Puccini: Bohème/Butterfly highlights

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Anyone who needs a concise sampler to get acquainted with Giacomo Puccini's operas would do well to try this enjoyable collection of popular selections from La bohème and Madama Butterfly, though this cost-cutter CD only provides enough music to entice, not satisfy. The performances by soprano Claire Rutter, tenor Paul Charles Clarke, and bass-baritone Stephen Gadd are appropriately passionate in feeling, clear in articulation, and pleasant in vocal quality, and the accompaniment by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by David Charles Abell, is lush in texture and warm in tone. The quality of the recording is quite high and advanced for the recording date of 1996, though prospective listeners or buyers might not guess it from the marketing of this disc as a budget CD. Yet this is the kind of affordable item that some people need to discover classical music without making a costly mistake, and this is definitely the way to go for newcomers trying out Puccini's operas for the first time. However, since finding a good recording of a complete performance of La bohème and Madama Butterfly is the next step, listeners may be disappointed to find that there are no full recordings with these artists available, so the real purpose of this disc is only to familiarize them with the best-known numbers.

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