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Berlioz fans had to wait for another 25 years until a new studio recording was released, this time by Dutoit. This is the recording with which I became more familiar with the opera as it was the only available version on CD when I bought it (due to the Davis being out of print and prior to the 2001 recording being made).

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I liked the clear, digital sound (which is still superb) and I liked the singing. However, having now listened to it in direct comparison with the other recordings I find the conducting rather dull and incredibly prosaic. Dutoit smooths over the idiosyncrasies in the score and 'flatlines' emotionally.

The singers are all ok, but despite a wonderful Hylas from John Mark Ainsley there is little else to enjoy here. Vogt is a competent Cassandre, but doesn't exploit the pathos and drama that other singers such as Lang or Lemieux find in the role in the later recordings. Lakes sounds rather weedy and uneven and although he has the lyricism in places that Vickers lacked, it isn't consistent and this is a decidedly fainthearted portrayal of Aeneas. Pollet at least gives us an authentically French Dido, but she too lacks any real character (not helped of course by the flaccid conducting).

One thing that this recording has that the others don't are a scene in act one that was cut before the planned premiere and a prelude before act three that Berlioz composed for the premiere of the second half of the opera. Neither of these pieces are essential in my opinion and I am quite happy to do without them.

This was my least favourite of the four and given a choice between this recording and the Davis, I'd go with the Davis.

N.
 

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The next recording chronologically was another Davis one, this time live as part of his series with the LSO. It's interesting comparing the conducting with his earlier studio issue. It's always Davis and it's always Berlioz, but there are differences between the two. There are moments where I prefer what he does in 1969 and others that work better in 2001. For example my favourite recording of the well known March is the one heard here.

Overall I also prefer the cast here to that on the 1969 recording. Petra Lang is a superb Cassandre, beating both the unchecked vocality of Lindholm and the dull performance of Voigt. If you like your Cassandre to go all out batshite crazy, this is for you. Heppner is too light for Aeneas, but is better than Vickers or Lakes (both of whom set a very low bar for the role). DeYoung is the only singer in the three main roles where I prefer the earlier set (Veasey is hard to beat). There's nothing wrong with DeYoung, however her lack of emotion and drama is reminiscent of Pollet.

There is much to recommend this set and it is interesting how the first two acts are the chief draw here, whereas it was the last three acts that were the principal attraction of the earlier Davis set. Get both and listen to different parts of each?

N.
 

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The fourth and final set came out in late 2017 and like the second Davis one is based around a concert performance of the opera. Nelson has spent over 45 years conducting Berlioz and he is a worthy candidate to take on Davis' mantle of chief Berlioz specialist. Comparing this set with the two Davis versions it is worthy to stand alongside those two in terms of the conducting and on conducting alone I can't pick a winner from the three, there are places I prefer one over the other two in all of them. Some may find the sound on the earlier Davis not up to scratch, but all the four recordings I have reviewed are in very good sound IMO.

What distinguishes this set is the singers. Lemieux is my favourite Cassandre from all the various CD and DVD recordings (including some live performances of the opera on CD that I haven't included in my review). It helps that she is a true francophone and she uses every word in the text to portray every nuance of this character's fate. In act two she goes completely bonkers to such a degree that she is metaphorically sticking two fingers up to those who see this opera as staid, long winded or boring. Spyres is also the best Aeneas on disc and his French is very good to my ear. He has the perfect blend of heroic squillo and light, lyrical finesse that Berlioz demands. DiDonato makes an excellent Dido - she is only beaten by Janet Baker and whilst I prefer Veasey's tone and size of voice for the part, DiDonato's impassioned delivery of the final scenes are so heart-rending that I prefer her over Veasey.

There is some fine singing from the supporting cast who are all (or almost all) francophone singers (and it tells). This then is the definitive Troyens now. Whilst I understand why the Davis 1969 version has obtained the status of reference recording (it was the only one available for 25 years and had no realistic rival until 2001), I'm afraid it no longer can claim to hold that place as this set knocks it out of the water on all fronts. There are certainly places where I prefer the conducting on that earlier set, however overall Nelson is as much the consummate Berliozian and his cast has no weak links unlike all the other recordings.

I would rank the four recordings thus:

1) Nelson

2) Davis 2001

3) Davis 1969

4) Dutoit (Although this is way below the others)

N.
 

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I agree with a lot of what you have to say, the main difference being our diametrically opposed views on Vickers's Enée. For the conducting, I mostly prefer Davis I to Davis II, but there are moments when the reverse is true. Lang is much better than Lindholm and Voigt, but I don't much like De Young, who sounds too blowsy for my taste. I much prefer Veasey.

There is also a great deal I like about the Nelson set, especially DiDonato's Didon. She is an intelligent and musical singer, with a fabulous stage presence, though we we obviously don't see that here. I just miss that last ounce of individuality and engagement you get from Baker, a singer, paradoxically, whom DiDonato evidently admires a great deal. Spyres is excellent too, but I can't get way from feeling that, in the house, and in a staged as opposed to concert performance, he would be underpowered. Nevertheless the Nelson is a superb performance, and undoubtedly the best we have had since Davis.

If asked to choose a preference. I would probably put the two Davis versions just ahead of the Nelson, with the Dutoit trailing far behind.
 

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I have this one, apparently nla...

I've heard it, but aside from the wonderful Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, I didn't think it had much else to commend it. On this showing, Levine is definitely not a Berlioz conductor, and the rest of the cast aren't up to much.

Another live performance ruined by its conductor is Prêtre in this 1969 radio broadcast. It's a great shame, because the three main soloists (Gedda as Enée, Horne as Cassandre and Verrett as Didon) have a lot going for them.

 

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Yes, it's wonderful (and new to me). I also wonder what Verreau would have made of it (he is the Faust in the Markevitch Damnation of Faust.

N.
Yes I used to have that version on LP. Rather let down by the cuts and the mezzo, Consuelo Rubio, if I remember correctly.
 

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I'm no Berlioz expert, but I am very happy with this set.
The sound is great and I like the casts as well.
I don't feel the need to buy other versions of these works.
Oh, and the price is a steal.
 
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I'm no Berlioz expert, but I am very happy with this set.
The sound is great and I like the casts as well.
I don't feel the need to buy other versions of these works.
Oh, and the price is a steal.
I've only heard the Damnation of Faust and Troyens on that box set and neither would be my first choice recording for the operas. Have you heard the Nelson recording of Troyens?

N.
 

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I've only heard the Damnation of Faust and Troyens on that box set and neither would be my first choice recording for the operas. Have you heard the Nelson recording of Troyens?

N.
No sir, I haven't.
 
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I've only heard the Damnation of Faust and Troyens on that box set and neither would be my first choice recording for the operas. Have you heard the Nelson recording of Troyens?

N.
I have never heard Dutoit's recording but have (had) an LP of the original Davis (the box set with the fancy books in it), and have the second Davis. I have also heard the Nelson recording and, as much as I like both DiDonato and Nelson (his Benvenuto Cellini is superb), I was slightly disappointed with it. My preference is for Gardiner's DVD from Théâtre du Châtelet with the ORR, Gregory Kunde as Aeneas, Susan Graham as Dido and Anna Caterina Antonacci as Cassandra. The latter particularly is quite stunning (almost literally) in her intensity. Other than the principals, it is a mostly Francophone cast. While Kunde is not in the same heroic mold as Vickers, neither does he overwhelm everyone, the beautiful act 4 duet being a perfect example. While the performance falls down in two respects, some of the costumes and using an earlier version of the ending which doesn't work as well, the rest has a magic of a real performance enhanced by the use of an original instruments orchestra - a difference which shows itself in the bold, brassy sections. So, my ranking would be Gardiner, probably a tie between Nelson and Davis II, then Davis I.

FYI...
 

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For me, it’s:

1. Dutoit
2. Nelson
3. Davis ‘69
4. Davis ‘01

The Nelson is a revaluation and I just prefer the casts of it, and Dutoit, to Davis. They are all good, and enjoyable in their own ways, but I turn to the first two far more often than the Davis ‘69 and I never listen to the Davis ‘01 anymore.

Sorry, to me, Davis is plodding and boring in the '69 recording, and the cast ins't that great. The '01 recording is better tempo wise, but again, not the best cast.

The Dutoit is exciting and I believe Dutoit had more insight into the score than Davis. It's also better cast. I can say the same thing about Nelson.
 

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I've heard it, but aside from the wonderful Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, I didn't think it had much else to commend it. On this showing, Levine is definitely not a Berlioz conductor, and the rest of the cast aren't up to much.]
Can't argue with this, I got it strictly for Lorraine and not Levine. Just wanted to add it to the roster.
 

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My favourite recording is maybe an unorthodox choice but still worthy of consideration. The 1957 production with Vickers, Thebom and Shuard, conducted by Kubilek has a lot to recommend it despite some drawbacks. Firstly, it's sung in English but this doesn't particulalry bother me, for some it will undoubtedly be a deal breaker though. Secondly, there are a few cuts, the ballet music the most immediately obvious but I'm perfectly happy to do without most of it. There are a few errors in the edition used in the order of a few things, most notably the royal hunt and storm being placed after the love duet in act 4.

As for the main soloists, Amy Shuard as Cassandre might not be to everyone's tastes but here she is in best form. She was a wonderful but highly variable dramatic soprano, occasionally adopting a slightly nasal method of vocal production but here she sounds fine, although her lower register could do with some added power. That being said, she characterises well and can be thrilling when she unleashes the volume in her upper register.

John Vickers is a much fresher, more lyrical but also more heroic sounding Aeneas here than in his later studio recording with David where I don't really like him. His duet with Thebom is exquisitely beautiful, beyond any other performance in my opinion.

Thebom was a very pleasant surprise here. I was recently impressed with her powerful, well characterised but uneven Amneris from a live 1953 performance but here she seems far more suited to the music's demands. The voice is beautiful and full with a rich lower register. Her diction is very good and she brings real nobility to the role of Didon.

The supporting cast is very good and Kubelik takes a dramatic and muscular view of the work which works very well. Anyone thinking of acquiring this performance should search for the Testament issue however as the OperaDepot version has much poorer sound quality. With Testament the sound is beautifully clear, far better than you would ever expect from other versions.
 

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The first recording is still my favorite. While most people criticize the casting of Berit Lindholm, it is the reason I place this recording above all others.

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MIne too. For the most parts I prefer the singers on this one to the ones on the LSO Live version.

I enjoyed the Nelson recording when I first heard it, but, on repeated listening, I still don't think it really compares with Davis's first.
 
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