Arias from Faust, Mireille, Roméo et Juliette, Les Huguenots, Louise, Carmen, Thais, and Manon Lescau
Montserrat Caballé, soprano; New Philharmonia Orch/Reynald Giovaninetti, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 6191 (M) TT: 59:58
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Arias from Un ballo en maschera, La traviata, La forza del destino, Otello, Carmen, La Bohème, Aida, I Pagliacci, Tosca, Madame Butterfly, Die Zauberflöte, Lohengrin, Die Meistersinger, Der Barbier von Bagdad and Hoffmann's Erzählungen; Leoncavallo's Mattinata
Björn Talén, tenor; various orch/cond.
PREISER 89654 (F) TT: 76:49
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Arias from Figaros Hochzeit, Der Freischütz, Lohengrin, Tristan und Isolde, Fidelio, Der fliegende Holländer, Tannhäuser, Faust, Die Afrikanerin, Die Walküre, Parsifal, Ariadne auf Naxos, and Tiefland.
Lilly Hafgren, soprano; various orch/cond.
PREISER 89651 (F) TT:77:33
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Arias from Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Martha, Hoffmann's Erzählungen, Rigoletto, and Madame Butterfly.
Erna Berger, soprano; various orch/cond.
BERLIN CLASSICS 0033042BC (M) TT: 50:48
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Arias from Margarete, Oberon, André Chenier, Der Bajazzo, Carmen, Der Troubadour, Der Rosenkavalier, Tosca, and Turandot.
Helge Rosvaenge, tenor; various orch/cond.
BERLIN CLASSICS 0033052BC (M)TT: 52:40
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VERDI: Un ballo in maschera
Plácido Domingo (Gustavo III); Josephine Barstow (Amelia); Leo Nucci (Renato); Florence Quivar (Ulrica); Sumi Jo (Oscar); Jean-Luc Chaignaud (Cristiano); Goran Simic (Horn); Kurt Rydl (Ribbing); Vienna State Opera Chorus; Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Herbert von Karajan, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 5641 (2 CDs) (B)TT: 63:16 & 72:14
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Admirers of Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé surely will wish to have this collection of French arias recorded in 1971 when she was in prime vocal state, her only recital disk for DGG, the cover of which is reproduced on the CD booklet. The disk is filled out with a duet from Manon Lescaut in which she is joined by Plácido Dominto, James Levine and the Met orchestra—even with this, the total playing time is less than an hour, but it is a mid-priced disk, but what a pleasure it is to hear her magnificent voice in Depuis le Jour and other works usually not associated with her.

Two superb singers of the past are featured on new Preiser issues. Norwegian tenor Björn Talén (1890-1947) initially sang in his native country but was signed by the Berlin State opera in 1922 where he sang lighter Wagnerian roles. Laterhe became known for his Puccini and Verdi, amply presented on this CD in recordings made from 1922-1928. In Italian roles, he often used his own translations which he felt better conveyed the music's meaning. His voice has a rich, baritonal quality, but apparently he was rather difficult to get along with; for both personal and private reasons he left Germany in 1932, returning to Norway.

Swedish-born soprano Lilly Johanna Maria Hafgren (1884-1965) sang a wide range of repertory in leading opera houses. During seven seasons at La Scala she sang all of her Wagnerian roles under Arturo Toscanini. She often sang in Berlin, and was the Empress in the first Berlin performance of Die Frau ohne Schatten; in 1934, after a performance of that opera which was conducted by the composer, she announced it was her final performance. At the peak of her career, when only 50 years old, she retired to private life. Music from some of her most important roles can be heard on this superb issue. As usual, Preiser's transfers are exemplary.

Soprano Erna Berger (1900-1990) gave most of her performances at the Berlin State Opera where she was first engaged by Wilhelm Furtwängler but also sang at other leading European opera houses . In the early '50s she was famous at the Met for her singing of Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier, and it was at this time she recorded Gilda in Rigoletto with Leonard Warren and Jan Peerce for RCA. Berlin Classics' CD contains many radio performances of music in which she excelled, including Mozart, Flotow, Offenbach, Verdi and Puccini, in which she is joined by Sieglinde Wagner, Peter Anders and Heinrich Schlusnus. Playing time is considerably less than an hour, but this is a mid-price CD. The label's disk devoted to tenor Helge Rosvaenge (1897-1972) has equally short playing time, but gives us the opportunity to hear this remarkable tenor in a variety of roles, all recorded 1941-1943 by Berlin radio and all sung in German. Both the Berger and Rosvaenge sound as if a touch of artifical reverb has been added, but the overall effect is pleasing.

DGG has a terrific bargain for opera lovers in the form of their 1989 recording of Verdi's A Masked Ball, the last opera recording of Herbert von Karajan. The cast is uniformly stroing, with soprano Barstow an intense, highly dramatic Amelia, Domingo at his best. The real star here is Karajan, whose conducting is strikingly vivid. The Vienna Philharmonic is in top form, the engineering stunning. There's no libretto but there is a track-by-track synopsis. And this is budget price!

R.E.B. (September 2006)