Search - Jonathan Summers, Sherrill Milnes, Giacomo Puccini :: Puccini: La Fanciulla del West

Puccini: La Fanciulla del West
Jonathan Summers, Sherrill Milnes, Giacomo Puccini
Puccini: La Fanciulla del West
Genre: Classical


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A wonderful souvenir of a famous production
Ralph Moore | Bishop's Stortford, UK | 04/10/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I bought this set on LP when it first came out, as a souvenir of the excellent -and at the time revelatory - Covent Garden production, which arrived via Turin and Vienna. The cast in the recording is identical to the stage performances except that poor old Silvano Carroli - who was very good - was edged out by a bigger star: Sherrill Milnes. I do not much hold that against Milnes as he here delivers one of his most subtle and thrilling performances on disc; the part of the snarling sheriff with romantic leanings fits him like a glove. Similarly, Domingo gives a performance to rank alongside his Manrico (also for Mehta) and his Radames for Muti. I don't always think he is ideal when more spinto heft is required, but he is here in clarion voice, singing tenderly, too, when required. Carol Neblett proved to be one of the few sopranos able to stay the course in the cruelly taxing rôle of Minnie and although she does not quite deliver the excitement provided by Tebaldi - any more than Domingo can rival Del Monaco or Corelli for sheer vocal glamour - she makes a complete, touching character out of the lonely camp-girl, has all the notes and is in vibrant voice. There is so much lovely, innovative and unusual music in this opera that I can forgive the moments of crassness and sentimentality in all that cowboy stuff - and some things are genuinely moving. The supporting cast is especially strong and they are clearly a wholly integrated group with the kind of rapport that comes from performing live together. The tone is set early on when Gwynne Howell (as Jake Wallace, "il cantastorie del campo") sings a meltingly beautiful account of the ballad "Che faranno"; the dignity of his singing quite redeems its dangerous sentimentality. Mehta's direction is fluid and flexible; he lingers where he should and whips up the tension when its needed. The sound is beautifully rich, clear and balanced. I am not saying that this is the only, or even the best, studio recording in that I still favour the gung-ho glory of the earlier Decca set but it's a very cohesive and satisfying account of this oddly patchy work."