PUCCINI: Turandot
Birgit Nilsson (Turandot). Franco Corelli (Calaf). Galiina Visnevskaja (Liù). Angelo Mercuriali (Emperor).Renato Capecchi (Ping). Renato Capecchi (Pang). Franco Ricciardi (Pong). Piero De Palma (Mandarin).LaScala Chorus and Orch/Gianandrea Gavazzeni, cond.
LA SCALA MEMORIES 6 (2 disks + book)

Arias from Norma, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Lucia di Lammermoor, La Sonnambula, Anna Bolena, Il Turco in Italia, I Puritani.
Maria Callas, soprano; La Scala Orch/Antonino Votto, Carlo Maria Giulini, Herbert von Karajan, Giananddrea Gavazzeni, Tullio Serafin and Leonard Bernstein

Here are two of a new series of deluxe presentations from La Scala. Each is luxuriously mounted in book form, the Turandot with a 125-page booklet, in Italian and English, and profuse photographs of the production. A 77-page booklet accompanies the Callas set that opens with an appreciation of the artistry to Callas by Francesco Gala, in Italian, English and German. There are more than 60 photographs most of which will be familiar to fans of the Diva, along with a listing of all recordings in the set, although original recording labels are omitted. This is an attractive, relatively inexpensive set, but there's nothing new here for collectors except more praise for their favorite soprano.

The Turandot issue is something very special. This famous performance has been issued before on various labels, but here is given grand treatment. This was a "gala performance" December 7, 1964, a festive occasion indeed. The booklet includes a listing of all performances of Turandot at La Scala from the first (April 25, 1926 with Rosa Raisa in the title role, Arturo Toscanini on the podium) through January 13, 2004. We learn that Birgit Nilsson sang 6 performances, her first in 1958, her last in 1970. This 1964 performance is stunning. Nilsson is THE Turandot. Her power and accuracy are unbelievable; she is the perfect icy princess, yet softens her tone appropriately in the final pages before her spectacular final "Amor." And Franco Corelli is equally amazing, beautiful sound, endless power. Galina Visnevskaja(their spelling) is a perfect, vulnerable Liù. This was the Russian soprano's debut at La Scala. It was a great night in the opera house, here documented perfectly. A complete libretto is provided in Italian and English,.

R.E.B. (January 2013)