Arias from Donizetti's Anna Bolena, and Verdi's Macbeth, Luisa Miller and A Masked Ball
Elena Suliotis, soprano; Rome Opera Orch/Oliviero de Fabritiis, cond.
DECCA 475 6235 (M) (ADD) TT: 39:07

Arias from Andrea Chénier, Tosca, Turandot, Werther, Manon, Carmen, Faust and The Pearl Fishers
Giuseppe di Stefano, tenor; Zurich Tonhalle Orch/Franco Patane, cond.
DECCA 475 6236 (M) (ADD) TT: 41:53

Arias from Verdi's A Masked Ball and Ernani, Giordano's Fedora, Puccini's Edgardo and Madama Butterfly, Meyerbeer's L'africana, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, Catalani's La Wally, Bizet's Carmen, Massenet's Le Cid and Zandonai's Romeo and Juliet
Mario del Monaco, tenor; New Symphony Orch. of London/Alberto Erede, cond.
DECCA 475 6234 (M) (ADD) TT: 43:05

As Decca states in publicity for these CDs, "this new mini-series is unashamedly nostalgic and presents original recitals as they were first published during the 1950s and 1960s. Original LP cover art is reproduced and the original back of the LP is used as the inside of the digipack. A clear tray is used with a detail from the original LP sleeve as a background, and the back of the digipack gives the tracklist and artist details in a uniform, current style."

Producers surely should have realized when print that originally filled the side of an LP jacket is reduced to 4 x 4 inches it is, without magnification, impossible to read. Fortunately the track listing are on the outside of each CD package—in normal CD print size. During this era, London had many of the world's most important singers under contract and recorded them profusely, so the series has much to offer. Previous issues in the series included Carlo Bergonzi (475 392), Robert Merrill (most of his Decca recordings) (475 396), duets sung by Renata Tebaldi and Franco Corelli (475 522), and Hilde Gueden (475 394).

This second set of releases includes one by Elena Souliotis (spelled "Suliotis" on the album front cover, "Souliotis" on the back cover; the latter seems to be the preferred spelling). The young Greek soprano created a sensation in the mid 1960s when she was only 23 years old by singing difficult roles such as Abigaille in Verdi's Nabucco. Her voice was extraordinary with power, range and beauty. Often compared with Callas, Souliotis did too much too soon and burnt out her voice, her career lasting only about five years. On this disk, and Decca's complete recording of Nabucco, one can hear what the opera world lost.

Giuseppe Di Stefano (b. July 24, 1921) was slightly past his prime when these Decca recordings were made in the late 1950s. By this time he had already made his famous recordings of La Sonnambula, I Puritani, Cavalleria Rusticana and Tosca with Maria Callas. Much of the magic remains, but admirers of the tenor surely will wish to own many of his earlier live recordings as well, particularly the Opera D'oro budget-priced 2-CD set (2109) of performances from the early 1940s. Mario del Monaco (1915-1982), a true dramatic tenor, was the most famous Otello of his time; he sang the role 427 times. This Decca CD, recorded in 1956 when he was at the height of his powers, shows him in repertory not usually associated with him. Not known for subtelty in his interpretations, he here gives performances that would bring down the house.

All issues in this series are worthy additions to collectors—recordings by major singers of the time, and mid-price.

R.E.B. (November 2004)