WAGNER: 'GREAT WAGNER SINGERS"
DGG 47791241 (6 disks) TT: 79:45 / 78:43 / 81:03 / 71:01 /78:02 / 63:44
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ROSSINI: Arias from Semiramide, William Tell, Matilde de Shabran. The Siege of Corinth. The Barber of Seville. Sigsmondo, Regina d'Inghilterra. The Turk in Italy
Aleksandra Kurzak, soprano; Artur Ruelinski, baritone; Warsaw Chamber Choir, Sinfonia Varsovia/Pier Giorgio Morandi, cond.
DECCA 4783553 TT: 68:21
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LEHÁR: Music from The Land of Smiles, The Merry Widow, Paganini, and Giuditta. SIECZYNSKI: Vienna, City of My Dreams. KALMAN: Music from Countess Mariza; STOLZ: Music from Das Lied ist aus, Venus in Silk, Ich liebe alle frauenand Zauber der Bohème; ERWIN: Music from I Kiss Your Hand Madame; ROMBERG: Serenade from The Student Prince; BÖHM: Ancient Love-Song; TAUBER: The Singing Dream
Piotr Beczala, tenor; Royal Philharmonic Orch/Lukasz Borowicz, cond.
DGG B0018337 TT: 62:08
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VERDI: Music from Simon Boccanegra, Ernani, Attila, I due Foscari, Les Vepres siciliennes, and Aida.
Luciano Pavarotti, tenor; La Scala Orch/Claudio Abbado, cond.
WARNER CLASSICS 256464653 TT: 42:49
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DGG again does their bit for Wagner with this impressive budget-priced issue of legendary performances by great singers of the past. The earliest recordings are acoustic: excerpt from Die Meistersinger recorded in 1921 by Friedrich Schorr, and Lauritz Melchior recorded 1923-1924, music from Rienzi, Siegfried, Tânnhauser, and the last two Wesendonck-Lieder (the first three are from a 1958 recording with Astrid Varnay). Many of the recordings are from Bayreuth Festivals back in the days when the historic Wagner Fest really meant something. For a complete list of contents, click HERE. Featured singers include Leonie Rysanek, Gundula Janowitz, Joseph Greindl, Hans Hotter, Leo Slezak, Set Svanholm, Frieda Leider, Max Lorenz, and, of course, Kirsten Flagstad. Remasterings are excellent, and a booklet gives complete information about recording dates and venues, very limited program notes. Here's a great opportunity to hear Wagner as he should sound, and the price is very reasonable.

Polish coloratura soprano Aleksandra Kurzak has thus far enjoyed sensational success with her appearances in Vienna, Covent Garden, , Frankfurt and Zurich singing the expected coloratura roles as well as Violetta. Her voice is thin, stronger in top registers than in the lower regions, and she tosses off Rossini's elaborate writing with the greatest of ease. This is an impressive Rossini recital that challenges but does not replace similar repertory sung by Joan Sutherland and Montserrat Caballé. From the glamorous cover photos, Kurzak appears to be dangerously thin but she surely is stylish. Complete texts and translations are provided.

Polish tenor Piotr Beczala has been on the operatic scene for some time, beginning with the Zurich Opera and continuing with appearances at the San Francisco Opera, Royal Opera House, La Scala and the Met. He says he has a "little black book" with names of some directors and conductors he says he refuses to perform because of their "stupid, idiotic and far-fetched" concepts—apparently Michael Mayer, who supervised the Met recent production of Rigoletto updating it to modern times and Las Vegas, is not in the book—although perhaps it should be. At any rate, here we have a very pleasant but hardly memorable collection of Viennese treasures all associated with the legendary Austrian tenor Richard Tauber (1891-1948), who was particularly known for his singing of music of Franz Lehár. He sang the exquisite Dein ist mein ganzes herz from the operetta The Land of Smiles well over a thousand times, in various languages. Tauber also was famous for his singing of many lyric tenor roles and you can hear his artistry in a budget-priced 5-disk EMI set (REVIEW) .Beczala is not in that class, but gives pleasant performances of this repertory, given lush accompaniment from the Royal Philharmonic and conductor Lukasz Borowicz. Excellent audio as well, and complete texts in German and English. But for the real thing, check the Tauber recordings.

Verdi often revised his operatic works for various purposes, often to accommodate favored singers. This Warner Classics reissue contains a variety of these in first-class performances recorded l978 and 1980. This is superb all the way, with the Luciano Pavarotti at his peak, and strong accompaniments by Claudio Abbado, years before his tragic health problems. We hear revised excerpts from Ernani, Attila, I due Foscari and Les Vépres siciliennes. We also have the brief orchestral prelude to Simon Boccanegra and the extended version of the prelude to Aida which, fortunately, Verdi abandoned. Audio is excellent and texts are provided in Italian and English. Playing time is brief (42:49) but it is a mid-price issue.

R.E.B. (July 2013)