conducting isn't driving as Solti's or as lush and lyrical as Levine's. But it has drive and clarity and a bit of lyricism, too.
I probably got this for Blegen's Susanna. She is a totally charming artist. Her recordings of Handel and Bach are utterly winning and sadly hard to find. And I am a big Berganza fan, so to have her whole studio Cherubino is a joy. She doesn't have the biggest voice, and she doesn't act the adolescence as charmingly as von Stade. But she is the smartest Cherubino on record--in a way the most musical.
Heather Harper's Countess has her moments, and it's never less than musical. I am not a Fischer-Dieskau fan (probably from reading Roland Barthes' complaints about him lo these many years ago). He actually does quite well with the Italian, but I feel like there's something precious and lieder-ish about his performance. I want a sexy, egotistical Italian baritone to bluster his way through the role: this is like a carefully-engineered schematic of the character, not the living, breathing, sex-driven Thing Itself.
So all in all, this is fast rising among my favorite Figaro's. I personally don't cotton to Schwarzkopf's arch, mannered voice, so some of the 'classic' recordings are just not for me.
I had a Levine recording with Von Otter's Cherubino, but I found her sound a bit unpleasant there, and in general the vocal acting is over-the-top. It's like some weird competition to see who can 'act' the most with the voice. (You'd think singing it musically would be all the acting necessary.) And the Abbado version has its musical virtues, but Studer's Countess and Bartoli's horrid huffing and puffing are not among them. (Bartoli is like the little mezzo that could.)
Having seen Von Stade perform Cherubino at the Met in the 80's (with Soderstrom as the Countess!), the Solti version with Te Kanawa has sort of imprinted itself on me as the Platonic Ideal of Figaro's.
That said, Mehta's live version with Sena Jurinac's sublime Countess, Berganza's classic Cherubino and Teresa Stratas's characterful Susanna also has a place in my heart.
--E. R. O'Neill"
Barenboim i s sluggish, the singers are old, the recitatives
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 05/09/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The headline says it all, although in fairness one should say that Barenboim'[s conducting is mostly sluggish, the cast mostly too old, and the recitatives mostly absent. This 1976 prodduction originated in Edingburgh, and I suppose seeing the beloved Geraint Evans in action was more than half the show. Vocally, he sounds like Figaro's father rather than Figaro, and when the pompous Don Bartolo comes on, the difference between their voices is negligible. Likewise, Heather Harper was a beloved singer, but her Countess sounds unsteady and also too ripe in age. To complete the aging roster, there's fischer-Dieskau as the Count, reprising a role he did much better for Bohm in the Sixties, and teresa Berganza, a wonderful mezzo but not remotely youthful as Cherubino.
There's no need to go on, but EMI really has botched things further by eliminating more than half the recitatives. I guess in the end it hardly matters, since this is also a quite humorless performance, so the recitatives must not have been too sparkling. In sum, a miss on all counts."