Opera Gala

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Opera Gala
Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne, Irma Kolassi, Janine Micheau, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Richard Conrad, Lisa della Casa, Kirsten Flagstad, etc

[ Decca Eloquence / 20 CD Box Set ]

Release Date: Friday 20 November 2020

From Adam to Zandonai, from 1954 to 1996, 20 CDs made up of no less than 28 Decca opera recordings, most of them recorded as highlights albums, many long unavailable, newly remastered and all featuring the greatest singers of their age.

In bygone years, before 24/7 streaming, recorded music was less readily available than it is now. Complete opera sets were an expensive luxury; yet opera, and singers, still captured the classical music public's imagination like no other genre. The advent of LP allowed for up to an hour's highlights from a stage-work, including the most popular arias and numbers, to be issued in a single, cost-effective product. Listeners who baulked at the cost of Solti's Ring cycle could nevertheless acquire Birgit Nilsson singing the Immolation Scene on one side the climactic scene of Salome on the other. But with John Pritchard in charge she also recorded a sequence of scenes from Verdi's Aida in 1963, and four years earlier the first-act scena from Tristan with Grace Hoffman as Brangäne and Knappertsbusch in Vienna.

Many of these 'highlights only' recordings have fallen from currency, but now we can all relive the pleasures of Regina Resnik's Mistress Quickly and Luigi Alva's Fenton (excerpts from Falstaff, 1963) and Marilyn Horne's first recorded Carmen (with her husband Henry Lewis, 1970). A sequence of rare Baroque operas features the most famous husband-and-wife team of all, Richard Bonynge and Joan Sutherland, in vocally spectacular excerpts from operas by Bononcini, Graun and Handel; Monica Sinclair's 'Si spietata' from Giulio Cesare is an astonishing piece of Baroque virtuosity. Meanwhile single-act operas (notably Cimarosa's Il Maestro di capella with Fernando Corena, 1960) Wolf-Ferrari's Il segreto di Susanna, 1976, directed by Lamberto Gardelli) and single acts of Wagner (the first and third acts of Die Walküre in Vienna, 1957) enjoyed all the attention to engineering and dramatic effect for which Decca's production team was famous.

Further highlights albums functioned as artist showcases: for the superb Greek-French mezzo Irma Kolassi in Berlioz and Massenet's Werther; Horne again in rare Rossini; and Lisa della Casa reprising her most notable Strauss heroines. The booklet of this uniquely compiled new set includes a new essay by Andrew Dalton on the history of opera highlights on disc as well as many treasurable artist and session photos: Resnik and her luggage, Nilsson and her Valkyrie's steed, Sutherland and her son in full cowboy rig.

'Lisa della Casa is an enchanting Arabella whose voice blends ideally with the no less clear but harder-grained soprano of Hilde Gueden.' The Record Guide, 1955 (Strauss, Arabella)

'This release's chief attraction - apart from its excellent sound - is [Corena's] splendid performance of the Cimarosa intermezzo, easily the best on records.' High Fidelity, April 1961 (Cimarosa, Il Maestro di capella)

'I recommend this delightful disc enthusiastically to all who enjoy Viennese operetta.' Gramophone, December 1961 (Kalman, Gräfin Mariza)

'A fascinating disc … A pure, heroic style is what [Nilsson] gives us on this record. The many exposed notes have a ping about them, and one tenses with excitement at the accuracy.' Gramophone, October 1963 (Verdi, Aida)

'Everything that sounds a bit contrived in Evans's portrayal [of Falstaff] sounds natural in Corena's; there is more bubbling fun, more bite, more elegance in the pointing of words… This sounds like a lovable. genuinely funny Sir John ... these passages play well even out of context.' High Fidelity, March 1964 (Verdi, Falstaff)

'The result is far more spectacular and exciting Handel than one is used to hearing.' Stereo Review, April 1965 (Handel, Giulio Cesare)

'Ghiaurov's contribution … is equal to the best I have ever heard.' Gramophone, September 1967 (Boito, Mefistofele)

'[Sutherland] is heard in only two arias - but what arias they are! And how she sings them!' Stereo Review, February 1969 (Graun, Montezuma)

'Spectacular is the word for Marilyn Horne's achievement here. These Rossini excerpts offer the most intricately contrived, the most excessively ornamented, and the widest-ranging vocal music imaginable … Miss Horne triumphs over them fearlessly … in this splendid display of golden-age -quality singing.' Stereo Review, August 1973 (Rossini, L'assedio di Corinto etc)

'Maria Chiara as Susanna is sweet and charming throughout ... this triumphant recording should vastly increase the number of [the opera's] turntable partisans.' Stereo Review, June 1977 (Wolf-Ferrari, Il segreto di Susanna)

'Sumi Jo is on top form, her sparkling coloratura diamond bright and effortlessly fluent … With effervescent playing from the WNO Orchestra and engaging, idiomatic singing from John Aler and Michel Trempont, this is a delightful confection.' BBC Music Magazine (Adam, Le toréador)

'If you have an interest in vocal music, this set is recommended with unreserved enthusiasm.' Fanfare, November 2017 (Kolassi singing Berlioz and Massenet)


CD 1
ADOLPHE ADAM (1803-1856)
1-28 Le Toréador
Don Belflor - Michel Trempont
Coraline - Sumi Jo

CD 2
HECTOR BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
1-5 La Damnation de Faust, Op. 24 (excerpts)
Marguerite - Irma Kolassi
Faust - Raoul Jobin

JULES MASSENET (1842-1912)
6-9 Werther (excerpts)
Charlotte - Irma Kolassi
Werther - Raoul Jobin

CD 3
GEORGES BIZET (1838-1875)
1-7 Carmen (excerpts)
Carmen - Marilyn Horne
Frasquita - Maria Pellegrini
Mercédès - Gwyneth Griffiths
Don José - Michele Molese

8-10 Les Pêcheurs de perles (excerpts)
Leïla - Janine Micheau
Nadir - Libero de Luca
Zurga - Jean Borthayre

CHARLES GOUNOD (1818-1893)
11-15 Mireille (excerpts)
Mireille - Janine Micheau
Vincent - Pierre Giannotti

CD 4
ARRIGO BOITO (1842-1918)
1-4 Mefistofele (excerpts)
Mefistofele - Nicolai Ghiaurov
Faust - Franco Tagliavini

CD 5
1-20 Griselda (excerpts)
Griselda - Lauris Elms
Ernesto - Joan Sutherland
Gualtiero - Monica Sinclair

CD 6
1-16 Montezuma (excerpts)
Montezuma - Lauris Elms
Eupaforice - Joan Sutherland
Tezeuco - Joseph Ward

CD 7
1-11 Giulio Cesare, HWV 17 (excerpts)
Cleopatra - Joan Sutherland
Julius Caesar - Margreta Elkins
Cornellia - Marilyn Horne

CD 8
1-16 Gräfin Mariza (excerpts)
Gräfin Mariza - Marika Németh
Lisa - Monika Dahlberg
Manja - Sonja Draksler

CD 9
FRANZ LEHÁR (1870-1948)
1-14 The Merry Widow (excerpts)
Hanna Glawari - Dame Joan Sutherland
Count Danilo Danilovitsch - Werner Krenn
Valencienne - Valerie Masterson
Zo-Zo - Regina Resnik

CD 10
1-2 Le Siège de Corinthe (excerpts)
3-4 La Donna del lago (excerpts)
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano

CD 11
1 Er ist der Richtige nicht für mich!
2 Das war sehr gut, Mandryka (Final scene)
Arabella - Lisa della Casa
Zdenka - Hilde Gueden
Mandryka - Alfred Poell

3 Der Richtige - so hab ich still zu mir gesagt
Arabella - Lisa della Casa
Mandryka - Paul Schöffler

4-8 Capriccio: Closing scene
Gräfin - Lisa della Casa
Haushofmeister- Franz Bierbach

Ariadne auf Naxos
9 Es gibt ein Reich
Ariadne - Lisa della Casa

10 Großmächtige Prinzessin
Ilse Hollweg, soprano

11 Mia speranza adorate … Ah, non sai qual pena, KV 416
12 No, che non sei capace, KV 419
Ilse Hollweg, soprano
Erna Gal, piano (Strauss)

CD 12
1-4 Der Rosenkavalier (excerpts)
Die Feldmarschallin - Régine Crespin
Octavian - Elisabeth Söderström
Herr von Faninal - Heinz Holecek
Sophie - Hilde Gueden

CD 13
GIUSEPPE VERDI (1813-1901)
1-5 Aida (excerpts)
Aida - Birgit Nilsson
Amneris - Grace Hoffman
Radamès - Luigi Ottolini
Amonasro - Louis Quilico

CD 14
GIUSEPPE VERDI (1813-1901)
1-7 Falstaff (excerpts)
Falstaff - Fernando Corena
Ford - Renato Capecchi
Alice - Ilva Ligabue
Nanetta - Lydia Marimpietri
Meg Page - Fernanda Cadoni

8-12 Il Maestro di Cappella
Il Maestro - Fernando Corena

CD 15
RICHARD WAGNER (1813-1883)
1-14 Die Walküre (Act I)
Siegmund - Set Svanholm
Sieglinde - Kirsten Flagstad
Hunding - Arnold van Mill
Wiener Philharmoniker

CD 16
RICHARD WAGNER (1813-1883)
1-16 Die Walküre (Act III)
Brünnhilde - Kirsten Flagstad
Wotan - Otto Edelmann
Sieglinde - Marianne Schech
Gerhilde - Oda Balsborg
Wiener Philharmoniker

CD 17
RICHARD WAGNER (1813-1883)
Die Walküre
1 Siegmund! Sieh auf mich (Todesverkündigung)
Brünnhilde - Kirsten Flagstad
Siegmund - Set Svanholm
Wiener Philharmoniker

2 Prologue: Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine Journey
3 Siegfried's Funeral March

4-6 Tristan und Isolde (excerpts)
Isolde - Birgit Nilsson
Brangäne - Grace Hoffman
Wiener Philharmoniker

CD 18
1-4 Salome (excerpts)
Salome - Birgit Nilsson
Herod - Gerhard Stolze
Herodias - Grace Hoffman

RICHARD WAGNER (1813-1883)
5-7 Götterdämmerung (excerpts)
Brünnhilde - Birgit Nilsson
Hagen - Gottlob Frick
Wiener Philharmoniker

CD 19
1-12 Il Segreto di Susanna
Conte Gil - Bernd Weikl
Contessa Susanna - Maria Chiara
Sante - Omar Godknow
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

CD 20
1-6 Francesca da Rimini (excerpts)
Francesca - Magda Olivero
Paolo - Mario Del Monaco
Giovanni - Virgilio Carbonari
Il torrigiano - Virgilio Carbonari
Biancofiore - Annamaria Gasparini
Il balestriere - Athos Cesarini
L'Orchestre National de l'Opéra de Monte-Carlo

Eloquence Classics - Opera Gala