STRAUSS: Arias and scenes from Ariadne auf Naxos, Arabella, and Der Rosenkavalier. Brentano Lieder, Op. 68.
Natalie Dessay and Felicity Lott, sopranos; Sophie Koch and Angelika Kirchschlager, mezzo-sopranos; Royal Opera House Orch/Antonio Pappano, cond.
VIRGIN CLASSICS 41933 TT: 65:35
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HANDEL: Arias from Amadigi di Gaula, Agrippina, Riccardo primo, Tolomeo, Orlando, Radamisto, Rodelinda, and Sosarma
Bejun Mehta, countertenor; Rosemary Joshua, soprano; Freiburger Barockorchester/René Jacobs, cond.
HARMOBNIA MUNDI HMC 902077 TT: 71:46
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CALDARA: Arias from L'Olimpiade, Demofoonte, La clemenza di Tito, Temistocle, Scipione nelie Spagne, Ifigenia in Aulide, Adriano in Sirie, Lucio Papirio dittatore, Enone, and Achille in Sciro
Philippe Jaroussky, countertenor; Concerto Köln/Emmanuelle Haïm, cond,.
VIRGIN CLASSICS 4192727 TT: 68:08
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PAVEL LISITSIAN IN CONCERT
Songs and arias by Borodin, Balakirev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Rubinstein, Schubert, Schumann, Tosti and others
Pavel Lisitsian, baritone/Matvei Sakharov, piano
PREISER 89243 (2 disks) TT: 76:05 & 75:52
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Arias by Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, Boieldieu, Adam, Donizetti, Maillart, Gounod, Bizet, Meyerbeer, Ponchielli, and Wagner
Josef Traxel, tenor/Orchestras conducted by Wilhelm Schüchter, Artur Grüber, Werner Schmidt-Boelcke, and Hans Löwein
PREISER 93459 TT: 79:51
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Here is a generous collection of Richard Strauss operatic scenes all featuring coloratura soprano super-diva Natalie Dessay. Dessay, now in her mid-forties, has been a favorite in major opera houses for her impeccable vocalism and purity of sound. Her remarkable artistry can be viewed on a disk containing many of her "greatest moments on stage" (REVIEW). Dessay is a fine actress and it is fascinating to watch her adapt to different directors—this video contains two widely divergent representations of Zerbinetta. On this new audio recording, her voice has developed an edge not noticed before, but she still is spectacular in these Strauss scenes, in which she is joined by illustrious partners. Also welcome are the four Brentano lieder, written for Elisabeth Schumann. The magnificent accompaniments led by Antonio Pappano are another plus. Excellent sound, and complete texts. A six-minute video excerpt from the recording sessions is available on ARKIVMUSIK

Two dazzling countertenors have erupted on the musical scene, and both amaze on their new recordings. Bejun Mehta (b. 1968) (whose father is a cousin of Zubin Mehta) has been on the musical scene for some years. Early in his career he recorded as a boy soprano and then became a record producer. In 1987 he discovered his countertenor voice and was sponsored by the Marilyn Horne Foundation. Since then Mehta has sung in many major opera houses to the greatest acclaim. Philippe Jaroussky (b. 1978), the leading French countertenor of our time, also has a huge following in his chosen repertory. Mehta's disk focuses on Handel arias, Jaroussky's on mostly forgotten display arias by Handel's younger contemporary, Antonio Caldara (c.1671-1736) most of which here receive their premiere recordings. If you enjoy the castrato voice, here it is in spades in stunning performances. Both soloists have perfect support from early music experts, the Friburg Baroque Orchestra directed by René Jacobs (Mehta) and Concerto Köln conducted by Emmanuelle Haïm (Jaroussky). Audio is excellent, complete texts are provided, and the Meha disk has a bonus in the form of a 15-minute DVD of recording sessions, in three languages.

Armenian baritone Paval Lisitsian (1911-2004) was a leading artist at the Bolshoi Opera from 1940 until his retirement in 1968. His repertory featured operas by Tchaikovsky, Rimsky Korsakov, Verdi, Bizet and Prokofiev. Apparently some of these were issued on LP by Melodiya but it seems they are not available on CD. Pearl issued three disks of Lisitsian (89503, 89061, 9036), but these have been deleted, and there were two CDs issued by the now defunct Russian Disk label (15022/15021), also missing from current listings. Preiser is doing their part to resurrect the Lisitsian legacy with this superb twin-CD set of concert performances of songs and arias recorded in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory March 15, 1948, April 10, 1949, and February 24, 1951. As a bonus, we have a live recording of the Amonasro/Aida duet (with soprano Nina Pokrovskaya) dating from 1952. Lisitsian's artistry is olympian, evidenced by these magnificent performances, which have been very well recorded. Lovers of the baritone voice should not miss this important issue—let us hope for more.

German tenor Josef Traxel (1916-1975) had no formal voice training although later in his career he became a respected teacher. His versatile bright sound worked well particularly in Mozart, but he also sang French and Italian roles, and lighter Wagnerian roles many of which can be heard on live recordings from Bayreuth (check ArkivMusik's LISTINGS). Preiser's new CD contains a representative sample of Traxel's repertory, Electrola recordings made from 1954-1958 when he was at the height of career including his commendable if somewhat strained high D in Adam's Postillion from Lonjumeau. Excellent transfers, as usual, from Preiser.

R.E.B. (January 2010)