GALA CONCERT - Leonie Rysanek, soprano/James King, tenor; Munich Radio Symphony Orch/Heinz Wallberg, cond.
Excerpts from La Gioconda, Tosca, I Pagliacci, Intermezzo, Ariadne auf Naxos, Rienzi, Tannhäuser, Götterdämmerung and Die Walküre
MELODRAM GM4.0065 (2 CDs) (F) (ADD) TT:  47:41 & 55:01

Arias from Mignon, Manon, Louise, Linda di Chamounix, Lucia di Lammermoor, I Puritani, Roberto Devereux, Maria Stuarda, Anna Bolena, Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Zaide, Der Opernball, Die lustige Witwe, The Ballad of Baby Doe, Die tote Stadt and Daphne; Strauss:  Breit' uber main Haupt dein schwarzes Haar, Op. 19 No. 2
Beverly Sills, soprano, with various orch/conductors
DGG 471 766 (2 CDs) (M) (ADD) TT:  71:75 & 62:37

The Melodram set is frustrating. At full price for two CDs, it's a hefty dollar outlay for performances by the two singers that easily could have been contained on one CD.  Surely no one would buy this to hear orchestral excerpts from Gioconda, Intermezzo and Götterdämmerung played by the Munich Radio Orchestra - the focus here is on Rysanek and King, both in their prime in this gala concert recorded in Munich January 21, 1974.  Total playing time for their performances is about 71 minutes - easily accommodated on a single CD but producers have elected to include purely orchestral interludes from the event.  However, fans of these remarkable singers doubtless will wish to own this pricey set, particularly as both Rysanek and King are in top form - stereo sound is outstanding and well captures both singers' glorious voices.  Particularly effective is the love scene concluding the first act of Walküre.  As usual with Melodram, there are no texts.

Deutsche Grammophon's twin-CD Sills collection is welcome.  A Millenium Classics CD (see REVIEW) contained her stunning debut recital for ABC Records recorded in 1968 when she was at the height of her powers.  DG's new compilation has but one track from that CD (which is very hard to find), the aria from Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix.  It also contains a brief excerpt from her 1959 recording of "Gold is a fine thing" from Douglas Moore's The Ballad of Baby Doe, one of her earliest triumphs.  The remainder are recordings from 1970 to 1973, excerpts from recital CDs and complete opera recordings of roles for which she was famous.  Her voice on occasion had developed a slight wobble, unfortunately, but her performances still impress. Unquestionably she is one of the great American divas.  No texts. The two CDs sell for the price of one.

R.E.B. (January 2003)