On paper a star cast that has performed together many times. The unexcelled Met orchestra once again turns in a stunning performance. James Levine's choice of tempi is impeccable in every situation save one. In the Dulcamara/Nemorino duet of the first act, Levine paced evenly without the customary holds. The orchestra's playing was the only consistent factor in this recording.
Pavarotti at times sounded tired - other times fresh. In his aria after the Dulcamara duet, he cracked on the change of registers. He captured the tipsy Nemorino at his best. The Una furtiva lagrima was passionless and rushed. Kathleen Battle did nothing to make her presence felt. Most of the time, her voice was lost amongst the others. Leo Nucci as Belcore contributed a solid authoritative performance.
I have never cared for Dara's voice. Too much vibrato bordering on warbling. Dara's voice cracked on the eccellente in his duet with Pavarotti. His patter unfeeling and only inspired in the finale of the second act. At a couple of points, someone could be heard to cough in the background. Take away the playing of the orchestra and singing of the chorus and you have to ask yourself, "Why was this recording made?" One would also have to wonder about the effect of the four month gap between the start and finish of the recording. This certainly affected the consistency.
Copyright © 1997, Stephen L. Parker