Montserrat Caballé

Arien aus Opern von Gounod, Meyerbeer, Charpentier, Bizet, Massenet

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Montserrat Caballé is best known on record through her early, made-for-RCA/Victor output, and her recording activity is heavily invested in Italian opera. Therefore, La Superba's sole turn for Deutsche Grammophon from 1971, Montserrat Caballé Singt Französiche Opernarien, as reissued in its "Spotlight" series, comes as a bit of surprise -- all of the material here comes from French opera. One can search Caballé's extensive performance annals in vain for her participation in any complete French opera production; she hasn't even done Carmen. She did appear in a 1977 Barcelona production of Meyerbeer's L'Africaine, which has turned up on disc in an unauthorized issue, but closer inspection reveals that this was La Africana, the Spanish-language version of the opera commonly done in Spain's opera houses. Therefore, Montserrat Caballé's Singt Französiche Opernarien is probably the only opportunity we have to enjoy Caballé in French opera. Her accent is a little soft on French consonants, but overall it is very good, and as this comes from right after her vaunted RCA period, Caballé's singing is indeed "superb"; "Voici la vaste plaine et le desert de feu" from Gounod's Mireille truly is something special. However, it should be noted that in more familiar French opera arias, Caballé is unlikely to unseat anyone's favorites, such as in the "Jewel Song" from Faust or in Micaëla's aria "C'est des contrebandiers le refuge ordinaries" from Carmen. The orchestral accompaniment by the New Philharmonic Orchestra London under Reynald Giovaninetti is outstanding; warm, sensitive, and yielding with well-focused solo instrumental playing -- they are nearly better than Caballé.

The disc comes with a bonus, the duet "Tu, tu, amore?" from Puccini's Manon Lescaut featuring Caballé with a young and virile Plácido Domingo. The pair did record this opera together in its complete form for EMI in 1971, but this track, with James Levine and the Met Orchestra, is a live item taken from the Rudolf Bing Gala of 1972 -- it has already appeared on a number of Deutsche Grammophon compilations. Montserrat Caballé Singt Französiche Opernarien represents an interesting byway for a great soprano best known for other things, and her fan base will welcome it. For those coming to sample La Superba's wares for the first time, RCA/Victor's Montserrat Caballé: The Ultimate Collection would be a better choice.

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