cherubino | Houston, Texas United States | 01/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can't believe Amazon hasn't bothered to include a track list with this two-disc CD booklet. This limited-edition release commemorates Joan's 80th birthday, on November 7, 2006. Although it isn't the "ideal" set list in my opinion, it is a must-have for those who revere the miracle of Joan's singing.
1. Ah! Je Veux Vivre (Romeo et Juliette): It is fitting that both discs start with a Gounod aria, both taken from Joan's seminal Art of the Prima Donna recital. Both capture her voice perfectly, at its freshest and most thrilling. It's all here- finely spun trills, staggering high notes, sheer flexibility and volume. Blessedly, Decca recorded her voice perfectly, and partnered her with a sympathetic conductor, Francesco Molinari-Pradelli. It cannot be stressed enough how Joan arrived like an operatic force of nature, much like Callas.
2. E Strano... Sempre Libera (La Traviata): Also taken from Art of the Prima Donna. Other Violettas essayed the character far better, but few captured the vocal thrill like Sutherland.
3. Bell Song (Lakme): Another miracle of vocal ability. I remember being taken with this aria in particular the first few times I heard Art of the Prima Donna.
4. Lo Speri Invano... Tu Puniscimi, O Signore (Luisa Miller): A first for me, since I never could hunt down a copy of Joan's Command Performance recital. A worthy inclusion that finely illustrates Joan's comfort above the staff. Very tempting to think of how La Stupenda might have fared if she recorded the entire opera.
5. La Marguerite a Ferme Sa Corolle... Ouvre Ton Coeur (Vasco da Gama): A Bizet aria taken from her Romantic French Arias recital. Joan wasn't always good at communicating passion, but she does so very well here, with a dose of tenderness and bravura.
6-8. Mad Scene (Lucia di Lammermoor): Taken from her first recording of the opera. Sadly, Joan's first compelete opera recordings have something of an echo-ey quality to them, but the vocal evidence is ample enough to demonstrate her bel canto mastery.
9. Sediziosi Voci... Casta Diva (Norma): As with Lucia, Joan is considered a leading Norma of the past century. She takes us to the stratosphere, singing the aria in its original key.
10. Doll Song (Tales of Hoffmann): A bit odd, coming on the heels of Casta Diva. Like Mozart's Queen of the Night, Olympia only exists to show off some insane coloratura technique, and little else. Still, Joan has great fun.
11. Mad Scene (I Puritani): Nice, but Son Virgin Vezzosa would have been infinitely nicer.
12. In Chambre Separee (Der Opernball): A lighter aria that doesn't call for dazzling coloratura. You will either deem this romantic, or a bit dull.
13. Nun's Chorus (Casanova): A beautiful inclusion. The delicate church bells are a perfect companion to Joan's vocal instrument.
14. De Cet Affreux Combat... Plurez! Plurez, Mes Yeux! (Le Cid): Sorry, but I just don't like Joan singing this kind of reperetoire. This aria is better suited to someone like Grace Bumbry.
15. Ah! Non Giunge Uman Pensiero (La Sonnambula): Back to familiar territory. Thankfully taken from Joan's first complete recording of Bellini's opera. The seamless, florid cadenzas at the end will have you worshipping at the altar of La Stupenda in no time at all.
1. Jewel Song (Faust): Further proof that there was, is, and never shall be another voice like that of Joan Sutherland in the early sixties.
2-3. Bel Raggio Lunsinghier... Dolce Pensiero (Semiramide): Again, flawlessly executed coloratura to melt your heart and take your breath away.
4. Eccomi Pronta... Deh, Se Un'Urna (Beatrice di Tenda): Listen to that bit of spinto as she pronounces, "Eccomi Pronta." A masterclass of virtuoso singing.
5. Pour De Contrat Fatal... Salut a la France! (La Fille du Regiment): No one sang Marie like Sutherland. Even Natalie Dessay, with her authentically Gallic voice, cannot rival Joan's soaring high notes. If this doesn't make a believer out of you, nothing will.
6-7. E il Sol Dell'anima... Gualtier Malde... Caro Nome (Rigoletto): The combination of Sutherland and Pavarotti in their primes is electric. You will not find better bel canto technique, period. So what if Joan tends to double the r's in "caro" and "sara"? Her Caro Nome is like a perfect diamond.
8. War Es Auch Nichts Als Ein Traum Von Gluck (Eva): Again, the question of whether Joan is suited to operetta. There is something grating about her diction, though the aria is soft and dreamy.
9. This is a Changing World (Pacific 1860): You're right, Joan. This is a changing world, where stage directors capture more attention than singers, where bel canto heroines become hookers and Planet of the Apes simians.
10. Chiedi All'aura Lusinghiera (L'Elisir D'Amore): Joan had that mournful quality, as evidenced at the beginning of this selection. If slightly boring, she perks up during the duet with Pavarotti, transforming into something respendent.
11. In Questa Reggia (Turandot): Interesting how her recording is esteemed alongside Birgit Nilsson's, though Joan never sang it onstage. She confounded the critics with this very believable portrayal of Puccini's ice princess.
12. Da Tutti Abbandonata... Ah! Se il Mio Cor Tremo Giammai (Maria Stuarda): It is rumored that Joan wanted to record Maria Stuarda earlier, but Pavarotti ruined things by showing up to recording sessions unprepared, due to laziness. By the time it was finally recorded, Joan no longer felt vocally comfortable with this role. This highlight betrays her insecurity- her intonation is not as confident as one would expect.
13. Era Desso Il Figlio Mio (Lucrezia Borgia): Unlike the former, Joan gets this right. By the late seventies, Joan's voice was stronger in the lower register. Add to that the fact that she sings the repeat of the aria more dramatically. A brilliant example of the under-appreciated Sutherland temperment.
14. Ancor Non Giunse... Perche Non Ho del Vento... Torna, Torna, O Caro Oggetto (Rosmonda D'Inghilterra) The first-ever release of this alternative aria on CD. Another early-Sutherland gem
Voice of the Century
Ronald L. Gould | Youngstown, OH | 02/11/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although I have most of the complete opera recordings from which these exerpts are taken, I have enjoyed this set tremendously, and the lavish book format documentation is superb. A fitting tribute to a great voice and her many memorable performances, many of which I was fortunate to have seen live."
A "Thank You" for Dame Joan
Harry Sillen | San Diego, California USA | 02/16/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A wonderful way for Decca to say "Thank You" for the many years this great singer, one of the most important voices of the 20th Century, gave her all to the many recordings made for this company. Of course, most fans will have all the recordings already, but to have the original art work for all the albums she made, as well as some rare photos made available is a real treat. Time and time again I marvel at the quality of Dame Joan's voice and her incredible facility. She makes it all sound so easy. Thank You again, Dame Joan! "
Coloratura at its BEST
G. Graham | Richmond, VA USA | 12/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For the true opera fan, this is an essential recording. Sutherland's coloratura soprano technique continues to be unmatched. She flies into the rafters with ease and her cadenzas are beyond belief. Playing this recording always makes me happy....I could listen to it for hours and hours. Also, be sure to get her "Romantic French Arias" recording which, in my opinion, is her very best."