Unlike most reviews, this one ends up as a rather cut and dried affair. The performances are excellent, beyond reasonable reproach; the sound provided by Delos is vivid and sumptuous; and the copious notes are informative. The only question of concern for the potential buyer is whether the concept of the is album will appeal. That is, do you like the idea of favorite opera arias played on flute? We've had opera without words, opera transcribed and elaborated on for piano (by Liszt and others), and we've even had opera incorporated into the score of many, sometimes lesser films. Why not, some might ask, have it on flute, then? And what better element of opera to capture than the aria? Actually, not all material on this disc is derived from arias, a good many being duets, with the oboe filling the role of the second voice here. The piano, of course, assumes the orchestral part throughout.
The opening selection, in fact, is a duet, "Dome epais, le jasmin," from Delibes' Lakme. The players convey its buoyant tranquillity with such an earnest lightness, you're apt to think the transcription is as valid an enactment as the original operatic dressing itself. On track 3 Zukerman and company gently and hypnotically serve up "Belle Nuit, o nuit d'amour" from Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman. The mood of this simple music is caught about as well as you could expect in any osmotic incarnation. "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi is also well played, but then I'm a sucker for this Puccini aria. To those not familiar with opera, you'll recognize the tune from the Tott's Champagne TV commercial that ran regularly a few years back. The following selection, "Quando m'en vo' soletta" from Puccini's La Bohème, is one I well remember from my childhood in the 1950s when my sister sang it at home many times. I never got sick of it. Here, it is rendered sweetly and lovingly, almost, ALMOST making you forget its extremely popular operatic origins.
The disc is chock full of delights, with three selections from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte and many from Puccini. Verdi is conspicuously absent, though. I'll surmise that Zukerman either is not a fan of the great Italian composer or feels his music adapts less well to the instrument. Whatever the case, the disc still contains enough gems to attract those interested in this kind of recital. Recommended if you're into this kind of thing.