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CD Review

Giacomo Puccini

The Great Opera Collection

  • Tosca 1
  • Manon Lescaut 2
  • La Bohème 3
  • Madama Butterfly 4
  • La Fanciulla del West 5
  • Turandot 6
  • Il Tabarro 7
  • Suor Angelica 8
  • Gianni Schicchi 9
1-9 Renata Tebaldi, soprano
7-9 Lucia Danieli, mezzo-soprano
1,2,5-7 Mario Del Monaco, tenor
1-3,5 Piero de Palma, tenor
6,7,9 Renato Ercolani, tenor
2,4,5 Angelo Mercuriali, tenor
1-3,6,9 Fernando Corena, bass
1,5,7,9 Silvio Maionica, bass baritone
1,2 Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra & Chorus/Francesco Molinari-Pradelli
3,4 Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra & Chorus/Tullio Serafin
5 Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra & Chorus/Franco Capuana
6 Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra & Chorus/Alberto Erede
7-9 Florence Maggio Musicale Orchestra & Chorus/Lamberto Gardelli
Decca 4759385 15CDs ADD Rec. 1954-62
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This well nigh definitive collection of Puccini operas comes just in time for the composer's 150th anniversary and if you are not too fussy about having your libretto at first hand, then it could be the standard recommendation for years to come.

Having Renata Tebaldi as the main protagonist in all seven operas is indeed a great luxury and although the recordings vary in quality, there's no denying the magnificent voice that was hers in that golden decade of the 1950's. She is partnered with varying degrees of success by Mario del Monaco, Carlo Bergonzi, George London and Cornell Macneill, the latter is a fine exponent of the Jack Rance character in "La fanciulla del West".

Tebaldi's "Tosca" is brilliant and full of white heat as one could expect of her earlier partnership with Del Monaco who is equally superb as Cavaradossi although I feel that the star of the show here is George London whose singing makes for one of the greatest Scarpia's on record. Sometimes, the energy and vitality seem missing from Tullio Serafin's version of Madama Butterfly although a plus point is that it is contained on only two CDs. "La Bohème" is also slightly staid but it gets better as time goes by although the Rome acoustic is slightly recessed for the orchestra.

I had already listened to Gardelli's "Il Trittico" and only confirmed what I thought before, this is the definitive version with fine and opulent 1960's Decca sound and some top class singing from Tebaldi, Fernando Corena and Robert Merrill not to mention Del Monaco in rue fine fettle. "Manon" is slightly earthbound but the 1954 sound is quite thrilling for its age and as in the other versions, the opera gets better as it goes along.

With such legendary singers and the compact box size, this set deserves a wholehearted recommendation to any completist who wishes to have almost all of Puccini's oeuvre on CD. Presentation includes synopsis, cast lists and a short note on each opera. Well done to Decca for serving the opera community with yet another winner.

Copyright © 2008 by Gerald Fenech