PUCCINI: Tosca
Leontyne Price (Tosca); Placido Domingo (Cavaradossi); Sherrill Milnes (Scarpia), Clifford Grant (Angelotti); Paul Plishka (The Sacristan), Francis Egerton (Spoletta); John Alldis Choir; Wandsworth School Boys' Choir; New Philharmonia Orch/Zubin Mehta, cond.
RCA RED SEAL 70783 (2 CDs) (ADD) TT: 45:30 & 56:32
BUY NOW FROM AMAZON

PUCCINI: La Bohème
Montserrat Caballé (Mimì); Placido Domingo (Rudolfo); Judith Blegen (Musetta); Sherrill Milnes (Marcello); Ruggero Raimondi (Colline); Vincente Sardinero (Schaunard); Noel Mangin (Benoit); John AlldisChoir; London Philharmonic Orch/Sir George Solti, cond.
RCA RED SEAL 70784 (2 CDSs) (ADD) TT: 51:42 & 54:20
BUY NOW FROM AMAZON

VERDI: Rigoletto
Anna Moffo (Gilda); Robert Merrill (Rigoletto); Alfredo Kraus (Duke of Mantua); Rosalind Elias (Maddalena); Ezio Flagello (Sparafucile); David Ward (Count Monterone); RCA Italian Opera Chorus and Orch/Sir Georg Solti, cond.
RCA REC SEAL 70785 (2 CDs) (ADD) TT: 53:33 & 59:32
BUY NOW FROM AMAZON

DONIZETTI: L'Elisir d'Amore
Eleana Cotrubas (Adina); Placido Domingo (Nemorino); Sir Geraint Evans (Dulcamara); Ingvar Wixell (Belcore); Lillian Watson (Gianetta); Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/John Pritchard, cond.
SONY CLASSICAL S2K 96458 (2 CDs) (ADD) TT:70:30 & 53:58
BUY NOW FROM AMAZON

HUMPERDINCK: Hänsel and Gretel
Frederica Von Stade (Hänsel); Ileana Cotrubas (Gretel); Christa Ludwig (Mother); Siegmund Nimsgern (Father); Kiri Te Kanawa (The Sandman); Ruth Welting (The Dew Fairy); Elisabeth Söderström (The Witch); Gürzenich Orch/John Pritchard, cond.
SONY CLASSICAL S2K 96455 (2 CDs) (ADD) TT: 61:22 & 46:20
BUY NOW FROM AMAZON

Here we have the first five in what undoubtedly will be a series of special reissues—Masterworks Opera—unique in that with the joining of forces of Sony Classical and RCA Red Seal, major recordings of both labels are included, three from RCA, two from Sony. Each issue has its own label identify, but all are released via Sony. All have been expertly remastered using Sony's Direct Stream Digital (DSD) System and SBM direct, and the results are just fine. Original LP covers are utilized, and each set includes a PDF file that contains a complete libetto with translation—although each set contains a complete cast and track listings, and a plot summary. These are all budget price (a list price of about $17), and if operaphiles don't already own these outstanding performances, this is an easy way to obtain them.

Top honors go to the 1963 recording of Rigoletto with Anna Moffo a vocally resplendent Gilda, Alfredo Krauss superb as the Duke, and Robert Merrill in one of his finest roles. La Bohème, in spite of its starry cast, isn't quite as special although it is a pleasure to hear Domingo's Rodolfo and Caballé's Mimì. Tosca was recorded in August 1972, Leontyne Price's second of the role of Floria Tosca; the first, with Karajan and the Vienna Philharmonic and Giuseppe di Stefano as Cavaradossi, was recorded in Vienna in 1962 and was a sonic blockbuster by John Culshaw. Price was more radiant in the earlier recording, but this later one is admirable even though not quite as spectacularly recorded.

Donizetti's Elixir of Love, recorded in 1977, receives a delightful performance headed by Romanian soprano Ileana Cotrubas's brilliant Adina, partnered by Placido Domingo and Sir Geraint Evans. She also is featured in the 1978 recording of Hänsel and Gretel, with another dream cast as listed above.

I don't particularly relish the necessity of having to go to the internet for a complete libretto, and it is a bit cumbersome to print it out and, of course, after one does that, it wouldn't fit into the jewel-box. However, this is an inexpensive way for collectors to acquire major recordings at a very reasonable price. I look forward to future issues in the series

R.E.B. (November 2005)