Andato Col Vento!
Good Stuff | 03/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Most of us who are of a certain age know these recordings and have lived with them, off and on, for decades.
A few things need to be cleared up, since Amazon hasn't exactly gone out of its' way to be of help: These are the stereo versions of each of the operas, not the earlier mono recordings.
The earliest are the Manon Lescaut from 1954 and the Turandot from a year or so later. They both feature the glorious Renata Tebaldi and Mario Del Monaco, respectively, in their absolute best voices. The too seldom recorded Inge Borkh is heard to thrilling effect as Turandot. The sound on the Manon Lescaut is somewhat superior than that on the Turandot, although both are certainly good enough. Fanciulla and Butterfly are from 1958 and Boheme came along a year later, along with Tosca, featuring the astounding Scarpia of George London, who, just a few years later, would find his voice silenced forever by illness. All were recorded at the Academia di Santa Cecilia, Roma, a favorite venue for Decca and other recording companies at the time.
The final three operas in the set, The Trittico, date from around 1962 and were recorded at the Maggio Musicale, Fiorenze, not, in my opinion, quite as successful a recording location. Also, of all the operas on this set, many of which are what I consider desert island musts, these three show the beginnings of the inevitable wear voices singing this repertoire can experience. Tebaldi is just off that blush of greatness that distinguishes the earlier works. Del Monaco is very powerful in the Tabarro, which is not foreign to the role. But it sounds like, by this time, he was losing the ability to scale down his voice above the staff. On the other hand, the legendary Boheme and Butterfly catch the young Carlo Bergonzi in magnificent form. If there has ever been a better recorded Butterfly Act 1 duet (and I am even including the De Los Angeles/Bjoerling effort many of us love so much), I have not heard it.
But these are, when taken as a whole, a remarkable set of operatic recordings from what must surely be thought of now as a golden age. There isn't a clinker in the lot, and several of them, Boheme and Butterfly, for example, have seldom been equaled, and never, I would suggest, surpassed.
There are other great singers sprinkled amongst the various casts: Cornell MacNeil, Robert Merrill, Giorgio Tozzi, Giulietta Simionato,Fernando Corena, Fiorenza Cossotto, and others. Of course, these recordings point out the glaring weaknesses of the contract system of the day. Many greats were excluded. No Bjoerling, of course. He was under contract to other labels. None of the other wonderful singers who were around at the time. Decca had its' coterie of exclusive artists, right down to the compremario singers (Piero di Palma must have made a fortune from Decca)and it used them over and over. A recording stock company, if you will.
And so it was, back in the day when recording companies felt their was some worth in recording great singers in their greatest roles with as much love and care as possible.
If it hadn't already been used, I would be tempted to say this set should actually be called "Gone With The Wind"."
Response to complaint about iTunes/iPod tags
pm444 | Okemos, MI USA | 10/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The set is an amazing bargain and anyone who loves Puccini and knows these artists will buy it while it's still available.
However, I feel compelled to write a brief response to the reviewer who criticized Decca for not having consistent CD data for the various CDs in this set. The record companies do not generate the tags (album name, artist, etc.) that are used by online music databases. Instead, the information is entered by a variety of independent users who employ a variety of standards or conventions when entering information about a CD. Thus, one user may enter the data for the first CD in a set, while another user enters the data for the second CD, and the two users may enter the data using different conventions. The record companies do not and cannot control the way this data is entered, and it's not a fair complaint to criticize them for a lack of standardization. In any case, it's very easy for the user to change these tags within iTunes by simply selecting multiple tracks and then renaming the disc, artist, or any other data field with the user's personal preference.
The major record labels may be guilty of any number of offenses, but this is not one that can be laid at their doorstep. Given the extremely low price of this set, it's even more unfair to complain about something that's so easily modified by the consumer."
Sean William Menzies | 01/19/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I cannot imagine doing without this set. The Tosca and the La fanciulla have always been favorites of mine from their original releases on cd, but when I saw the rest of the line-up provided here, I snapped this set up immediately. And was not disappointed: like the two operas I knew, the others have the same gorgeous, voluptuous stereo sound, quite a miracle for such early stereo recordings. And then there are the casts. Renata is the main hook throughout all the recordings, with Bergonzi and del Monaco as her male counterparts.
The recordings are presented in order of composition, with the odd exception of Il trittico coming in after Turandot. Missing are Le Villi, Edgar and La Rondine; unfortunate omissions though there may not have been satisfactory recordings from Tebaldi on these. And a slight drawback is the sleeves, each of the 15 discs is in a simple white paper cd sleeve, the same sort you can buy at Staples, and in order to keep them organized I numbered them myself with a Sharpie. But at this tremendous price one cannot pass up this collection. As for librettos, each and every one of them can be found on the internet for downloading.
Gorgeous collection. Great stereo sound. Not a bad recording in the lot. And utterly Italian in origin. Tebaldi rocks!"