Zubin Mehta / Luciano Pavarotti / Joan Sutherland

Puccini: Turandot

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Decca's 1972 recording of Turandot features an all-star cast led by Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti. Turandot doesn't seem like the most natural role for Sutherland and she never sang it on-stage, but she adapts to its requirements with panache, delivering a performance with an impressive dramatic range and dazzling vocal mastery. Pavarotti was close to the height of his powers when he made the recording and he sings with his characteristic passion and warmth. Montserrat Caballé, who had also sung the title role, is fabulous as Liù, creating a vivid characterization and singing with exceptional purity. It's real luxury casting to have singers of the reputation of Nicolai Ghiaurov, Peter Pears, and Tom Krause in the roles of Timur, the Emperor, and Ping, and they each bring great artistry to these small roles. The London Philharmonic Orchestra plays the score with sparkle and spirit, and the John Alldis Choir is terrific in the crucial choral parts. Zubin Mehta captures the Romantic sweep and the colorful strangeness of the opera and gives it a convincing, dramatic shape. The sound is mostly good, but doesn't quite have the depth or presence typical of Decca's best opera recordings.

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