In 1994, the same Metropolitan Opera put two contrasting pieces of the verismo puzzle side by side—the belated verismo of Puccini’s Il Tabarro and the classic verismo of Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci, which had reached the stage some twenty-six years earlier.
The CD format for opera on records coincides with (and perhaps encourages) the modern habit in the opera house of running two or more acts together without an interval. Some operas benefit from this, but I don't think Faust is one of them. It strikes a genial bargain. ''I won't waste your time,'' it promises, ''but don't bother to come along if you haven't got a full evening-out to spare.''
Kathleen Battle and Placido Domingo delight the listener from start to finish in this complilation. Most notable are the duets from La Traviata and The Merry Widow. In my experience of soprano/tenor performances, one voice usually is stronger or more powerful than the other, thus disappointing to that listener who is seeking a perfect blending of voices. Ms. Battle and Mr. Domingo achieve that perfect blend on each duet on this CD. Their solo performances are equally outstanding. It is no wonder they are in such demand with audiences in Japan where this CD was recorded live, as well as throughout the world.
The operetta Die Fledermaus is Johann Strauss' most brilliant and best-known stage work. It's a glittering comedy packed with Viennese music that has become a firm favourite in opera houses all over the world. A top international cast really have a ball in this highly-acclaimed 1984 New Year's Eve performance from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in which Placido Domingo makes a very stylish British conducting debut. Kiri Te Kanawa stars with her celebrated performance as Rosalinde, and the charismatic Austrian baritone Hermann Prey is Eisenstein, one of his trademark roles. The cast also includes Benjamin Luxon as Dr Falke and Hildegarde Heichele as Adele. The magnificent stage designs by Julia Trevelyan Oman recreate all the style and opulence of Viennese society in its golden period before the First World War. This production also features some very surprising celebrity guests at Prince Orlofsky's special gala performance party including comedians Hinge and Bracket, French singer Charles Aznavour and Merle Park and Wayne Eagling in Sir Frederick Ashton's specially choreographed pas de deux.