WAGNER: Tristan and Isolde
JOHANN STRAUSS, JR: Die Fledermaus
JOHANN STRAUSS, JR: Fledermaus Ballet and Gala
DONIZETTI: L'elisir d'amore
Thank you Pristine Audio for these remarkable reissues! . Furtwängler's 1952 EMI recording of Tristan and Isolde is surely one of the greatest operatic performances ever recorded commercially . Producer Walter Legge assembled a fine cast headed by Kirsten Flagstad, known in all opera houses as the Isolde of her era. Although at the end of her fabulous career, she was still in fine voice (although after the recording was issued it was found that Elisabeth Schwarzkokpf had contributed two brief high C's). Furtwängler's impassioned conducting brings out detail never heard before, and the superb Philharmonia Orchestra is in top form. The mono sound is well-balanced, but there were a few problems with the master recording all solved by Andrew Rose's XR remastering that provides extended frequency range and correction of pitch problems. This remarkable recording has always been in the catalog, and currently is available on other labels at budget price. However, even if you already have this recording , you should investigate this important issue to hear it in all its glory. .For whatever reason, Pristine Audio has released this in two separate albums, instead of a 4-CD set.
In 1961 the Met presented Turandot, an opera they had not given for three decades because of the difficulty of finding singers who could cope with the two principal roles. February 24, 1961 they gave the first performance of a new production and there was no question they found what they were looking for: Birgit Nilsson and Franco Corelli were available, and an added plus was Leopold Stokowski had agreed to conduct. Dimitri Mitropoulos was scheduled for this but he died from a heart attack late in 1960, and when Rudolf Bing approached Stokowski, he accepted immediately. Stokowki and Bing disagreed over many production details, but everything eventually worked out. The premiere of the new production, with scenery by Cecil Beaton, took place February 24, a benefit performance, and it was a triumphant occasion. Thirteen performances were given including one each in Philadelphia and Boston. Nilsson and Corelli sang all of them except for two performances in which Richard Tucker replaced Corelli. Liù was sung by Anna Moffo 3 times, Teresa Stratas sung it twice, Lucine Amara 5 times, and Leontyne Price and Licia Albanese each sang it once—as did Gabriella Tucci in an extra performance led by Zubin Mehta. This new Pristine Audio set is of the broadcast March 4, 1961, and it is exciting indeed. Both Corelli and Nilsson are at their peak and seem to be trying to outsing each other. Moffo is wonderful as Liù; three years later she made her fine RCA recording of Songs of the Auvergne with Stokowski on the podium. Stokowski, 78 at the time of the premiere performance, had broken his hip and walked with crutches but once he started conducting he was the essence of vigor. He does make a few changes in orchestration, particularly in the final pages where he adds smashing gongs to great effect. This performance has been around for years in pirated versions, but Andrew Rose's restoration is superior to any of them. Lover of fine singing must have this set!
In 1960 Decca decided to issue a deluxe series of opera recordings, and this Fledermaus was the first. Their roster of singers was unrivaled at the time, and casting could not be more perfect. It included a gala sequence with guest appearances by a number of major singers performing for the assembled guests at Prince Orlofsky's party in Act II: Renata Tebaldi (Villa-Lied); Fernando Corena (Domino); Birgit Nilsson (I Could Have Danced All Night);Mario del Monaco (Passione); Teresa Berganza (Lullaby); Joan Sutherland (Il Bacio); Jussi Björling (Dein ist mein genzes Hertz); Leontyne Price (Summertime); Giulietta Simionato & Ettore Bastianini (Anything you can do); Ljuba Welitsch (Wien, Wien nur du allein). Applause and party sounds are heard, and everyone seems to be having a great time. The rich and resonant sound, an example of early Decca two-channel recording, was engineered by John Culshaw and his crew.The original album was issued on two disks for Fledermaus, with a separate disk for the Gala party sequence, and that 's the way Pristine Audio offers it. To fill out the Gala we have four Strauss waltzes conducted by Karajan with the Berlin Philharmonic recorded 1940-1942k, mono recordings remastered in effective ambient stereo. Karajan's 1955 Fledermaus recording with a cast headed by ElisabethSchwarzkopf is still available, as is a live performance recorded live at the Vienna State Opera New Year's Eve 1960.(REVIEW).
Recently Sony Classical issued a performance of Donizetti's L'Elisir d'amore featuring Carlo Bergonzi and Roberta Peters, a Met broadcast from March 5, 1966 (REVIEW), and now we have another live performance of this opera from the Met. This features lyric tenor Bruno Landi (1900-1968) and Bidu Sayao (1902-1999), a broadcast of January 3, 1942. This issue is particularly important as the remarkable Brazilian soprano made few recordings in spite of the fact that she was loved in major opera houses, particular the Met. Sayao is best known for her 1945 recording of Villa Lobos' Bachianas Brasilieras No. 5 with the composer conducting. She sang at the Met from 1937 to 1951. Sayao is enchanting as Adina, totally secure vocally and it is easy to understand her popularity. Don't overlook her 1947 Met Gounod Romeo and Juliet in which she is paired with Jussi Bjöerling (REVIEW). It's unfortunate we don't have that luxury on this new reissue. Bruno Landi is adequate but little more. He sang 56 performances at the Met, 31 of which were as Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville. Salvatore Baccaloni is perfect as Dulcamara, and conductor Ettore Panizza keeps things going at a brisk pace. The transfer was made by a master in audio restoration, Ward Marston, who used a set of five 16-inch glass base lacquer coated disks, and he worked his usual magic, audio is remarkable for an 80 year old recording.
These recordings are available from PRISTINE AUDIO