This 1959 studio recording of Lucia di Lammermoor, made with Nino Sanzogno leading the forces of La Scala, is most valuable as a document of the kind of idiomatic performance that was standard in major Italian opera houses of the 1950s, a little short on finesse, perhaps, but with no lack of passion and intensity. It's also notable for the performance of Giuseppe di Stefano, who is a hot-blooded and thrillingly dramatic Edgardo. Nonetheless, his is a disciplined performance that manages to convey great passion without resorting to indulgent vocal histrionics. He sings with full, warm, and colorful tone, and his Edgardo is by far the most riveting character in this performance. Renata Scotto tends to sound a little pinched and constricted, and while she manages the coloratura, it doesn't sound like the effortless outpouring that the music demands to be fully effective. The pyrotechnics of her mad scene are all there, and there are some moments of brilliant vocal display, but it lack the dramatic punch that was frequently typical of Scotto's performances. Some of her sustained high notes are uncomfortably forced and out of tune. The rest of the cast is solid and carries the drama forward effectively, even though the performances are not particularly memorable. The sound is fair for the era, with good clarity and balance, but the acoustic is dry and unforgiving, and does the singers no favors. There is some annoying tape bleed-through and the sound occasionally breaks up.
The set includes two other versions of the final scene with Giuseppe di Stefano. Both are very fine, but the tenor is simply astonishing both musically and dramatically in the recording taken from a 1955 live performance led by Herbert von Karajan, and it leaves the version from the complete opera, good as it is, in the dust. His voice has an appealing freshness and bloom, as well as ringing power, and the gripping performance is more than enough reason for fans of bel canto to investigate this set.