The specially priced Opera Obsession!: Opera D/Oro's Greatest Hits includes 19 live, frequently outstanding excerpts from the operatic greats of the last generation.
Absolutely unforgettable is an extended aria from the incomparable soprano Beverly Sills. In her 1969 "Il Faut Partir" from Donizetti's La Fille du R駩ment, Sills is in radiant prime form. Her voice floats in air—the perfectly-in-tune, mesmerizing disembodied head tones for which she was prized are heartbreaking in their tenderness. If you're only familiar with "Bubbles" as a "personality" or spokesperson, this selection will prove a revelation; the woman was capable of magic.
Equally essential are two excerpts by the great soprano Montserrat Caball鮠The first, "Oh Nube! Che Lieve" from Donizetti's Maria Stuarda, recorded in Paris in 1972, finds Caball頩n superb voice, freely spinning out her famed, silken, soft pianissimo highs. Even more heart stopping is Richard Strauss' brief "Und du Wurst Mein . . . " from a 1973 Arabella, in which Caball頪oins Siegmund Nimsgern in phrases so meltingly lovely as to lead this listener to hit repeat many times over. Although Caball頭ade a highly praised commercial recording of Strauss' Salome for RCA, she is not particularly gifted as a Strauss singer; in this excerpt, at least, she is marvelous. JASON SERINUS
Bernadette Peters Loves Rodgers & Hammerstein
Bernadette Peters' voice remains a marvel. Her forward production allows her to vocalize from top to bottom of her range without resorting to the often hard to understand, resonant head tones of the classical artist. She also possesses an immense intelligence and wide range of expression, enabling her to make the totally believable, chameleonlike transition from innocent damsel to worldly dame. Her Bernadette Peters Loves Rodgers & Hammerstein is among the finest releases to celebrate the centennial of Richard Rodgers' birth.
The voice is not perfect. There are a few moments of hoarseness, and an occasional wobble that mars the final note of "Something Wonderful" or distracts on "You'll Never Walk Alone."
But Peters achieves several renditions so outstanding that they will be remembered for years to come. Over arranger Jonathan Tunnick's beautiful orchestral arpeggios, she sings "If I Loved You" with fetching innocence and purity. She has to push a bit on the high climax, but her very weakness makes for a uniquely vulnerable and touching performance.
In a triumphant about-face, she offers a savvy "The Gentleman Is a Dope." Leaving her little-girl persona in the closet, she sings with such smarts as to leave no question as to which is the more intelligent sex. These tracks are so outstanding, they make the disc an essential purchase. JASON SERINUS