Decca, the opera company, presents a premium collection of the 100 most beautiful opera tracks on 6 CDs. Enjoy classic arias and overtures, performed by the greatest opera stars of all time. This is a fine compendium of opera's "greatest hits" by great singers including Pavarotti, Bartoli, Caballe, Horne and Sutherland from opera's latest "golden age" in the last decades of the 1900s. They're all there on six CDs, from Pavarotti's great "Nessun Dorma" to Sutherland's "Casta Diva."
Opera Prima by Italian duo Rustichelli & Bordini is an excellent keyboard-dominated symphonic album from 1973. The simplest way to describe the music here is to imagine ELP with the addition of a Mellotron and a gravel-throated Italian vocalist. This album is almost up there alongside Tarkus and Trilogy, and wipes the floor with just about everything else ELP did. The main issue with Opera Prima seems to be the vocals, which are something of an acquired taste. To be blunt keyboards player Paolo Rustichelli has a particularly gruff, ugly singing voice. However if you can get over the vocals you'll be rewarded with some of the richest keyboard textures in the RPI canon.
Béatrice et Bénédict, Berlioz's last completed work, is based on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, but the libretto, by the composer, dispenses with most of the intrigue of the original and reduces the plot to a single premise: Béatrice et Bénédict mask their affection for each other by squabbling, and then finally come to their senses and get married. Although designated an opera, it is closer in effect to an opéra comique because of its very extensive use of spoken dialogue.
“A strong and pleasing voice, in both high and low notes – a combination which one rarely encounters,” ran one contemporary report of Catarina Cavalieri, the soprano who created Konstanze in Die Entführung. Though I’d put it rather less laconically, that verdict holds equally good for Diana Damrau, whose new Mozart recital includes two arias composed for Cavalieri, “Martern aller Arten” and Elvira’s “Mi tradì” (added for the 1788 Viennese revival of Don Giovanni). The glamorous German soprano, now in her mid-thirties, made her international reputation as a sensational Queen of the Night and Zerbinetta.
This is the masterwork, Gluck's last important opera, which convinced the teenage medical student Berlioz, when he first heard it in 1821, that he had to be a composer. He worshipped Gluck and took his side in the phoney "Gluck vs.Piccini War". He set himself the task of sitting in the Conservatoire library to copy out the entire score in order to absorb its lessons. Its directness and drama influenced his artistic style his whole life through, as evinced by key points in "Les Troyens".
For better or worse, Andrew Lloyd Webber's adaptation of Gaston Leroux's gothic horror/romance novel has done for stage musicals what Spielberg's Jaws did for fish stories, with worldwide sales of its original cast album approaching 25 million. While director Joel Schumacher's film turns on his typically ambitious visual verve, its new film soundtrack recording has been paradoxically focused in scope, yet beefed up dynamically via the brawny presence of a hundred piece orchestra and The London Boys Choir. This double-disc version showcases all of Phantom's songs, with Gerard Butler imparting a welcome, youthful sensuality to his Phantom, making a fine foil for Emily Rossum's ever-conflicted Christine. Original show orchestrator David Cullen has fashioned compelling new contemporary arrangements to frame Webber's songs–which now conclude with the lilting, upbeat new ballad he wrote for the film, "Learn to Be Lonely," sung by Minnie Driver's Carlotta.