In this collection of the greatest arias, ensembles and choruses from the world of opera, we take in well over two hours of music from twenty-seven operas. These cover many different emotions and situations, sung in Italian, German and French.
For listeners who prefer their Ravel lushly textured, luminously colored, and luxuriantly impressionistic, this four-disc set of his orchestral music performed by Charles Dutoit and the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal will be just the thing. Recorded between 1981 and 1995 in warmly opulent Decca sound and including all the canonical works plus the two piano concerts and the opera L'Enfant et les sortiléges, Dutoit's approach to Ravel is decidedly sensual, even tactile. One can feel the excitement in the closing "Dance générale" of Daphnis et Chloé, sense the energy in La Valse, smell the sea in Une barque sur l'océan, and touch the dancer's flushed skin in Boléro. This is not to say that details are lost in Dutoit's performances – with the superlative playing of the Montreal orchestra, one can assuredly hear everything in the scores. Nor is this to say that Dutoit neglects the music's clear shapes and lucid forms – with a decisive beat and a clean technique, Dutoit's interpretations are models of clarity. But it is assuredly to assert that, for sheer aural beauty, these recordings cannot be beat. With the very virtuosic and very French playing of Pascal Rogé in the two piano concertos plus very characterful singing in L'Enfant, this set will be mandatory listening for all those who love Ravel.
'Dimitrij' was presented in several different versions during the composer's lifetime. It was premiered in 1882, with cuts and revisions occuring in the 1886 piano reduction. The work was further revised in 1894 (this version premiered in Prague in that year), however the final performances in Dvořák's lifetime (in Plzeň in 1904) consisted of the first version combined with the third act in the second version.
For "La forza del destino", Verdi created one of his most famous melodies, the "fate" motif that permeates the whole of the score. Music and action alternate in masterly fashion between large-scale crowd scenes and intimate interiority, in that way illustrating Verdi's real theme: the manner in which fallible human beings are destroyed by a cruel fate.