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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
Pristine re-issued the Scotto/Di Stefano/Bastianini version any thoughts about that one?
I listened to the excerpt on Pristine's website and it sounds amazing. Very tempting and very reasonably priced at £15.
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
It's funny how the myths somehow survive. There is no doubt the weight loss affected her voice, but it also changed her as an artist to quite an extent. There are all sorts of other theories of why her voice started to let her down so early, some physiological, some psychological, but many of her greatest performances were post weight loss. Her anus mirabilis was no doubt 1955 (she started dieting in 1953 and by the opening of the La Scala season of 1954 she was the svelte figure everyone recognises). 1955 is the year of the fabulous Visconti/Bernstein La Sonnambula, the Visconti/Giulini La Traviata, the Zeffirelli Il Turco in Italia, the Karajan/Berlin Lucia di Lammermoor, her arguably greatest ever performance of Norma at La Scala, with Del Monaco and Simionato, all of which are preserved in sound. She also made seminal studio recordings of Madama Butterfly with Karajan, and Rigoletto and Aida with Serafin and sang in Chicago for a fabulously successful second season. Her roles were Butterfly, Elvira in I Puritani and Leonora in Il Trovatore with Jussi Bjoerling, whch unfortunately was not recorded.

From 1955 onwards there is a slight tailing off, but there are still some magnificent performances ahead of her. The live Anna Bolena and Un Ballo in Maschera of 1957, the Dallas Medea and the Covent Garden La Traviata of 1958 (arguably her greatest performance in the role), studio recordings of Il Trovatore, La Boheme, La Gioconda, her second Norma, Carmen and recital records, such as Mad Scenes, Verdi Heroines and the first French recital.

The first studio recording of Lucia di Lammermoor was actually her first studio recording for EMI, recorded in 1953 and thus not ony before the weight loss, but also when she was at her heaviest. She is in fabulous voice, but so she is in Berlin in 1955, when Karajan includes a bit more of the score, though it is still cut. That said, this is one of those performances that has rightly earned the epithet legendary. Happily it is also sonically one of her best live recordings (the Warner transfer might not be the last word, but it is easily good enough) and anyone who loves, or wants to hear this opera, should hear it.



There is a detailed review of it on my blog http://tsaraslondon.com/2018/01/13/lucia-di-lammermoor-berlin-1955/.

In any case, anyone who wants to hear this opera, should make sure they listen to the twin peaks of Callas and Sutherland. My preference for Sutherland is her debut in the role at Covent Garden in 1959 under Serafin, but others would no doubt disagree and pick one of her two studio recordings.

Elsewhere on my blog I have also reviewed both Callas's studio recordings. The later one, from 1959, though it enjoys the best sound (recorded in stereo in Kingsway Hall with the Philharmonia), is perhaps only for those who have already capitulated to Callas. It cannot be denied that the top of the voice is seriously compromised here, but the filigree of the role is still exquisite.
Being a huge Karajan fan and also fond of Callas, this set is very enticing. However the sound quality does seem rather challenging to my ears.
 

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Being a huge Karajan fan and also fond of Callas, this set is very enticing. However the sound quality does seem rather challenging to my ears.
It's certainly not comparable to a stereo studio set, but it's not much worse than many mono recordings of the time. It's possible that it's better in this incarnation.



https://divinarecords.com/maria-callas-lucia-di-lammermoor-berlin-29-september-1955-dvn-19/

What is not in doubt is the quality of the performance, one that has entered into the realms of legend. It might not end up being your only recording, but it should certainly be one of them.

It's also wise to remember that, as with all Callas live recordings, the different issues by different companies can vary enormously in quality. I thought the Warner was quite good - certainly a good deal better than the one EMI issued, but some find the Divina issue even better.
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 · (Edited)
As a Knappertsbusch, Furtwangler et al fan, I am no stranger to the miseries of different releases from different labels!

I think you have hit the nail on the head saying this Callas/Karajan might not be my only recording, but should be one of them. That is what I think will happen, in due course. For now after a fair bit of listening to a reasonable number of recordings, I have ordered hard copy (CD) of the Sutherland, Pavarotti, Bonynge Decca set.

Thank you Tsaraslondon et al, for all the fascinating, expert advice on this very important matter!

It's certainly not comparable to a stereo studio set, but it's not much worse than many mono recordings of the time. It's possible that it's better in this incarnation.



https://divinarecords.com/maria-callas-lucia-di-lammermoor-berlin-29-september-1955-dvn-19/

What is not in doubt is the quality of the performance, one that has entered into the realms of legend. It might not end up being your only recording, but it should certainly be one of them.

It's also wise to remember that, as with all Callas live recordings, the different issues by different companies can vary enormously in quality. I thought the Warner was quite good - certainly a good deal better than the one EMI issued, but some find the Divina issue even better.
 
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Thank you Tsaraslondon et al, for all the fascinating, expert advice on this very important matter!
Do I detect a soupçon, a mere hint, of sarcasm here?:lol:
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 · (Edited)
Do I detect a soupçon, a mere hint, of sarcasm here?:lol:
No, I was genuinely expressing gratitude for the advice that was imbued with erudition and passion.

And by Jove it is indeed an important matter!
 
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Few operas have a title that screams "DIVA TIME!!" like Lucia but then offers a fairly balanced importance level for Soprano and Tenor aaaaand...... this time the tenor gets the final word.

When he's right, Carlo Bergonzi's Edgardo is unsurpassable! And in the versions he's left us....with Moffo, with Sills, and here in Japan with Scotto, he's dead on every time. Take a peak at the Tomb scene to see if, at least his contribution, is to your tastes.
 

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No, I was genuinely expressing gratitude for the advice that was imbued with erudition and passion.

And by Jove it is indeed an important matter!
I suppose in these uncertain times it does indeed rank as 'important'.
 
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No, I was genuinely expressing gratitude for the advice that was imbued with erudition and passion.

And by Jove it is indeed an important matter!
Idiotic double post!,
 
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Do I detect a soupçon, a mere hint, of sarcasm here?:lol:
Do I detect a soupçon, a mere hint, of sarcasm here?:lol:
And I thought I was cynical! ;)

I'm glad that we could help you HenryPenfold choose the best recording(s) for you. You will always get a range of views and opinions when you ask TC which is the best recording of an opera (unless it's a rarer work that only has few versions). However, it's rare that a widely recommended set doesn't have a lot to recommend it.

N.
 

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Few operas have a title that screams "DIVA TIME!!" like Lucia but then offers a fairly balanced importance level for Soprano and Tenor aaaaand...... this time the tenor gets the final word.

When he's right, Carlo Bergonzi's Edgardo is unsurpassable! And in the versions he's left us....with Moffo, with Sills, and here in Japan with Scotto, he's dead on every time. Take a peak at the Tomb scene to see if, at least his contribution, is to your tastes.
Yes, it's forgotten that Lucia was sometimes thought of as a tenor opera in the nineteenth century! I think that it's unfortunate that we often focus on the soprano in a recording at the detriment to the other singers. For example, in this thread the discussion revolved almost exclusively around respective sopranos' performance of the title role in their different recordings (mostly Callas and Sutherland). Whilst this was necessary, there is more to the opera than that and almost nobody commented on the merits of the Bonynge recording having Pavarotti, Milnes and Ghiaurov - all on excellent form. In fact this is part of the reason why I am more of a fan of Sutherland's than most here (because I am a huge Pavarotti fan and even with less than perfect diction she certainly wasn't chopped liver).

I'm not a fan of Bergonzi (as someone else said hereabouts recently, I find him somewhat boring. There's too much style over substance for my tastes). I did enjoy this performance though, it's stylish yet also has a sincerity that is often lacking in the aria.

That said, my favourite version of the final scene would probably be Di Stefano's in Berlin.

N.
 

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Yes, it's forgotten that Lucia was sometimes thought of as a tenor opera in the nineteenth century! I think that it's unfortunate that we often focus on the soprano in a recording at the detriment to the other singers. For example, in this thread the discussion revolved almost exclusively around respective sopranos' performance of the title role in their different recordings (mostly Callas and Sutherland). Whilst this was necessary, there is more to the opera than that and almost nobody commented on the merits of the Bonynge recording having Pavarotti, Milnes and Ghiaurov - all on excellent form. In fact this is part of the reason why I am more of a fan of Sutherland's than most here (because I am a huge Pavarotti fan and even with less than perfect diction she certainly wasn't chopped liver).

I'm not a fan of Bergonzi (as someone else said hereabouts recently, I find him somewhat boring. There's too much style over substance for my tastes). I did enjoy this performance though, it's stylish yet also has a sincerity that is often lacking in the aria.

That said, my favourite version of the final scene would probably be Di Stefano's in Berlin.

N.
I always say of this cut that I think "Bergonzi is unsurpassable...I'll always allow for another giant at the top but I do not believe he can be topped!" And to find out if I need to alter that quote, I've got to give a listen to DiStefano in Berlin!......;)Don't hold your breath Conte;):lol:!!!
 

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Yes, it's forgotten that Lucia was sometimes thought of as a tenor opera in the nineteenth century! I think that it's unfortunate that we often focus on the soprano in a recording at the detriment to the other singers. For example, in this thread the discussion revolved almost exclusively around respective sopranos' performance of the title role in their different recordings (mostly Callas and Sutherland). Whilst this was necessary, there is more to the opera than that and almost nobody commented on the merits of the Bonynge recording having Pavarotti, Milnes and Ghiaurov - all on excellent form. In fact this is part of the reason why I am more of a fan of Sutherland's than most here (because I am a huge Pavarotti fan and even with less than perfect diction she certainly wasn't chopped liver).

I'm not a fan of Bergonzi (as someone else said hereabouts recently, I find him somewhat boring. There's too much style over substance for my tastes). I did enjoy this performance though, it's stylish yet also has a sincerity that is often lacking in the aria.

That said, my favourite version of the final scene would probably be Di Stefano's in Berlin.

N.
Of course one of the great merits of the Callas Berlin performance is that not only is she on superb form, but the performance also has great singers in the other important roles (Di Stefano as Edgardo, Panerai as Enrico and Zaccaria as Raimondo) and the great Karajan in the pit.
 

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The Gergiev has Dessay as singer, that is great, however she did a production in the Met, there her voice is even better.( Not commercially released)
Dessay's mad scene from this production can be found on Youtube:


While it may not be the absolute greatest rendition vocally (one might take offence at her somewhat heavy vibrato, some of her mannerisms plus a few forceful high notes here and there), I find both her vocal and physical acting to be absolutely chilling. She's superior to many sopranos in that regard, especially to Netrebko who unfortunately stars in the DVD release of this gorgeous production.
 

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Yes, it's forgotten that Lucia was sometimes thought of as a tenor opera in the nineteenth century! I think that it's unfortunate that we often focus on the soprano in a recording at the detriment to the other singers. For example, in this thread the discussion revolved almost exclusively around respective sopranos' performance of the title role in their different recordings (mostly Callas and Sutherland). Whilst this was necessary, there is more to the opera than that and almost nobody commented on the merits of the Bonynge recording having Pavarotti, Milnes and Ghiaurov - all on excellent form. In fact this is part of the reason why I am more of a fan of Sutherland's than most here (because I am a huge Pavarotti fan and even with less than perfect diction she certainly wasn't chopped liver).

Yeah....I'm afraid we hear this differently! But Pavarotti and Di Stefano do beautiful voices!

I'm not a fan of Bergonzi (as someone else said hereabouts recently, I find him somewhat boring. There's too much style over substance for my tastes). I did enjoy this performance though, it's stylish yet also has a sincerity that is often lacking in the aria.

That said, my favourite version of the final scene would probably be Di Stefano's in Berlin.

N.
Yeah....I'm afraid we hear this differently! Not enough going on in DiStefano's for me and what Pavarotti has going on, doesn't really sound that convincing..... to me! But of course I'd eagerly go hear either of them anytime!
 

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Dessay's mad scene from this production can be found on Youtube:


While it may not be the absolute greatest rendition vocally (one might take offence at her somewhat heavy vibrato, some of her mannerisms plus a few forceful high notes here and there), I find both her vocal and physical acting to be absolutely chilling. She's superior to many sopranos in that regard, especially to Netrebko who unfortunately stars in the DVD release of this gorgeous production.
I witnessed one of the most unusual responses to an aria or scene, at the end of Dessay's Mad scene at the Met a few years back. She ended and no one applauded! Silence! Now you could assume that meant that people were so moved. But my buddy and I talked about it after and were not at all convinced that that was what it was. It just didn't have that feeling. Besides...amidst three or four-thousand people, as soon as one starts clapping after an aria there will always be lots of automatic clappers who will go ahead and clap, even if people arond them were devastated. Not knowing the scene, I remember not being sure if it had another section, so I waited and then nothing. And it certainly wasn't because she wasn''t good because she was great!
 

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I witnessed one of the most unusual responses to an aria or scene, at the end of Dessay's Mad scene at the Met a few years back. She ended and no one applauded! Silence! Now you could assume that meant that people were so moved. But my buddy and I talked about it after and were not at all convinced that that was what it was. It just didn't have that feeling. Besides...amidst three or four-thousand people, as soon as one starts clapping after an aria there will always be lots of automatic clappers who will go ahead and clap, even if people arond them were devastated. Not knowing the scene, I remember not being sure if it had another section, so I waited and then nothing. And it certainly wasn't because she wasn''t good because she was great!
Miss Dessay wanted to be an actress and relished any role that gave her the opportunity to do more than just sing - any stage business was OK with her. There's another video of her as Lucia di Lammermoor in which she's dragging herself on the floor, trailing her half-torn off dress, almost exposing a breast, and singing superbly throughout. It may have been the Paris version of the opera in French Lucie de Lammermoor, but not sure about that.
 

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Dessay's mad scene from this production can be found on Youtube:


While it may not be the absolute greatest rendition vocally (one might take offence at her somewhat heavy vibrato, some of her mannerisms plus a few forceful high notes here and there), I find both her vocal and physical acting to be absolutely chilling. She's superior to many sopranos in that regard, especially to Netrebko who unfortunately stars in the DVD release of this gorgeous production.
Thank you so very much for your help.
 
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